Bluegrass Music

Chris Jones & The Night Drivers @ 20 Front Street

A few weeks back, I went to see Chris Jones & The Night Drivers at a small club in Lake Orion, Michigan. The place is called 20 Front Street, and it was quite a drive to get to from my place in Hamtramck. I was actually closer to Flint than I was to Detroit. However, I had a bit of a quest, and I hadn’t seen a good bluegrass show in a while, so off I went on a Saturday night.

Chris Jones is a great flatpicker, and has a low-lonesome sound, one not often heard in bluegrass. The band is a minimal four piece. Included in the lineup is Marshall Wilborn, a legendary bluegrass bassist, and Grace Van’t Hof, a great banjoist who also brings in the baritone ukelele into some of the songs. Along with Mark Stoffel on mandolin, this is what I consider “comfortable bluegrass.” There is nothing too flashy, nothing too mellow, nor nothing too loud and fast.

As for the venue, this was the first time I experienced it. The 20 Front Street is a combination small theater/coffee shop that is run by some volunteer staff. The performance room itself is quite small, with a stage that rally could not fit more than four or five bluegrass musicians, and I do not see any electric band more than a three-piece there. The seating capacity is only about 90, with a semi-circular theater-style. The sound system is perfect for the space, very small and controlled just enough to bring a slight volume to what is on stage. Looking at the venue’s schedule, a large majority of the acts performing are lone singer-songwriter types or folk duos or trios. In short, it reminds me of a miniature version of The Ark in Ann Arbor.

Lake Orion is a small town between Detroit and Flint that one can see it going for the trendy atmosphere. Lots of micro breweries and upscale restaurants, with narrow, clean streets and parking lots that fill up quickly. Those public parking lots are pretty small in size as well as spaces (the Dodge Ram Pickup that I was driving barely fit in the space that I found, and was difficult to maneuver out!).

The two sets performed (plus one encore) were enjoyable, and Chris, being a DJ on Sirius/XM, knows how to talk to a crowd. The place was packed, which when talking to regulars there, happens almost every show. I guess that being that far away from Detroit, some people would rather see a local show than drive out an hour. Fair enough. On the flipside, I would only venture out that far out from Detroit if there was a band or artist that I really wanted to see. It might be considered more now that I have my Chevy Spark compact back.

So I wanted to get Chris to try out the Sevillana 2208 dreadnaught guitar that I received last year from my friend Cherry in China ( He jammed on it for about 15 minutes after the show and seemed to enjoy the tone, which made Cherry happy when I sent her the news.

With bluegrass festivals drying up, especially in the Michigan area, touring bluegrass bands may have to find alternate places to play. The 20 Front Street may be a perfect fit for acts similar to The Night Drivers. While A-list acts such as Billy Strings and The Del McCoury Band are too big to be playing such a venue, there are a number of bluegrass bands that would fit in here if they were willing to travel.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music Musical Instruments

Milan Bluegrass Festival 2022: Dave Adkins Tries Out the 2208

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Milan Bluegrass Festival. This year, the festival was extended to five days. I was planning on attending a few of the days, but because I screwed up my vacation time when I went to work for the law firm for two days, I was only able to go on Saturday. Also, due to family issues, I was only able to stay for the afternoon first sets fo the bands.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to attend was to meet up with Dave Adkins. He is a great guy, extremely friendly to his fans, and was happy to see me. He and I have worked with some of the same songwriters in the bluegrass field, so we exchanged a few thoughts on the people that we know. I also wanted him to try out the Sevillana 2208 acoustic guitar that was shipped to me a few weeks ago. As far as I know, the one that I have is the first one in the US, so I take pretty good care of it and definitely want to get it test-driven by as many musicians as possible.

Not only Dave, but his mandolin player Ari Silver and banjo player Zackary Vickers (both excellent guitar players in their own rite) took the 2208 for a spin. I was glad to see that all of them truly enjoyed playing the guitar. They loved the loudness (we were picking behind the stage while another band was performing, and you could still hear the 2208 clearly), the weight (which seems a little heavier and more solid than most dreadnoughts), and the craftsmanship that went into the guitar, especially the inlay work. Zackary must have played around with the guitar for at least 15 minutes, he was having a great time with it. Even Dustin Terpenning, banjo player for the band Crandall Creek, asked if he could take it for a spin and loved it as well!

