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Top acts slated for Bluegrass Festival

MONTICELLO — Pearl River Bluegrass Festival organizers hope todouble last year’s crowd when they present the largest lineup everon Aug. 18-19 at Atwood Water Park.

“We have four headliners this year, so we hope to double thecrowd,” said Freddie Rose, member of the festival committee. “Twois the most we’ve had in the past.”

The two-day event will feature Continental Divide, Mike Scott,Mountain Heart and Larry Sparks. In addition, local favorites suchas Old 15 South, the Stuart Family and Fair River Station will alsoperform.

According to Enos Jackson, another committee member, thefestival expanded its lineup because it had more money to investthan for past concerts.

“We can do this in large part because of a Mississippi ArtsCommission grant and donations from our corporate sponsors,” hesaid.

The Mississippi Arts Commission awarded the festival $5,625 aspart of its Southern Heritage program.

Continental Divide and Mike Scott are the featured entertainerson Friday, Aug. 18. They will be supported by Old 15 South.

Mountain Heart and Larry Sparks will headline Saturday’sentertainment with Old 15 South, the Stuart Family and Fair RiverStation providing the evening’s early performances.

Continental Divide, Mike Scott and Larry Sparks are well-knownto bluegrass fans, but Mountain Heart is a relatively new band,although the music industry is not new to some of its members.

Most of its members are familiar to bluegrass lovers. SteveGulley is probably the best-known for his stint as guitarist andlead/tenor singer with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in themid-90s with appearances on three albums. The Tennessee native,however, was a staff musician, featured vocalist and music directorat Kentucky’s Renfro Valley, an historic home for bluegrass andcountry music, for more than 15 years.

Barry Abernathy, winner of 1997’s Banjo Player of the Year awardfrom the Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass Music inAmerica, began his career performing bluegrass gospel with SilverCreek, but first came to national attention as a member of IIIrdTyme Out. From 1994 to 1998, the Georgia-born and bred banjoplayer/baritone vocalist was a featured member of Doyle Lawson& Quicksilver, recording five albums with the award-winningensemble.

Jimmy Van Cleve is the youngest member of Mountain Heart, butthe 20-year-old has already won rave reviews for his work onRambler’s Choice’s Sounds Of The Mountains and with DoyleLawson & Quicksilver. A Floridian now living in North Carolina,he has almost a decade of fiddling experience.

Alan Perdue’s friendship with Van Cleve led to his recruitmentin Mountain Heart. Perdue made his recording debut in 1995 withAfter 5. A mandolin player since the age of 5, he reappeared in1997 with Rambler’s Choice, where he renewed his friendship withVan Cleve.

Johnny Dowdle, Mountain Heart’s bass player and vocalist, is aNorth Carolinian who has made appearances on both the bass andbanjo with Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz and Lou Reid &Carolina.

Mountain Heart was the brainstorm of Gulley and Abernathy. Theywanted to create what Gulley calls “heart music,” music rooted inthe classics but with a modern, distinctive sound.

“When we play bluegrass, it’s as bluegrass as anybody’s and whenwe do more contemporary material, it’s still going to have thatmountain flavor,” Abernathy said.

Gulley said one of the band’s strengths is its diversity whilemaintaining its bluegrass roots.

“We don’t want to pigeon-holed,” he said. “We do differentthings – traditional, modern, 40s and 50s-style country songs, andlots of bluegrass gospel — but we’ll always do it our own way,with our own sound.”

Gulley said the band chose the name Mountain Heart to evoke thehigh ridges and narrow hollows of the hills that span the statelines of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia.They also hope the name captures the passionate feeling given voiceby the region’s bluegrass musicians.

Tickets for the event are available in Brookhaven at BrookhavenMusic and Sound and in Monticello at Jay’s Restaurant, Hudson’sDrugs and the Monticello Police Department.