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Feature Attractions - Old Settler's Music Festival, Texas
April 2005, by Carl Burnham

The Old Settler's Music Festival has continued to expand each year from it's start in 1987 to become one of the top bluegrass festivals in the country, drawing over 10,000 attendees a year, yet retains a down-home charm uniquely Texan.

We visited on Saturday, to see more of what the festival was all about. The festival offers a unique range of acclaimed performers to the four stages, with a blend of acoustic, folk, bluegrass, and country-rock. The music reminded us of the crisp mountain music of North Georgia mixed with some Telluride funkiness.

Multi-talented performers Béla Fleck and Rodney Crowell were the star headliners for this year, wowing the crowds. Performers also included Kasey Chambers, Railroad Earth, Lone Star Bluegrass Band, the Austin Lounge Lizards, and more, plus workshops on banjo, mandolin, and guitar playing, fiddling, the harmonica, songwriting, places for kids to play, and a youth talent competition.

As we sat leisurely next to the reflective waters of Onion Creek under stately pecan and cypress trees enjoying our tasty barbecue from the Salt Lick pavilion, we could see kids laughing and people clearly having quite a good time. There are a range of vendor booths, providing food, beverage, clothes, face painting, homemade soaps, and other items.

Just a short walk across FM 1826 is a picturesque RV and tent campground (Camp Ben McCullouch) right next to Onion Creek where many stay to enjoy the festival for all the weekend.

The evening show at the Hill Country stage got started off with the Austin Lounge Lizards, a local favorite, and now nationally known for their sharp wit and zany style of spoofing everyday life through their bluegrass music. Some of their hits played included 'Stupid Texas Song', 'We Always Fight When We Drink Gin', 'Strange Noises In The Dark', a hilarious German rap song, and 'Old Blevins' (listen to the song here - opens in new window).

Bela Fleck in center, with Casey Dreissen and Bryan SuttonBéla Fleck played a medley of acoustic bluegrass tunes to amaze the crowd, including a new arrangement just for the festival, 'The New Settler's Breakdown' with his Acoustic Trio. Taking a break from his regular group, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, the Acoustic Trio consists of Béla Fleck on banjo, Casey Dreissen on fiddle, and Bryan Sutton on guitar.

On one song, they would be playing a soft medley, while another would build to a 120 mile an hour extended play, blending bluegrass with jazz, country, and other influences. We have never seen anyone play the banjo with such supreme talent and speed, bringing out an incredible range of music. No wonder that he has been nominated for the most music categories at the Grammy Awards, and has won eight Grammys. We left later that night wanting to go straight home and start practicing the banjo again. Listen to a sample of Béla Fleck's recent music - opens in new window

Continued on next page - Rodney Crowell at the Festival

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