Attendees of the 19th annual Titus Bluegrass Festival were treated to a wonderful slice of bluegrass music performed by well-known names in the bluegrass world and up-and-coming talent.
“The bands like this venue,” festival organizer Philip Kelly said. “It is a getaway for bands like Shannon Slaughter and County Clare who play at large venues some. We’re always glad to have the bands play here.”
This is Kelly’s fourth year of being involved with the event. His primary focus is securing the entertainment.
“I really enjoy working with the bands and the talent,” he said. “The bands are all familiar with the venue. We have a great board and a great group of volunteers. They all chip in their help and knowledge to make this work. It takes a lot of people to put on this event.”
The biggest surprise of the event came in the form of two musicians from Birmingham who are just getting their start in bluegrass and life — 15-year-old Drury Anderson and 17-year-old Luke Black.
They performed with Allen Tolbert as Allen Tolbert & Friends and are in a band back home called The Mountain Grass Unit with friend Sam Wilson.
“I was at the Alabama Bluegrass Music Association annual event looking for bands,” Kelly said.
“It’s a place where members can perform, meet other members and discuss bookings.
“I walked around a corner at the event and saw these two guys — completely unplugged and playing. I was really impressed. We started talking which led to them playing here.”
Tolbert was the catalyst that influenced Anderson and Black to look into bluegrass music.
“When I saw Allen playing it was crazy,” Black said. “That’s how I wanted to play. After the show, I talked with him and set up some lessons.”
The Mountain Brook High School students were focused on playing other musical genres before that encounter with Tolbert.
According to Drury, it was about a year ago when they decided to focus on playing bluegrass.
“We’ve formed several groups in the past,” he said. “In the past year we’ve firmed up the bluegrass band. We’re just going take The Mountain Grass Unit name and that’s us.”
“I did not know the world I was about to enter,” Black said. “It’s a great community.”
The Mountain Grass Unit’s next gig is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Birmingham at Vulcan Aftertunes.
The band is opening up for Kingfish which is making a positive connection with blues fans.
“After hearing these young guys play, I want to go home and throw my guitar in the lake,” festival organizer Jim Petrey jokingly said. “They are something special. I cannot wait to see where they will be in the next few years with their music.”
Visit Anderson and Black’s Instagram handle @the_mountain_grass_unit to find out more about the band.
The event line up also included Stanley & Company from Adger.
“It’s the members in the community and all their work that makes this such a great event,” Tom Hinton said. “Ed Montoya and the people in the community started something really special years ago. I appreciate how the festival is bigger and better than ever before. It is everyone in the area coming together to make all this happen.”
Montoya and Hinton were part of the festival’s original group of people who planned the annual event.
Kelly said he thinks adding an additional band to the lineup would be a good idea for next year’s 20th anniversary event.
“Ultimately it is the name of the acts that bring people in,” he said. “It’s just an idea at this point. We have time to plan and figure it out for next year.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event go back to maintain and keep the Titus Community Center open for community and private events.