Thursday, March 14th at the 2019 Withlacoochee River Bluegrass Festival

Ten minutes outside of Dunellon Florida, tucked away on the Robinson Ranch this weekend you will find one of the state’s oldest Bluegrass Festivals. I had the good fortune of bringing a friend to this amazing show for the first time so I was excited to play tour guide. Once you pull into the grove that the festival calls home, you quickly understand why people make the trek to this small town twice a year….it is flat out beautiful.

The oak trees covered in moss provide a perfect backdrop that keeps the music ringing in the shade. Just steps from the stage you will find a beautiful stretch of the Withlacoochee River teeming with fish, gators and Osprey. You could easily grab a fishing rod and spend the day drifting away into the beautiful scene…but you would be missing out on the Bluegrass.

The open mic kicked off the festival providing the generous amounts of parking lot pickers and jammers a chance to stand on the same stage that has hosted The Osborne Brothers, Chubby Wise and The Johnson Mountain Boys. Following those pickers were the first band of the weekend, Backwater Bluegrass. Backwater Bluegrass quickly brings you in with their song choices ranging from Balsam Range, to Doyle Lawson and on down the hit list. The fans loved their show and were asking for more when the show was over.

Once folks made the short walk back to their campsites, multiple jams broke out…The Stringbusters, Skeeter Creek and many other large jams could be heard ringing through the night. For many of the pickers, it’s like a family reunion seeing friends that they had not seen since the last festival so they pick the night away singing the songs that made them friends.

The first day of The Withlacoochee River Bluegrass Festival was a great time and a good foreshadowing for what is sure to be an amazing weekend of Bluegrass.

Justin Mason, Florida Bluegrass Network

The Florida Bluegrass Classic February 20-25th, 2019 – A new approach to Bluegrass Festivals

Large, multi-day Bluegrass Festivals have been a staple in Florida for decades. People made their way down the musical trail to Everglades, Palatka, Yeehaw Juction, Withlacoochee, Sertoma for may years. Newer Festivals like Baygrass have sprouted up and become very successful in a short period of time. (by sprouted I mean a person or persons nearly killed themselves daily to make it happen)

Bluegrass festivals not only bring pickers a chance to perform and showcase their talents but, they bring in fans and it also helps show the rest of the Bluegrass world how rich Florida’s scene is.

Hats off to Ted Lehmann for spotlighting one of the states premiere promoters and his quest to find the perfect formula for sustaining Bluegrass Festivals into the future his post on No Depression


While Ernie Evans ‘s approach might not appeal to everyone, it has already shown to be successful in bringing in larger crowds who may not otherwise come out to the festivals and experienced what it is to be at a Bluegrass Festival.

In the end, the more successful Bluegrass festivals we have in the state the better our Bluegrass scene!


Justin Mason – Florida Bluegrass Network

Friday, March 9th at Black Prong Bluegrass Festival 2019

The second official day of the 2019 Black Prong Bluegrass Festival brought in a bunch of campers, fans and multiple jams around the Park.

The Kentucky Sleepy Hollow Band kicked off the show with their lonesome sound put on by their Father/Son vocal duo that is their signature sound.

Mike and Mary Robinson (who happen to be the Festival Promoters, sound crew, and MC) got to entertain the Black Prong crowd with their hilarious semi-autobiographical songs and touching Bluegrass Gospel signature tunes. You can easily tell that their experience preaching and working as MCs lends well to putting on a lively show. Danny Stewart, Keith Bass, Sandy Holdman and Cody Nieves did an outstanding job providing the house band for the show.

Keith Bass and The Florida Bluegrass Express closed out the program with their rip roaring Bluegrass style. The band consists of Keith, Laron, April and her daughter Katie. The family harmonies and smooth banjo playing had the fans’ toes tapping.

After the show, multiple jams popped up around the campground three of which were hosted by bands who are playing at the festival. Skeeter Creek, Keith Bass and Scattered Grass each had their own jams giving the opportunity for pickers on the campground to play with the folks they get to see on stage.

Saturday brings the main stage show, a 5k, great vendors and more large doses as Bluegrass Jamming, make your way out to Bronson Florida to enjoy a Bluegrass Picking good time.


Justin Mason, Florida Bluegrass Network



Saturday, March 9th at Black Prong Bluegrass Festival 2019

The main stage show began Saturday with The Shepherds hosting the open stage. With their family harmonies and youthful energy the crowd quickly got locked into the show.

Skeeter Creek was the next to take the stage and they did not disappoint! Skeeter Creek plays hit bluegrass, country and folk songs with an energy and enthusiasm that is hard to match. They mix in some beautiful slower tunes as well but never let the audience get to relaxed.

