I thought I’d post the highlight reel from this year’s Clifftop festival. There’s a number of different banjos in here being playing in many styles. And if you like a good fiddle tune, there’s a bunch of those, too. Enjoy!
Bill Rogers (Moderator)
Thanks Craig; good to see you’re still cookin’.
Howdy, Bill. At 71, I’m heading back into the field this fall to record a number of fiddle-builder conversations. Wish me luck!
Craig, it's good news for all of us that you are back on the trail documenting the great work that craftsmen (and craftswomen) and artists are doing today. It's gift to us and to those who will follow after us.
Thank you for the vote of confidence David. Very much appreciated. This is the finest group of people I’ve ever met. I can’t stop recording their stories.
I hope in the future, others discover them as well. The traditional music community is amazing!
Thank you for posting, Craig! Well done, and much appreciated.
Dear Sam (and Stella), I'm sorry our time at Clifftop was so brief. Just know you're fondly remembered throughout the year. Hope to see you next year at Clifftop. Hopefully I'll have a copy of my book for you then.
I saw you at Todd Clewell's camp but didn't get to say howdy. Thanks for the video!
I had a great time playing along with your tunes! Sorry we didn't get a chance to chat. Glad you're well and "out there!"
Thanks Craig, this is great!
The music at Clifftop is incredible. The majority of attendees are players. So you can just imagine what the campground sounds like 24x7.
Thank you for making the video. I look forward to the new one each year Clifftop happens, and they're always great.
Thank you, Zach!
Craig, your Clifftop videos are always something special. This year's is no exception. Your sense of timing is uncanny; that is, you seem to show up in some spot just when something special is happening, and you zero in on it, and often ask the right questions.
I really enjoyed the doodlebug song and the banter afterward. And the kitting circle!
Unlike a local Bluegrass festival here (since cancelled a few years ago when the promoter took ill), the demogtaphics at Clifftop are truly revealing - lots of women and young people picking. Thanks for showing that.
Thanks for the kind words, Paul. And your observations are all spot-on. I do these films for eagle-eyed people like you.
I have to shoot a lot of film for a reel like this. However, the level of musicianship at Clifftop is high enough, that when a couple of gifted pros fire up a tune (like Rosie Newton and David Bass), you KNOW it’s gonna be good! In this case, Frank Evans on banjo was a peer, as was Rosie’s husband on bass.
Clifftop attendees seem to show an unusual reverence toward the music, the occasion and each other. Even after 6+ days of heat, rain, mud and only 18 shower stalls for 3-4k people. They’re all intensely grateful to be there. And I know I’m not the only one that has observed this “grace.”
The age diversity is bi-modal. There are the younger folks from 18-26 that either come with their parents or just somehow luck out and find themselves there, not really knowing why. They know of Old-time and many play bluegrass. There are very few attendees from the mid-twenties to over 50. Except for the really serious, professionals. All the rest of that cohort are at home working their day jobs. These are the players that, as children, were probably told they’re really not artists. So they gave up on their musical (artistic) dreams and took day jobs.
Then there is the 50+ crowd. These are those young artists as adults. Having completed their work in the capitalist world, they picked up their instruments again, and found their tribe of like-minded souls (sharing the same experience) at Clifftop. I especially love being a part of that group.
For all attendees, this place is a celebration. There’s a great deal of neurodiversity here, with an equal amount of appreciation and acceptance. That in itself brings some excitement. Can’t say the same about racial diversity. Even though the history of the music is equally black and white, Clifftop, and other OT festivals, are almost entirely white. I know I am not the only one that has noticed this discrepancy.
One last thing worth mentioning. You pointed out the fact that this crowd seems to be similar in numbers (men and women) and young. That’s true! And although the music is anchored in Old-time, Bluegrass seems to be making its way back into the fold… and bringing a level of excitement with it.
I could talk about what’s happening down there all day. In fact, in April of this year, I wrote a book about the state of southern Appalachian traditional music in America (Old-time). It features a pithy section on Clifftop. It’s being published by McFarland & Company (Jefferson, NC) and hopefully will reach the market place in early 2024. I might even go on the road and give some talks about it. It is that exciting!
Thanks again for your observations. Pretty sure, you too would love this place.
This music, and the people that play it are extraordinary!
Thank you for your generosity and your documentary gifts, Craig.
In the 18 to 26 age range, my anecdotal understanding is that a ton of those folks didn't just find themselves there and are not dragged along by their parents, and many of those folks work. It might be gig-economy work, but many Clifftop characters in those age ranges are out of the nest, seriously into oldtime, and earning their way there under their own steam one way or another, to tear it up with the tribe. I dunno, maybe it's changed since the pandemic.
Edited by - ceemonster on 09/10/2023 11:32:29
Hi ceemonster. Now you can see why I’m so excited about it. :)
Edited by - frailin on 09/10/2023 11:33:30
Thank you for the video. Another world. Would love to go.
Hello Craig--Thanks for putting this up--it was wonderful getting a little taste of Clifftop. My son hooked up my computer to the big screen tv in the living room--so your vid was just like having it right in my living room.
Wish you had taped yourself playing with people so I could see how you were doing. I was surprised that I was actually able to spot only a few people I knew--Ken Bloom, Marsha Harris, Tony Sabetelli--thought I'd recognize more faces and instruments. Maybe we'll go next summer.
Its been an odd year--started out well with fun pickins in Buffalo, Rochester & Boston area---then rushed home to Florida at the end of May to play the Florida Folk Festival & ripped the meniscus in my knee and had to cancel at the last minute. My husband and I have been in and out of the hospital all summer long and home in Tallahassee since May--but all that is ending soon. I am healing from a surgery last Friday and going to a lot of PT for my knee--but I'm getting better all around & we are hoping for the mountains last week of Sept & all of October where I'm sure there will be lots of good picking again.
Oh--and I sold the Gabriella this year--did not get as much as it should have--but--got enough to finance our trip to London next May.
Hope to see you at a festival next year.
Love to you and your family,
Mary Z. Cox
Thanks for the update, Mary. Sorry to learn of the physical challenges you two are facing, but good on you both for staying engaged. Maybe see you down the road.
'Stelling whitestar' 1 hr
'Cauliflower ' 2 hrs
'What Child Is This' 2 hrs
'Lafayette' 3 hrs
'Mandatory singing' 3 hrs