This Sunday, September 27th, in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, the 3rd Annual Dare to Be Different Showcase is slated to feature 9, count ’em, 9 hours of bluegrass music from bands near and far, including  29 Strings from the Slovak Republic.  The event is hosted by Bell Buckle-based Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, who themselves tour internationally.

Admission is only $10. As a nerd and a disciple of Ms. Cheap, I have to point out that’s only $1.11 per hour,  quite the entertainment value. And, to add to the enticement, all proceeds benefit the Foundation for Bluegrass Music, which supports educational programs on this very unique American art form through both materials and scholarships.

Why the name “Dare to Be Different?” I queried Becky Buller, band leader and multi-instrumentalist for Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. “Because our band dares to be different!” she exclaimed. “We’re not your granddad’s bluegrass band!”

I’ll attest to that. My family and I first heard Becky and Liberty Pike (minus Val, who was healing from throat surgery) in 2006 when we visited Branson, Missouri. We were trotting by an amphitheater in Silver Dollar City, bound for the tilt-a-whirl, when the words “Liberty Pike” caught our ears. The name caught our attention because there is a road called Liberty Pike which turns into Main Street in Bell Buckle, which is near Shelbyville, TN, where my husband grew up. Not that there aren’t multitudes of Liberty Pikes in the nation, but it was enough to bring us into the theater. We sat down on a bench toward the back and were treated to rousing classics like “Mule Skinner Blues” as well as the band’s own songs, like the jazzy “Buzzed Like a Honey Bee.” In the course of the show, we realized we’d traveled 491 miles to become fans of a band based just down the road from home.

After that, we were hooked – especially my daughter, Kelsey. (more…)