Dave Adkins
Ari Silver
Zackary Vickers

I didn’t get a chance to have the 2208 tried out by any other musicians due to time constraints and band members busy with talking to their fan base. However, I was glad to get Dave and his band members’ feedback, which I will be sending back to Cherry at Deviser Guitars.

Other bands on the stage that afternoon was aforementioned Crandall Creek (sort of a family band persona, although they are not family). Breaking Grass (a very high-energy modern bluegrass band, with a hint of Dave Matthews Band thrown in), Rhonda Vincent and The Rage (always entertaining and good, wholesome traditional bluegrass), and Alex Miller (an American Idol contestant that is starting to make waves in the country music circuit), although I didn’t catch his act and had to leave early.

Milan is your typical bluegrass festival for bluegrass lovers. There’s not a lot of frills, just two sets of music from each band, and the fans appreciate the friendliness of the performers after the shows. I have said it before, one does not get that type of artist/fan interaction from any other music format like one can get from talking with members of a bluegrass band. And so many of them appreciate that you have a respect for them as well. Like bringing in a new guitar to try out, band members love to have their opinions asked for, especially on guitars, banjos and mandolins.

Next week’s blog may be late as well, since I will be heading to Hillsdale on Saturday for the Michigan Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. There is nothing like live music.

Chew on it and comment.

Acoustic Guitars

This Dreadnought NEEDS to come to the U.S.!

I network with a lot of musical instrument sales and distributors in Asia, especially China, through LinkedIn. I have been keeping an eye on many of the guitars that they are marketing. There are a few of them that have piqued my curiosity, and I have stayed in contact with these reps to find out if they will be shipped to the US.

One rep from Deviser Guitars in China named Cherry and I have stayed in contact for over a year now. Recently, the company started making a solid-top dreadnought acoustic that, from the photos, appeared to be a quality product. The Sevillana 2208 “looked” like it could compete with other mid-line dreadnoughts, but a lot of stuff coming out of Asia is a gamble.

I worked with Cherry a bit, and last week, a 2208 was on my doorstep. HO-LEE-COW! This thing is amazing to say the least! Solid top and sides, bone nut and saddle, abalone binding, and a fantastic tone! This guitar would fit in with any bluegrass situation. I did a quick side-by-side test against my Martin D-28, and this 2208 stood up to it!

The only fault that I had was that there was no pickguard. As long as I have played in the bluegrass community, I have never seen a Martin without a pickguard. Cherry informed me that the standard for its company is to ship without a pickguard, but one can be installed at the factory. I do plan on installing one myself on this, preferably a tortoise-shell style.

I have stayed in contact with Cherry regarding getting these guitars to the US, providing her with contact information on wholesale distributors here as well as possible marketing options. From what she tells me, this guitar would retail in the US for about $1,149.00. In my experience with playing and pricing acoustic guitars, that is a good deal, as a sale price would probably bring it down to under $1,000.00. Martin doesn’t have a guitar near that price in its Standard series, and the 2208 has a way better tone than any Martin X series guitar. Blueridge guitars (made in China and distributed through Saga) has a number of comparable guitars in price, but not in tone!

Deviser markets mostly lower-cost guitars, ukeleles and accessories, but I have yet to see them in the US market. This Sevillana line (there are other models, mostly with unique slopes in the lower bouts of the body or strange cutaways) is geared toward more professional players. This 2208 would be a welcome addition in the bluegrass market, particularly with players who cannot afford a Martin or upper-tier Taylor. I cannot see why a US distributor has not looked into this yet. Perhaps Deviser should consider going the route of Glarry and handle its own distribution and sales in the US with strictly mail order.

I hope to have a video review of ths 2208 on YouTube before the end of summer, and plan to take this guitar to a few bluegrass festivals and let some other guitarists try it out. I do feel that there are buyers out there – they just need to be aware of it being available!

Chew on it and comment.