Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

National acts set to impress at Blue Waters Bluegrass

Three-day festival takes place Aug. 9-11 at Waterfront Park


The annual Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival is just one week away, and talented musical acts are slated to perform throughout the three-day show, Aug. 9-11 at Medical Lake’s Waterfront Park.

Music director and acting president Kevin Brown said this year’s festival offers a wide array of bluegrass music ranging from traditional to the upbeat and high-energy groups, while maintaining the traditional music seen last year.

“Last year, we took a different direction,” he said.

The festival took the direction of having a more traditional sound last year, after a couple of years inviting groups that incorporated rock and country into their music. Brown said it was also born out of a recent difficult time with finances.

“We wanted to get more firmly back into bluegrass,” he said.

Excitement is building, however, for two headlining bands this year: Della Mae and Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen. Della Mae’s founder and fiddler Kimber Ludiker, is originally from Spokane, so the concert serves as a bit of a homecoming. Chris Luquette, guitarist in Dirty Kitchen, is originally from Seattle, furthering the local connection to some talented, emerging artists. Both of the groups were recently nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Awards Emerging Artist of the Year award.

“They’re both gaining a whole lot of attention, nationally,” Brown said.

But while the headlining acts can bring the crowd to its feet, solo artists can evoke those emotions in the heart. Jim Hurst is a guitarist-vocalist who cites his musical influences as Tony Rice, Clarence White and Jerry Reed, among others. Hurst began pursuing a solo career in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since.

“It’s nice for people sitting and watching a day of music to go from a high energy five-piece band to a solo guy who can equally demonstrate some amazing instrumental abilities just by himself,” Brown said.

Two duos, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, as well as Pharis and Jason Romero, will also take to the stage.

“They have a little bit more of a folkier sound,” he said. “You can’t do a full bluegrass sound with just two instruments. But you’ll get great harmonies and great instrumental abilities from them.”

Brown, who hosts the program “Front Porch Bluegrass” Sundays on KPBX, said a lot of the ideas for future bands at Blue Waters comes from groups showcased on the radio. About a month after the festival takes place, he’s hard at work on next year’s band lineup.

“We have to book national bands by December,” he said.

The summer touring schedule for bluegrass bands factors in several festivals in the span of a few months, which makes the competition for top acts quite fierce.

All of the hard work, however, pays off when the artists are up on stage and the audience is immersed in some good music.

“People are going to be captivated by seeing something live,” Brown said. “It’s just very much a live music.”

Brown has often said one of the best parts about the festival is seeing the campground musicians playing after the shows are over for the night. There, a certain magic for a festival the size of Blue Waters is created and lasts throughout the night.

“Stick around after the stage shows and wander around through the parking lot, where people are camping,” he said. “They’ll see people who were on stage in the headliner bands in picking circles at 10 o’clock at night after everything is done.”

The festival also brings several food vendors out to Medical Lake, offering a variety of tastes for purchase. Music vendors and instrument dealers are also a regular sight at the festival, helping to make for a full weekend experience in the West Plains.

James Eik can be reached at


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