NORTH EAST — The annual Derrick Lowe Memorial Evening of Bluegrass will return to Milburn Stone on Saturday, bringing back two acts that have played it before — Rhonda Vincent & The Rage and Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass.
The concert, sponsored by the Elkton Rotary Club, has showcased regionally- and nationally-renowned bluegrass acts for years now. But it wasn’t until last April, following the unexpected August 2015 death of founder Derrick Lowe, that it became a memorial event.
Lowe, a Tennessee native and bluegrass enthusiast, founded the Evening of Bluegrass in 2012 as a means to both share his love of the genre and raise funds for community organizations. It’s an event that makes sense given the geographic location. In addition to its still-thriving bluegrass community today, Cecil County is also the former home of bluegrass legend Ola Belle Reed.
Saturday’s show starts at 7 p.m. at Cecil College’s Milburn Stone Theatre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Danny DeMarinis, a former Elkton Rotary president and current press spokesperson, relayed excitement over this year’s billing. Vincent was sought after to play last year, but scheduling conflicts kept her from doing so. And Paisley, he said, will bring a local flair to the ordeal — he lives just north of the border in Pennsylvania. Both acts have played the concert twice before.
“The nice thing … is that not only do we have two fine bands, but there’s a good mix of local and national,” DeMarinis said.
Rhonda Vincent & The Rage have for decades received recognition as a premier act in bluegrass. Several of their albums have landed Grammy Award nominations.
Vincent’s first live performances came during her childhood, when she played with her family’s band, The Sally Mountain Show. She showed a high ceiling early, as an ambitious kid taking up multiple instruments, including the mandolin, guitar and fiddle.
Her musical ability wasn’t exactly unexpected. After all, she comes from five generations of musicians, she said.
When eventually Vincent kicked off her solo career, that talent became even more apparent. She won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year Award every year from 2000 to 2006, then again in 2015.
And if you ask Vincent about how she’s found success, she may mention that she and her band do things a little differently. For one, they already have around 100 shows booked for 2017, while many acts refrain from booking more than three months out. For another, she held off from relocating to Nashville, though that’s the route many starry-eyed bluegrass groups take.
“There’s almost like a cookie cutter, ‘This is the way we do business in Nashville,’” Vincent said. “I’ve always been the one that’s like, if everybody else is doing this, then I’m going to do it a different way. I don’t want to do it exactly like everyone else for whatever reason. I don’t know why I have that mentality, but I’m always wanting to be different.”
Bluegrass roots run deep for Danny Paisley, too. He grew up playing with his dad Bob, who played guitar and sang, and accomplished bass player Ted Lundy. The band was originally called Bob Paisley & The Southern Grass, before Bob passed and Danny took over.
He seems to be doing well with the band. Last year, he won the Male Vocalist of the Year Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
“It’s a part of my soul,” Danny Paisley said of bluegrass. “It really is.”
His group will hold true to the genre’s tradition of family bandmates. The Southern Grass features his son Ryan Paisley on mandolin.
And the greatest reward to Paisley, who’s based out of southeastern Pennsylvania? Connecting with an audience through the music.
“The biggest treat for me is singing a song and people yelling out another song that you’ve recorded and you’ve been singing for years,” Paisley said. “That’s one of the biggest treats for your ego, I guess? I don’t know what you’d call it. It’s a thrill.”
Tickets for the upcoming event, which are $35 for balcony or $50 for orchestra seats, can be bought online through www.milburnstone.org or by calling 410-287-1037. Tickets have sold out before.