Like so many ribs on a grill, a crowd estimated at 10,000 stretched out on acres of parched fairgrounds yesterday as a dozen acts, including headliner Charley Pride, took turns entertaining them at the Burtonsville Lions Country Music Jamboree. Although the level of musicianship was nowhere near as high or as steady as the temperature, complaints unrelated to the weather were scarce.
In the early afternoon several local bands exhumed country classics with mixed results. Pikesville Rye brought energy and at least some personality to its renditions, but both Brand Spankin New Band and Dixon Line turned in performances that frequently were clumsy and uninspired. The only surprises in the early going were supplied by Mountain Laurel, an imaginative bluegrass band that dressed up old chestnuts like "Just Because" with refreshing harmonies and arrangements.
The second half of the program was more consistent. Benny Bean, a vocalist, hasn't quite found a distinctive style of his own, but he was more than adequate chugging his way through a Johnny Cash medley or "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms." Janie Fricke mixed "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Amazing Grace" with several of her own hits in a lively if not riveting manner. The Blue Ridge, a fine vocal trio, fashioned warm contemporary harmonies that occasionally touched on cowboy and gospel traditions. Terri Gibbs offered the afternoon's more expressive music, singing a couple of soulful ballads and Ray Charles' "What I'd Say."
Ronnie McDowell, on the other hand, stooped to recalling Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Hank Snow and Johnny Cash in a silly medley. Aside from his uncanny imitation of an Elvis oldie and "God Bless America," his performance was strictly lightweight.
But Pride rewarded the crowd for its patience with a performance that epitomized the sound of Nashville. Though not especially memorable, it was polished, pleasant, tuneful and riddled with familiar hits. No matter what the tempo, Pride's easygoing baritone retained its charm, and when the songs had something to say he was impressive indeed. The crowd loved it.