Toe-tapping Fun at the Flagler

By David A. Frye

Special to the Daily News

The 2014 edition of the Palm Beach Bluegrass Weekend kicked off Saturday with a great show at the Flagler Museum’s Kenan Pavilion, with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out opening for the legendary Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Both acts came bearing hits, with a particular accent on a cappella gospel that scored big across the board.

Many of these performers have played together at one time or another, and they all have literally grown up listening to — and idolizing — Lawson, so the pairing made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

The first half of the program also benefited from an enhanced sound mix — courtesy of audio engineer Donnie Carver — that allowed the music to be both heard clearly and enjoyed. That had been a problem in years past in the large, echoing room. The sound was not nearly as good in the second half, though it was improved over previous years.

Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out opened with a solid reading of the John Hartford classic, Gentle On My Mind, which featured some fine banjo work by Keith McKinnon. While the focus was on Moore’s award-winning lead vocals, this was truly a team effort from the get-go, with each member given a chance to shine — and shine they did.

The up-tempo Spindale — the name comes from a small town in North Carolina — was a tour de force for mandolinist Wayne Benson, setting the bar for solos high early on.

Joining Moore on vocals during the hour-long set were McKinnon and bassist Blake Johnson, the three blending nicely on the beautiful ballad Erase the Miles, among others.

Fiddler Justen Haynes added the fourth part to the harmony for the gospel hymn, We’ll Soon Be Done, and on a smash hit by the Platters, Only You. Both songs were done in a note-perfect a cappella. The beautiful major-seventh chord closing the latter tune was worth the price of admission alone. (Moore referred to the Platters as “one of the top bluegrass groups ever.”)

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