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MerleFest Day 4: Faith and Friends define Sunday at MerleFest

Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C., April 29, 2012

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

Sundays at MerleFest always offer up a healthy dose of spirituality in its musical form, and this year the surprise of the day was the Benedict College Gospel Choir.

An award winning black gospel choir from Columbia, S.C., they brought the crowd on the Watson stage at midday to their feet with gospel classics such as O Happy Day and songs from their own gospel CD "Say The Word."

Scythian took their high energy tunes to the Watson stage today as well, and special guest Jim Lauderdale commented from the microphone during their set, "There are three things in life that are certain - Death, taxes, and you can't sit down at a Scythian show."

The side stages had some good performances left in them, including an impressive virtuoso instrumental performance from the Kruger brothers at the Hillside stage, Red June on the Cabin stage, and the Blues for Merle set on the Americana stage featuring Richard Watson and more.

Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives brought some honky-tonk traditional country to the Watson stage and managed to work in a sideways tribute to Doc when the band called an audible on a Marty Robbins song, Don't We All Have the Right to be Wrong Now and Then and he asked guitarist Kenny Vaughan what key it was in - Vaughan responded, "D," to which Stuart asked, "As in?" and Vaughn quickly replied, "Doc - Watson." Vaughan sang a couple of his own tunes in the middle of the set, and drummer Harry Stinson got into the spirit on a rendition of Workin' on a Building.

Allison Krauss and Union Station wrapped up the 25th edition of MerleFest with a stately set of bluegrass-infused acoustic music, not stretching too much into the traditional styles, but displaying the masterful musicianship they're known for.

The refrain that'll be ringing long after the festival is done, however, might just have come from a guest who came from across the pond, Dougie McLean of Scotland. Offering up a rendition of his classic Caledonia, McLean sang, "Telling stories and singing songs that make me think of where I've come from," and there isn't a better description of MerleFest than that.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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