Country music legend Willie Nelson is no stranger to Huntington. He has performed here many times, no matter how big his profile may have been at times during his incredible career.
On Saturday, Aug. 10, Nelson brings his traveling troupe to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena for a big show that will include Alison Krauss and up-and-coming blues and country duo Ida Mae. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and ticket prices are $30 and higher. More information can be found at bigsandyarena.com and 304-696-5990, ext. 3503.
Alison Krauss has won more Grammy Awards than any other female artist in history. She is known for her music created with the band Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas as well as her solo projects, including her latest album "Windy City." Produced by Buddy Cannon, who has been the recent producer and co-writer of Nelson's most recent albums, "Windy City" finds Krauss exploring classic country hits and obscure gems done with her distinctive voice and style.
Performing with Krauss in Huntington will be an all-star band featuring Barry Bales, Jay Bellerose, Ron Block, Jeff White, Sidney Cox, Matt Rolling and James Mitchell.
When Krauss comes to town, she will be remembering a Tri-State musician named Dave Evans, a bluegrass musician who was major influence on her young career.
Evans, who died in the summer of 2017, was a regular at the Rudyfest Bluegrass Festival, the biggest bluegrass event in the Tri-State taking place in nearby eastern Kentucky. Evans came of age in the fertile Ohio River Valley bluegrass scene that produced many great artists who came from southern Ohio, Kentucky, southern Indiana and West Virginia during the last century. Raised near Portsmouth, Ohio, Evans grew up in a family that played old-time music. Yet, like so many others in his age group, it was the Earl Scruggs style of playing the banjo that brought him into the bluegrass world.
Evans played with many notable bands based in the Ohio River Valley in his early years, such as The Boys From Indiana, Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, Red Allen and the Kentuckians, The Goins Brothers, Lillimae and the Dixie Gospel-Aires, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers and more.
On his own, Evans led a bit of a rough life having done a stint in jail that took him out of the music scene for almost six years. Still, few could sing bluegrass music with more power and soul than Evans, and that is evident when you listen to his signature songs such as "One Loaf of Bread," "Pastures of Plenty," "99 Years Is Almost For Life" and the locally inspired "Highway 52."
It was Evans' songs and voice that inspired Krauss back in the day, especially when she and an earlier version of Union Station would crank up his music as they traveled from town to town.
"We would be screaming over his music in the van while driving down the road," says Krauss, laughing. "I remember us screaming over it in the van while driving down the road with Barry Bales and Adam Steffey and Tim Stafford pounding on the dash. Barry used to sing 'One Loaf of Bread,' too, out of the blue. And I also always loved 'You Won't Be Satisfied That Way' as well. I loved how Dave sang that one."
Krauss' first experience with the music of Dave Evans happened when she attended a bluegrass festival as a teenager not far from her home in Illinois.
"I was at the Green Acres Music Park in Indiana and that is the first time I ever saw Dave Evans play live," Krauss said. "I think I was 14 years old. I had stopped doing fiddle contests the year before and we were there playing as a band with Mike Harman, John Pennell, myself and Dave Denman. Oh, and Ronnie Stewart was playing there with the Stewart Family. There were a lot of good festivals in Indiana then, but not a lot to go to in Illinois. And, there was Larry Sparks and Dave Evans onstage and I had never seen them play before. Dave's voice would knock you over and he always had that mysterious thing going on with him that Larry Sparks has and Ralph Stanley had, as in they were men of few words onstage. They were real stoic and they were of 'that school.' He sang 'Pastures of Plenty' and that just blew my mind."
Those memories and experiences helped to shape Krauss musically and personally over the years.
"Dave's banjo playing was unbelievable," Krauss said. "I remember sitting in the audience with my mom at that festival watching Dave Evans and my dad goes, 'Geez, he's great.' You have things tied to your memories. I remember watching Larry Sparks and Ralph Stanley and the Goins Brothers and the Osborne Brothers when I first went to the Bean Blossom Festival. It was the first place where I saw Del McCoury play. It is the first time that you get to witness something from another world. It never leaves you, you know. It makes a mark on you, and then you can never be the same afterwards. It suddenly lifts all of your standards and what you thought was great to a whole other level. And, Dave Evans was like that."