20131007

Prescription Bluegrass Concert Review - Tony Holt & The Wildwood Valley Boys

W. J. Hallock   ©PeterJordanPhoto.com

 

By: W.J. Hallock

____________________________________________

It’s eight AM, Saturday, 9/28/13, and the rain is comin’ down in buckets all over the state of Oklahoma.

Wonderful….. for the crops and the stock tanks, but, we’re planning on going to the Duncan’s Grove Bluegrass FTony Holt & The Wildwood Valley Boysestival, it’s my youngest daughter’s 20th birthday, and I’ve really been looking forward to hearing TONY HOLT and the WILDWOOD VALLEY BOYS. And…. Tom Feller and Chris Hill of the Bluegrass Buckaroos, two of my favorite pickers and singers, will be there with Tony. Do I need my rain slicker? My mud boots? Will they cancel the show because of the weather? It’s only about sixty miles from home, so we’re goin’ anyway!

By the time we get there, the rain has let up and the sun is peeking out. Owner Lisa Rice’s Duncan’s Grove is in a small, tree covered valley with lush grounds, the smell of barbecue and wet grass, and the sound of bluegrass music is coming from the covered stage.

Special Consensus, local Oklahoma band Six Mile Line and The Triple L Band from Portales, NM. are keeping the sparse, but friendly, crowd well entertained, and the sound crew, also the Triple L Band, is doing a marvelous job.

The temps are in the low 60’s with a light breeze from the North…… jacket weather and some of the older campers have their blankets with their lawn chairs. Perfect! Thank you Mother Nature!

The first person to greet me as I make my way up to their bus is Chris Hill……he’s along on this trip to drive the bus. He’s fighting a sinus and ear infection and he doubts the Bluegrass Buckaroos will be able to do a song or two today.

Chris used to play banjo for Tony Holt, and that’s how he met Tom Feller. Tom is Tony Holt’s cousin and used to play bass in the band, so he knows all the Wildwood VaTONY HOLT & The WILDWOOD VALLEY BOYSlley Boys material and he’s covering his old job for the weekend.

This is family, so they’re both glad to be back in the Wildwood fold. Tom and Chris had spent the first part of the week in Raleigh, NC for the IBMA Convention, so it’s been a long week for them, but, it’s obvious they’re glad to be out on the road with their old band mates.

We go into the bus and Chris introduces me to Mr. Aubrey Holt. He is Tony Holt’s father and Tom Feller’s uncle, and at 74 years of age he is still an active bluegrass musician, song writer, tenor singer and inspiration to all the youngster’s he’s mentored. He’s friendly, with a firm hand shake, and he immediately starts filling me in on who plays what in the band.

As he tells me about banjo player Jeremy Blankenship, he points out that Jeremy is also the third singer in their vocal trio. He seems delighted that Jeremy makes their three part harmony shine. As we listen to their show later on, it’s pretty obvious that Mr. Holt has reason to be proud. Tony, Jeremy and Aubrey Holt are spot on with their vocals!

When Mr. Holt talked of mandolinist Daniel Martin, he was equally excited that Daniel added the low bass parts to their gospel quartet sound. During their show, on the old Hank Williams song “I’m Gonna Sing….Sing….Sing,” Daniel’s bass vocal added another layer of perfection to the already top notch harmony.

Daniel and Jeremy were both just as strong and dynamic with their pickin’, and their was no lack of drive instrumentally in the band. During the show, they threw every hot lick they had into the instrumentals “Shuckin’ The Corn,” Maiden’s Prayer,” and the Earl Scruggs classic “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” These “Boys” are keepers!

Mr. Holt excused himself to get dressed for the show and Tom Feller, Chris Hill and I had some time to get to know each other. I really had enjoyed reviewing their debut CD, FELLER AND HILL AND THE BLUEGRASS BUCKAROOS, and it was nice to talk to real people instead of communicating through e-mails.

In writing that review, Tom had told me all about growing up listening to The Boys From Indiana, which had been the band his uncles, Aubrey, Tommy and Jerry Holt had formed back in the early ‘70’s. On their CD, W.J. HALLOCK & TOM FELLERTom and Chris had recorded three songs written by Tom Holt, and the quality of those songs had piqued my interest to learn more about the Holt family song writers.

As the band grabbed their instruments and headed outside to warm up, I realized I was in for a lesson in bluegrass history. All of them standing in a circle playing and singing sounded wonderful in the open air. Tom was playing the old upright bass he had bought from original Lost and Found member Alan Mills, the same bass he had recorded all the bass tracks with for their CD, and it cut like a knife through the Fall air.

