IF YOU GO
* What: 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival.
* When: 6-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3; noon-1o p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5.
* Where: Ross's Landing, 200 Riverfront Parkway.
* Admission: Free.
* Phone: 423-265-0771.
* Website: www.3sistersbluegrass.com.
Friday, Oct. 4
* 6-6:30 p.m. The Dismembered Tennesseans
* 6:50-7:50 p.m. Balsam Range
* 8:10-9:10 p.m. The Greenbriars
* 9:30-11 p.m. Sam Bush
Saturday, Oct. 5
* Noon-12:45 p.m. Bluetastic Fangrass
* 1-1:45 p.m. The Lone Mountain Band
* 2-2:45 p.m. The Dismembered Tennesseans
* 3-3:40 p.m. Berklee College of Music Fiddlers
* 4-5:10 p.m. Chatham County Line
* 5:30-6:40 p.m. Keller and The Keels
* 7-8:10 p.m. The Nashville Bluegrass Band
* 8:30-10 p.m. The Travelin' McCourys
* The Dismembered Tennesseans -- Formed by fiddler Fletcher Bright and other student musicians at McCallie School, The Dismembered Tennesseans have performed shows and festivals around the country since 1945.
* The Greenbriars -- This supergroup features Jeff Autry and Shad Cobb, members of the John Cowan Band; former JCB member Scott Vestal; and bassist extraordinaire Todd Phillips, along with a special guest.
* Balsam Range -- The winners of Album of the Year distinctions at this year's International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for the album "Papertown," Balsam Range is a North Carolina-based quintet blending bluegrass with jazz, gospel and country.
* Sam Bush -- This native Kentuckian mandolinist and New Grass Revival founding member has some of the fastest fingers in the business with four IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year awards, three Grammys and an American Music Association lifetime achievement award to prove it.
* Bluetastic Fangrass -- The brainchild of local architect and veteran slide guitar guru Lou Wamp is a showcase of acoustic prowess, featuring lead vocalist Brad Frazier, guitarist Chris "Lightnin' " Hopkins, fiddler Owen Saunders and bassist Lynn Wamp.
* The Lone Mountain Band -- Another local outfit, The Lone Mountain Band claims several top-notch instrumentalists, including banjo player Jim Pankey, multi-instrumentalist Bobby Burns, bassist/vocalist Diana Phillips and three-time national flatpicking guitar champion Roy Curry.
* Berklee College of Music Fiddlers -- Champions of the bow unite in this Boston-based ensemble from one of the country's premiere institutions for musical study.
* Chatham County Line -- Comprising former members of Stillhouse, Chatham County Line was formed in Raleigh, N.C., in the late '90s. In the years since, the band has released six albums -- three of which hit the top 10 of the U.S. bluegrass charts.
* Keller and The Keels -- Formed around Virginian multigenre, experimental guitarist Keller Williams, Keller and The Keels is Williams' project performing original songs and unlikely cover material with husband-and-wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel on guitar and acoustic bass, respectively.
* The Nashville Bluegrass Band -- One of the genre's heaviest hitters was founded in the '80s and ushered into the recording studio under the producing wings of banjo maestro Bela Fleck. The band's blues-rooted approach to bluegrass flavored by gospel and folk has earned it two Grammy Awards for Best Bluegrass Album (along with several other nominations) and a pair of Entertainer of the Year nods from the IBMAs.
* The Travelin' McCourys -- An offshoot of bluegrass luminary The Del McCoury Band, featuring essentially the same lineup of hot-shot 'grassers, minus frontman Del. The rest of the McCoury clan is all there, however, including sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Robbie (banjo), along with Jason Carter (fiddle) and Alan Bartram (bass).
This weekend, local bluegrass fiddling guru and philanthropist Fletcher Bright and his family are giving Chattanoogans an 11-band, 15-hour musical salute.
The seventh annual 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival returns to Ross's Landing on Friday and Saturday, featuring fiery instrumentalists, both local and nationally renowned, who will tackle the genre from progressive and traditional angles.
And in a move that never ceases to amaze uninformed attendees, it's entirely free of charge, says Jonathan Susman, the marketing and media director for event organizer Chattanooga Presents.
"A lot of people don't realize that it's a gift," he says. "You won't look and see any sponsor banners anywhere. Some people don't realize that, and when we tell them, it's complete astonishment."
Since its inception in 2007, Susman says, 3 Sisters has become well-respected by the community of touring bluegrass artists. Some of the festival's past headliners include nationally recognized heavy hitters such as The Grascals, Hot Rize and Dan Tyminski.
Past iterations of the festival have meandered off the traditional bluegrass path by featuring jam favorites The Yonder Mountain String Band and traditional Irish supergroup Solas. This year, however, the pendulum has swung back to the middle with the closing spots reserved for bluegrass legends Sam Bush on Friday and The Nashville Bluegrass Band and The Travelin' McCourys on Saturday.
"It deviates a little bit, but this year is more about the traditional bluegrass," Susman says. "It's just a very straightforward, great, free bluegrass event, but I think any music lover can find something to like at the event."
3 Sisters has become a linchpin event for downtown, and annual attendance for both nights is between 7,500 and 12,500. Besides a slight increase in the number of food vendors, little about the event has changed this year, but when an event regularly attracts so much attention and has such an enthusiastic fan base, why should it, he asks.
"That's what's beautiful about it: It stays and it doesn't change," Susman says. "I think that people who live here who are music lovers, especially bluegrass music lovers, hold the event very close to them."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...