Listening to bluegrass band Moonsville Collective play a jam at last night's Orange County Music Awards showcase about a Tennessee moonshiner named Popcorn, it occurred to me why this competition is so difficult to judge. Not only do I have zero points of reference in my own musical experience with which to compare these guys, but there's nobody in the whole damn competition with which to compare them. Though a person has to appreciate the skill of Ryan Welch, who effortlessly switches between guitar and mandolin, and sings perfect harmonies with a large band joyously rocking lap steel and upright bass, it's hard to escape the feeling that this band, who almost won the acoustic competition last year, should be focusing its efforts on County Fairs.
was packed and jumping as the band finished off a night of solid
musical performances. The most noticeable lag in energy (and one low
point) came during the set of Preacher's Sons who went on before Moonsville and sounded acoustically mopey. It's unclear if this was due to singer Brandon Pfaff having
the flu (he announced this fact during the set) or if it was because
the band was thin with only three members playing. The lackluster vibe
that came of their set contrasted with every other band of the evening,
all of whom offered lush arrangements.