Aubrey was playing his 1969 Martin that he had broken the headstock off of and had repaired, Tony was playing his Martin guitar and the banjo and mandolin both sounded bright and alive. As they ran through “Long Black Veil,” I felt like I was being gifted with my own private show, and it was as good as acoustic music gets!

As we waited for the band’s turn on stage, I finally had the chance to sit down for a little bit of one-on-one with Tony Holt. I found him to be a very quiet, humble and shy kind of man, a man with a love for bluegrass music in general and Holt Family musical history in particular. He has a very real reverence for his Father and he seems to cherish being able to stand next to him and carry on the Holt legacy.

When they hit the stage and their show started, they all had that smile on their faces like their was no where else on Earth they would rather be, and the crowd recognized it and loved them for it. They sounded great, their stage presence was loose, comfortable and confident. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed their show.

During their time on stage, they played five songs that had been written by Aubrey, some sung by him and some by Tony. One of them, “You Can Mark It Down,” was a hit record for The Grascals. One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, “Listen To My Hammer Ring,” sung by Aubrey, will tear your heart out. “Lorena,” “When The Warden Turns The Key,” and my personal favorite, “I’ll Cry Like A Baby,” have made me the biggest Aubrey Holt fan in Oklahoma! What a wonderful song writer….. and when Tony is singing one of his Father’s songs, he really puts his heart and soul into doing it perfectly.

TONY HOLT & The WILDWOOD VALLEY BOYSTony is blessed with a voice that is perfectly suited for bluegrass singing, and he knows how to get the most out of it. By doing some research, I discovered that The Grascals had recorded another song by Aubrey Holt that I have loved since I first heard it. “When The Sad Wind Sighs,” with Vince Gill sitting in with the Grascals, should make Mr. Aubrey Holt very proud. It is Dynamite!

When the band did the stage version of “Long Black Veil,” it was even more enjoyable the second time around for me, as the Triple L sound men had the voices perfectly balanced, crisp and up front. It is one of my wife’s favorite songs, also, and she and the audience loved it. Another show highlight was a hot, up tempo bluegrass version of Merle Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side Of Me.” As a patriotic number, Aubrey sang the old Louvin Brothers hit “From Mother’s Arms To Korea”.

  ************************

{Video below representative of band’s sound but not from same concert as reviewed}

{VIDEO COURTESY OF TED LEHMANN }

************

When the show was over I managed to capture the band and get some pictures, and I thought, as we got ready to leave, that my afternoon spent with Tony, Aubrey, Daniel, Jeremy, Tom and Chris had been one of my most enjoyable musicals experiences in a long time. I heard super vocals, great pickin’, new and wonderful original songs and I had made some friends that I hope to hear play again. Mother Nature had given us rain AND sunshine, I had spent time with my family and on the way home my daughter took some very nice pictures of an Oklahoma sunset to remember.

Tony Holt says they will be coming out with a gospel CD soon, and all I can think is, I can hardly wait to hear it! If Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys are anywhere near you, make the effort and be there!

OKLAHOMA SUNSET VIEWED ON WAY HOME FROM CONCERT  (Photo by: Georgiana Rose)

2 comments:

Prescription Bluegrass Blog said...

A Note about comments: With the increasing popularity of Prescription Bluegrass, we've found an alarming number of spam posts. This disturbs us greatly. When a comment clearly has no connection to the article but includes a hyperlink to another page we feel that is contrary to our purpose. We value your time and readership status greatly. We make every attempt to guard against the dilution of content on this blog in order to keep it about all things bluegrass. The time it takes to moderate the comments that come in and decide to include them or not has more than doubled the workload and has become impossible to maintain. We have therefore changed the comment moderation on this page. In order to comment on any post you must first JOIN the Blog. We hope this will not last and that at sometime in the future we may be able to go back to an open comment forum.

Prescription Bluegrass Blog said...

COMMENT ON FACEBOOK Regarding this Post
FM: Pam Warren
I find that I am not a team member and cannot comment on the find post on Prescription Bluegrass concerning my friends, the Holts. Here is my comment:
Tony, Aubrey and the gang will be appearing at Joe Mullins' fine show, The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival in November. I am certainly looking forward to it. We used to see them pretty often here in Michigan, but it has been several years since we have seen them anywhere.