MerleFest 2013 takes on new meaning

Reviewed by CJ Click
Times-News correspondent

   WILKESBORO — One of the most famous musical festivals in the country took on a new meaning this year. MerleFest, which began in memory of the legendary folk artist Doc Watson’s son, Eddy Merle Watson, is now being held in honor of both father and son. Thousands of festivalgoers showed up to the campus of Wilkesboro Community College to take part in the first MerleFest since Watson’s death in May 2012.
The festival featured only the best bands that blend the perfect mix of bluegrass, folk, country and blues. The April 25 lineup included names such as The Charlie Daniels Band, Leon Russell and the acclaimed Queen of Bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent.
Russell, the long-bearded Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, came onto the stage at 7:30 p.m. He played many of his most famous hits such as “A Song For You” and “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but peppered his set with a few recognizable covers. Those covers ranged from “All Right Now” by the English rock band Free to “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles.
   After a set change, The Charlie Daniels Band came out at 9 p.m. The band began playing to extenuate Charlie Daniel’s fiddling. The band played hits such as “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and “Simple Man.”
Daniels, a North Carolina native, then explained that he didn’t appreciate the bad connotations surrounding rednecks. Describing them as hard-working, Daniels concluded that the world would be a better place if there were more rednecks as he went into “A Few More Rednecks.”
He then explained that the band had written a song, “Black Ice,” to showcase the members’ talent. Laced with long instrumentals from individual band members, the song served its purpose well.
Daniels went on to talk about starting out in the music industry in Nashville. “You don’t run into many stars at that point in your career,” he explained. “But I ran into one several times and he was always so kind. I appreciated that,” he said as he began a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
After a few gospel songs such as “I’ll Fly Away” and “How Great Thou Art,” Daniels went back into playing more hits. People could be seen dancing to “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” and toasting to “Long Haired Country Boy.” Daniels closed with his arguably most famous hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” laced with improvised fiddle instrumentals.
MerleFest had a strong opening night, reinforcing its prominence in American music culture. The festival is a part of North Carolina that makes the state great. It’s the perfect way to honor the memory of our own Doc Watson and his son, Eddy Merle Watson.

 CJ Click is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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