An electric guitar made its way to the depths of Cumberland Caverns on Friday night, bringing Southern rock to a stage normally reserved for banjos.
Drivin n’ Cryin brought the crowd to its feet with a guitar-driven version of “Honeysuckle Blue” as the sixth season of Bluegrass Underground took a decidedly different turn.
That act was followed by Jason & the Scorchers, a Nashville-based group that helped define the Southern rock movement in the mid-1980s. It was an energy-filled performance that saw band frontman Jason Ringenberg swinging the microphone cord like a lasso for parts of the show.
“If you’re a musician, you have to perform all the time because the alternatives aren’t good,” Ringenberg told the Standard moments before taking the stage for the final set Friday night. “We’ve made a lot of records and toured the world a couple times, but playing in a cave, this is a first for me.”
The Cox Family presented a more traditional Bluegrass Underground offering with a stand-up bass and banjo. The band is composed of siblings -- three sisters and their brother. Perhaps the group’s greatest claim to fame is appearing on the soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and also making a brief appearance in the movie.
“We filmed for four days to get a 10-second clip,” said Evelyn Cox, who sings and plays guitar for The Cox Family.
Group members all started playing instruments when they were little, with Evelyn getting her musical start at just 4 years old. She said her sister, Susanne, put aside her Barbie dolls to start playing instruments.
“The Grand Ole Opry is my favorite venue,” said Evelyn when asked about performing in a cave. “No matter how many times we play there, the Opry is always special and I can’t really express why. Carnegie Hall was pretty neat too, but this ranks right up there. Now I can say a cave is something I’ve done.”
Despite the long walk on rough terrain to get 333 feet underground to the Volcano Room of Cumberland Caverns, two people made the trip on crutches.
“I rode up here with one of my rich friends in a Maserati,” said David Willis, who made the trip from Coleman, Ala. “I came to see Jason & the Scorchers. I’ve seen them probably a dozen times and I love their show. I just didn’t know I’d be doing this on crutches. All I did was fall down in my kitchen.”
Crossville resident Sammie Vaden was hobbling around on crutches too and is scheduled to have knee surgery this Thursday.
“We bought the tickets before this happened,” said Vaden. “We love Bluegrass Underground and I really wanted to come. I walked all the way down here. It took forever.”
Bluegrass Underground returns Sunday for the final day of its three-day taping for PBS. The lineup includes The Lone Bellow, The Suffers, J.J. Grey and Mofro, and St. Paul Broken Bones.