Bloomfield is the finest bluegrass town nobody has heard of. In the late 1880s it was the pride of far southwest Sonoma County. But then, the railroad passed it by, the river silted in, the shops closed, and Bloomfield traveled down that long lonesome road. Someone should write a song! But every now and then the dogs bark and ranchers perk up their ears: Is that bluegrass we hear? Yep, the Bloomfield Bluegrass Band is back in the saddle, cranking out tunes in the little old cabin up on the hill.
While the all-Sonoma County band has played together only since mid-2017, its members have been active in the northern California bluegrass scene for years. Christine WIlhoyte has been surrounded by bluegrass all her life – so far; like her dad, Mike, she knows her way around a guitar, but it’s her rock solid banjo playing and high lonesome tenor harmonies that help drive the BBB.
In the mid-2000s, mandolinist David Thiessen formed The Mighty Chiplings, an energetic bluegrass group of eleven year olds in Sebastopol. David also plays in the Pacific Drive Band and fills in with the legendary Ed Neff Band now and then. His mandolin solos are clean, clear, and forceful and his baritone harmonies spot-on.
Find bluegrass, find Jim Burke. Jim brings to BBB an astounding repertoire of bluegrass tunes, soulful lead singing, and some mighty fine guitar picking. Inspired by Doc Watson recordings in his mom’s folk music collection, Jim went on to play with Moonshiners in Sonoma County and the Shit Howdy Boys in Davis….and to wear the fingers off any jammer who shows up.
Perhaps it was his upbringing in Stockton – home of Vern Williams – that eventually called Marc Francis to bluegrass. After 20 years of holding down the beat at his country rock band, Stony Point, Marc soon learned to play the bass vertically and sing some great country classics.
Patrick Campbell’s bluegrass guitar career climaxed at a high school talent show in the mid-1960s; he would like to forget his band’s rendition of That Good Old Mountain Dew. A few weeks later he learned to rosin-up a bow, went on to play viola professionally in several Bay Area symphony orchestras, and then call it quits for 25 years. But six years ago he came back to his bluegrass roots. You could say he traded Bach for Baker: Kenny, that is.
TRADITIONAL BLUEGRASS: UPBEAT, DANCING, THE REAL DEAL