The Baileys, hailing from the north Florida area gave a powerful performance. Every time I hear this band I think “wow they are good” which is difficult to do. It’s hard to continuously impress fans but the Baileys just have that drive that keeps the Bluegrass blood pumping.

Fresh off their brand new album Dirt Road, Scattered Grass made their first appearance in North Florida. They flashed their twin harmonies and classic Bluegrass feel that has made them popular across the state. The band has a special kind of charisma that has to be witnessed to understand.

Keith Bass and The Florida Bluegrass Express played for a second day and brought even more of their hard driving Bluegrass smile. It’s amazing how many years Keith has been bringing Bluegrass to the state of Florida but never seems to lose the energy he has that makes his music infectious. While the band can play all the traditional standards, they also mix in popular contemporary Bluegrass songs to keep your ears on their toes.

The night was capped off by a pot luck fellowship dinner and more top notch jamming across the park.

Sunday brings a Bluegrass Gospel songs and I’m sure some tear filled goodbyes and firm handshakes sealing agreements to pick again soon.

Special thanks to Mike and Mary Robinson for having Florida Bluegrass Network at the festival.

And thank you to Alan and Maureen Aulson for their hospitality and effort making this festival a reality.

Seeing a young festival like this has great success and even better people just fills you with hope for the future.


Justin Mason, Florida Bluegrass Network


Opinions from the Road – Don’t be a “normie”

When you think of the legends of bluegrass music, what names come to mind? Monroe? Flatt and Scruggs? Wiseman? Stanley?

Why is that? Why are those the names you come to? It’s because those artists were original. Regardless of you Bluegrass style preferences you recognize them for their originality. Nobody remembers the guy who sounds like Josh Graves, you remember Uncle Josh.

The reason I bring this up is just a few months ago I met a musician who was not only supremely talented but played his instrument with a style and enthusiasm that set him apart from others and I was pumped. I saw the same guy again recently and he was different. He was much more tame and “normie” he explained that a band member made him tone the “him” down to fit the “normie” style….and I was disgusted. I told him man, don’t let people tone your artist down.

There are so many people that work so hard to sound like Rice, Scruggs, Skaggs, Crowe or whomever that it makes the feat seem mundane. These are the people I call “normies” They put all their effort into sounding just like someone else that they lose all their…..them. The problem with “normies” is they not only suck the life out of Originality but they also force their status quo on the rest of the music. “That’s not how Bill did it” (eye roll)

Be you, soak up the legends and hero’s, find what made them great (to you) and then find that thing that makes you…you and cultivate it.

Will everyone like it? Hell no. The normies won’t like it because they can’t be you. You might not play that Reno lick note by note like Don did but you can sure as *bleep* play it like you.

“normies” will try hard to fit your circle block in their square wholes but eventually you will need to cut your own path and run.

Be original, be you and when the “normies” start their squawking….smile and be you even louder!


Justin Mason, Florida Bluegrass Network

Opinions from the Road – “Support Your Rival”

In sports, rivalries are everything. Teams play harder against their rivals, fans come out in droves to see rivalry games and it makes each player involved strive to get better in order to beat their rivals. Yankees-Redsox, Bears-Packers, Lakers-Celtics…the list goes on. Those strong leagues become stronger for it.

In music, rivalries are abundant but they can go too far. The Bluegrass community tends to be a very small town style gossip train. Rumors, stories, and information tend to spread like wildfire while their validity is rarely questioned.

arm wrestle

I can’t count the times I have heard “That band ___________ doesn’t play real Bluegrass”, “I heard _______band gets gigs because ________ member is a woman” or “We should be playing that show, we are so much better than _______ band.” (And those are the more tame statements I assure you). Each time I just shake my head and think “Good for _____band for booking that show” (along with the realization of the character of the musician who made the statement) While that person might see their rivalry as the nature of the business….that level of negativity really just ends up hurting Bluegrass as a whole.

We forget that every door another Bluegrass band (or musician) opens is a door that your band can walk through. Each new venue hosting Bluegrass, each new jam that pops up, each new audience that is introduced to Bluegrass just gives us all more opportunities to spread Bluegrass to more people. (which means more opportunities for you) That is why I always say “Good for them”

Even if your rival band gets a show, puts out an album or achieves any kind of success, you should support them. You should want successful Bluegrass bands to be around you, it helps shine lights all around you, Bluegrass and Bluegrass in Florida. Every time you see them get a new gig, it should make you smile. You know that Venue ______ might be a possibility in the future. Every time they get a good slot on a big festival you should know that it might be you next time.


In the end, let your rivalry (if you must have one) fuel you in a healthy way. Get better, try harder and find figure out what they are doing, that you may not be. Support your rival in any way you can, because their success will be your success and in turn breed Good Bluegrass music that can spread to all reaches of the Sunshine State.

Justin Mason
Florida Bluegrass Network

Blog at

Up ↑