The musicians of Barefoot Nellie & Co. are putting on their traveling shoes this weekend.
The countdown finds the five musicians hopscotching to four shows in three states over two days in pursuit of a singular passion.
"Our driving desire is to play music," says August Bruce, with no hint of irony, as she explains the hectic schedule.
Bruce, who plays fiddle, is a founding member of the 7-year-old band with husband Eric, a bass player. Recent personnel changes have brought on guitarist Kyle Tolbert, mandolinist Michael Williams and banjoist Mike Broadway. All but Tolbert share vocal duties. The new guys, all from Alabama, are "playing as hard and as fast as we like to play," she says.
"If we're awake, we're wanting to play music," August says of her and her husband's musical temperament. "We've finally met the people who want to play as much as we do."
They began rehearsing together in March and performing in April. In May, they won second place at the annual 1890s Day Jamboree in Ringgold, Ga. A few days later, they scored a first-place finish in Bluegrass on the Plains' "Bluegrass Idol" contest in Auburn, Ala. The win awarded Barefoot Nellie a Saturday set at the festival, which featured some of the biggest acts in bluegrass (Ralph Stanley and Rhonda Vincent, among them) and a studio recording session.
"For us, that was huge," August Bruce says. "There were no little names that day, and we played right in the middle of it."
She acknowledges that this weekend's schedule could prove to be as hard-driving as their music - and has required some tweaking of the schedule as they looked to add more shows. But the more they play, the better they like it.
"When we get a call, we'll bend over backward and break our necks to try to do a show," she says. "Getting a call from someone wanting to book us is the biggest compliment we can get. We try to accommodate every request."
This weekend's events include two bluegrass festivals in Tennessee, a benefit in Georgia and a fiddlers convention in Alabama. Here's the scoop on all four.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.
This is the 28th year for the Coke Ovens Bluegrass Festival at the historic Coke Ovens Park and Museum. Festival concerts start at 6 p.m. Friday, June 6, and 1 p.m. Saturday, June 7. A jam session will kick off the festival at 6 p.m. today, June 5, and workshops are scheduled Saturday morning at 10 (all times Central).
¦ Performers: Include Cannon Creek, Cedar Ridge, Coalition Band, Cumberland Band, Fleming Family, Fox Mountain Express, Fredonia Bluegrass, Timeline, Valley Grass, Barefoot Nellie and The Benedict Trio.
¦ Admission: $4 Friday, $6 Saturday, $7 both days.
¦ Proceeds: Go to Coke Ovens Park and Museum, which preserves the century-old remains of 268 beehive coke ovens from the area's coal-mining days. The site also figured in the Trail of Tears and the Civil War.
¦ What else: Rain or shine. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. No alcohol. No pets. Concessions available. Limited rough camping. Park and museum open for exploration.
¦ For more information: 423-949-3483, 423-949-2294, 423-309-0069; www.cokeovens.com.
Five bands are in the lineup for the Linsdale Bluegrass Festival, set for noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Linsdale Community Service Center (set GPS for 1151 Chestuee Road, Delano, Tenn.).
¦ Performers: Reliance, Just Us, By the Way, Cedar Ridge and Barefoot Nellie & Co.
¦ Admission: $5; free for children under 12.
¦ Proceeds: Go to No. 7 Fire Hall.
¦ What else: Free camping in the rough. Hookups $10 per night. Clean restrooms and showers. No alcohol. Concessions include barbecue chicken plates and homemade desserts.
¦ Directions: From Chattanooga, take I-75 North to the Charleston exit to Highway 11. Turn north to Highway 163 East and follow signs.
¦ For more information: 423-338-2396, 423-338-5538.
This all-day fundraiser, set for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7, is scheduled for baby Isaak York, who needs open-heart surgery. It takes place inside the arena at Heartland Ranch, 4927 Keith Road.
¦ Performers: Barefoot Nellie & Co., No Other Name, Big Woods, Harrison's Express, East Ridge Cloggers, Choo Choo Cloggers, Eight Days After OVERSET FOLLOWS:and the Cowboy Church Clown Ministry.
¦ Admission: By donation.
¦ What else: A jamming area will be set up for musicians who'd like to sit and pick (bring instrument and chair). An indoor flea market, hourly raffle drawings and silent auctions also are scheduled. Full concessions menu.
¦ For more information: 423-645-4385.
The 106th anniversary celebration of the DeKalb County Fiddlers Convention will start with on-site registration at 11 a.m. and first performances at noon Saturday, June 7, in a new location, the Rotary Pavilion downtown, 202 Fifth St., NE (all times Central). Competitions last into the night. Trophies and more than $4,500 in cash prizes will be awarded.
¦ Performers: Contests for Dobro, peewee fiddler, mandolin, old-time banjo, junior fiddler, guitar, upright bass, bluegrass banjo, senior fiddler, old-time fiddler, bluegrass band and old-time band. Special performance by Leroy Troy at 4:30 p.m.
¦ Admission: $10; free for children under 10.
¦ Proceeds: Go to Big Wills Arts Council and its Arts in Education programs in Fort Payne City Schools.
¦ For more information: 256-845-2224 or DeKalb County Fiddlers Convention on Facebook.