Bluegrass Blooms

"FIRST ANNUAL" EVENTS are always a sign of organizational hopefulness. The First Annual Tucson Bluegrass Festival seeks to plant new roots for bluegrass music in the Old Pueblo.

The one-day, 12-hour event will feature local and national acts, including regional stalwarts Degrees Plato and the Titan Valley Warheads. Big-name artists include Perfect Strangers and David Grier and Mick Compton. Perfect Strangers features two national talents from Arizona: Chris Brashear and Peter McLaughlin. Other members include Jody Stecher, Forrest Rose and Bob Black.

McLaughlin is the 1988 national flatpicking champion. He's a co-founder of local band Frog Mountain, and also records with Laurie Lewis, who produced his solo album, Cliffs of Vermilion. Brashear records for Copper Creek Records and is a fellow Frog Mountain member and Lewis alumni.

Jody Stecher is best known for his recordings with wife Kate Breslin. Their 1993 album, Our Town, and 1997's Heart Songs were Grammy nominees. Rose, a much-sought-after bassist, has played with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and Kenny Baker. Black was also a member of the Bluegrass Boys and has toured with Norman Blake and John Hartford.

In addition to music, the festival will feature workshops in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass, featuring Brashear, Stecher, Black, Compton and Rose.

Compton is a former member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, who has also worked with Peter Rowan. Grier has toured with luminaries such as Vassar Clements, former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band banjoist John McKuen, and Country Gazzette.

By bringing in name acts, the festival organizers--the Desert Bluegrass Association--hope to follow in the very successful footsteps of the Tucson Blues Society and the Tucson Kitchen Musicians with their respective annual festivals. Sponsors of the Tucson Folk Festival are helping the Bluegrass Association in creating what will hopefully be a perennial high lonesome event.

The festival is formatted with performances by Degrees Plato, Lonesome Road and Perfect Strangers in both the afternoon and evening, so attendees can catch the headliners without having to pull a marathon.

The Tucson Bluegrass Festival will be held Saturday, October 28 at the Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road. Tickets are $15 for adults; children 12 and under are free. Advance tickets are available at Hear's Music and Ragtime Music. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket. Tent camping is free. Weekend camping at the fairgrounds is also available with full RV hookups for $12.50. For more information, call 323-0199 or 319-8599.