Early James Late Addition to Stellar HP40 Fall Bluegrass Festival September 1, 2021 13:18

Words by Caleb Calhoun: Get On The Bus

Photos by Tonya Wise Photography

There aren’t too many locations more alive with beauty in the southeast than Horspens 40. The legendary ridgeline littered with Pre-Cambrian boulders has inspired reverence in it’s visitors since far before Europeans crossed the sea to claim such treasures as their own. Local legend says that the Cherokee and Creek signed a peace treaty there nearly 400 years ago and throughout the park's history it has continued to be a place where humans gather to talk, walk and this weekend dance to some of the best bluegrass music Alabama has to offer.
A quick perusal of the lineup and anyone in the know about Alabama Bluegrass immediately knows. Sicard Hollow, The Yellow Dandies, Stepdads, (featuring members of Little Raine Band and Zach Austin and the Lonesome) and now the late addition of Early James, presented by Dave’s Pub in Southside, a last minute magic trick that event director Cammie Windley pulled out of the hat when their shows at Bonnaroo were canceled due to Hurricane Ida.

The event, which is moving into its 4th year (after a Covid induced pause in 2020) has become a tradition for many southeastern musicians and music fans alike due to its low-key vibe and excellent booking began as a way to fill the void left by another longtime festival, Acoustic Cafe.

“I used to go to this festival called Acoustic Cafe,” Windley explains “and it had to come to an end for various reasons.” By that point, Windley had developed a relationship with AC’s event coordinator Steve Masterson.

“He is the whole reason I even got passionate about the music scene. I’ve been to bigger festivals before but I owe him everything as far as learning how to run a music festival.”

Windley had previous connections to HP40 from managing The Yellow Dandies and when Acoustic Cafe announced they would not be doing their Memorial Day festival anymore all of the pieces fell together to move the vibe to there.

Since that time the Spring and Fall Bluegrass and Crafts Festivals at HP40 have become another part of the changing seasons for many Alabamians, and not just because of what happens on stage. With HP40’s expansive grounds the real jams get going when the stage lights go off. These late night fire jams are such an integral part of the festival that Windley schedules the music to end early on Saturday evening just to make sure everyone has a chance to sit by a fire and jam.

Daniel Raine (Little Raine Band, Stepdads) who is playing Friday night with Stepdads explains it to me this way:

“For everybody that goes it’s really about the campfire jams and just hanging out with people. We have all night to just jam by the fire and cook food and that’s really what it’s all about.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic setting to take in good music, clean air and the beauty of nature. Tickets are $50 at the gate and include parking and camping. And who knows, maybe some Auburn and Alabama fans will make peace with each other as they dance deep into the night to the sound of bluegrass music rising up in the hollars and fields around them.

Notes for Attendees:

- Alcohol will not be sold on site. Respectful consumption is permitted.
- No dogs are allowed on property.
- Do not feed any farm animals on the property.
- HP40 is privately owned by a family that has worked hard to conserve and protect the land while also making it available to the public. Please treat the property and the staff with respect.


Friday: George Scherer, The Stepdads, Sicard Hollow (Music starts at 6PM),

Saturday: Random Mountain Ramblers, Sam Pointer, Alan Tolbert and Julia Tamborello, The Yellow Dandies, Ross Hoppe, Rock Bottom String Band, Early James (Music starts at 12PM).