Valdosta Daily Times

March 16, 2014

Suwannee SpringFest: Roots music returns

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

LIVE OAK, Fla. — March came in like a lion and will go out like a bunch of American roots musicians.

The Suwannee SpringFest returns next weekend to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

The 18th Annual Suwannee SpringFest keeps with the tradition of bringing back fan favorites mixed with new acts.

The past few SpringFests and its autumn cousin MagnoliaFest have seemed almost interchangeable when it comes to the line-ups of secondary acts. The headline acts change, but it seems that the dozens of other bands are the same over and over.

This is more perception than accuracy. Nonetheless, this perception hasn’t been too far off the mark. Given the talent of these acts, it’s no complaint either. If these festivals are your cups of tea, there’s nothing wrong with the perception or the possible reality of such similarities.

This year’s Suwannee SpringFest has a solid balance of regulars Donna the Buffalo, Sam Bush, Jim Lauderdale, the Duhks (it just wouldn’t be a SpringFest or a MagFest without these acts), along with other acts such as headliners the Avett Brothers, Del McCoury Band and many more.

These tried-and-true returning groups are well worth a listen, but if you’re looking for live performances of something new and different, there’s more than enough to fill your plate.

This week, we view a little of the old and new for the Suwannee SpringFest in pictures and words.


Take brother Scott Avett’s funky bluegrass mix of banjo and kick drum, or brother Seth Avett’s guitar and high-hat, mixed with their harmonic voices, and the Avett Brothers melds the contemporary and traditional of bluegrass, country, punk, pop and even a hint of ragtime. The San Francisco Chronicle described the Avett Brothers and their traveling band as having “the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.” The band arrives in North Florida only a few weeks after making a televised appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.”  


Del McCoury sung leads and played rhythm guitar for Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. He played the Grand Ole Opry. Still, he spent years working construction and logging jobs while pursuing music on the side. In the 1980s, McCoury’s sons joined him. By the 1990s, the Del McCoury Band toured the U.S. with a combination of singular traditional bluegrass, always with a touch of the unique and a spark of the everlasting.


This band is more folk than traditional or alternative bluegrass, though a listener can still find traces of both in The Duhks’ music. Listening closely, one can also hear the echoes of Celtic reels, French-Canadian folk tunes and some hillbilly groove, all with a mountain valley echo and the lilt of sunlight on a breeze.


This band with its rollicking mix of male and female performers, instruments from the fiddle to the squeezebox, and its duality of humorous and touching songs has become a cornerstone to the roots festival. Donna The Buffalo has played each one of the past several SpringFests and MagnoliaFests. The band has also made a few stops in Valdosta along the way. And there is a reason why they come and are invited each time. The aforementioned combinations, along with a high degree of talent, make Donna The Buffalo one of the must-see, must-hear acts of the festival — this year and every year.


When: March 20-23.

Where: Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, Fla.

Tickets, more information: Visit

The Line-up: The Avett Brothers, Del McCoury Band, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly (JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, Luther Dickinson and Marc Broussard), Jason Isbell, Travelin McCoury Jam, Donna The Buffalo, Steep Canyon Rangers, Jim Lauderdale, Greensky Bluegrass, Willie Sugarcapps, The Duhks, Aoife O’Donovan, Floodwood, Jeff Mosier, Ralph Roddenbery, Rumpke Mountain Boys, David Gans, The Honeycutters, Town Mountain, Grandpa's Cough Medicine, Whetherman, Canary in the Coalmine, The Royal Tinfoil, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Love Canon, Grant Peeples, The Stacks, Sloppy Joe, Uproot Hootenanny, Big Cosmo, Habanero Honeys, Tammerlin, The New 76ers, JacksonVegas, Quartermoon, James Justin & Co., Rosco Bandana, SOSOS, The Whiskey Gentry, Bibb City Ramblers, 2-Foot Level, Henhouse Prowlers, Come Back Alice, Gypsy Wind, Nook & Cranny, Beartoe and Mickey Abraham’s FSU Acoustic Ensemble.