BEST BETS: Clifford Keith Band at Beer, Wine Fest

The Clifford Keith Band includes Mr. Keith, right, his wife Erin and bass player John Doerfler, center. They are also joined by guitarist Jimmy Davis and drummer Chris Forst. (Submitted photo)

With a new album and more dates than ever, the Sussex County-based Clifford Keith Band seems to be hitting all of the right notes these days.

The five-piece “coastal country” group will be featured Saturday at the Delaware Beer, Wine & Spirits Festival at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village on U.S. 13 in Dover. The band will play two sets at 12:20 and 1:15 p.m.

It was a busy summer for the group as they played more than 80 dates in venues mainly in the beach area.

“I honestly lost count after 80,” said lead singer Mr. Keith. “It was definitely the busiest summer we have ever had.”

He and his wife Erin share vocal duties and are backed up by bass player John Doerfler, guitarist Jimmy Davis and drummer Chris Forst.

He and his wife also form a duo who have played quite a bit over the years. Occasionally someone else will step in for her.

“As long as I can be there it’s either the Clifford Keith Duo or Clifford Keith Band,” he said.

Favorites on the cover scene since 2010, this year marked a step forward for the band as they recorded their first album of original music in Nashville called “Coastal Hwy.”

“I’ve been writing for quite a long time but sometimes writing can only be a hobby until you can find a way to implement it into a career,” Mr. Keith said.

“We’ve tried to get together several recording projects over the years but they never quite came together until this one.”

An October trip to Nashville saw he and his wife playing some original tunes during a songwriters night in a venue called The Commodore.

“They were very well received and some people started to point us in the right direction,” he said.

“We ended up hooking up with a producer named Larry Beard who has The Beard Music Group down in Nashville who produced the album, which was amazing. We went from not having any expectations to cutting a whole record.”

Mr. Keith said he came home from the trip realizing he needed to write more songs and get everything polished as soon as possible.

“We had to get our ducks in a row rather quickly,” he said.

He co-wrote some of the songs with music veteran Nicole Wilkins, who also walked him through the paperwork to form the band’s own label and release the album.

They went back down to Nashville in November to lay down the music tracks.

“We would do a pre-production meeting on each song that would last for about an hour and 15 minutes and then we’d cut the track in about 30 minutes. It was all very productive with not a lot of time wasted, which is good when you’re paying for studio time,” he said.

The vocal tracks were laid down at Georgetown’s Mid-South Audio recording studios.

Everything was completed in May and the album release party was on June 22 at the Crooked Hammock in Lewes.

“That was an amazing night. We just played through the whole album live and talked about each song to give the audience the frame of mind we were in when we wrote it and why we chose it,” Mr. Keith said.

“The place was packed. We probably had 250 to 300 people there.”

The title “Coastal Hwy” is a nod to one of the main thoroughfares in this area.

“Over the years, we have found ourselves playing between Dover and Ocean City, Maryland and most of those venues have been right on Route 1,” he said.

“It’s that stretch of highway where a lot of these songs came from. This is us. This is where we’re from. We’ve written or at least polished up many songs on that road either going to or coming home from shows.”

He said the process of recording an album can be both humbling and rewarding.

“We were excited to get the album out and step in to the new territory of the singer-songwriter arena,” Mr. Keith said.

“You’re also putting yourselves out there to give people a chance to listen to these songs and find out what people think of them. Once you let these songs go, they are out there forever.”

Reaction to the music has been positive, he said.

“We originally ordered 300 copies to sell them at shows and we blew through them pretty quickly,” he said.

The band plans to release a few more songs throughout the next few months. “Coastal Hwy” can be heard on CliffordKeith.com, Spotify, Google Play and iTunes.

At Saturday’s festival, the Clifford Keith Band will be joined on the bill by the acoustic band Lyric Drive at 11 a.m. and the high-energy party group Element K with sets at 2:20 and 3:15 p.m.

This is the ninth year for the festival, which is incorporating spirits in the event’s name for the first time.

“Spirits have always been a part of the event. As the local producers continue to grow and increase in numbers in the state, we felt we should include them in the name of the festival,” said Julie Mirowenger of Wilmington-based Event Allies, which this year took over the festival from previous producer Kent County Tourism.

“Spirits are a draw for some folks that want to try some varieties that are locally produced.”

The festival features beer, wine and spirits tastings, meet the brewer opportunities, special demonstrations, food trucks, live music, a mechanical bull, outdoor games, special exhibits, guided tours of the Agricultural Museum, and an event store for alcohol makers to sell collectibles.

The event will also spotlight the Delaware Beer, Wine & Spirits Trail (VisitDelaware.com/bwst) and the trail’s downloadable mobile app.

The last two years saw the festival centered at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. This year, it’s back at the agricultural museum, where it was held prior to making the move to Harrington.

“The event was moved back to the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village because of its central location,” said Ms. Mirowenger.

“We felt there was more of an ability to draw attendees from Dover and it may be more likely that people could travel from either New Castle County or Sussex if we were right in the heart of Dover.”

A VIP package features exclusive unlimited tastings only available for VIPs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; lunch; a glass tasting cup; and premium free parking.

A general admission ticket allows for a tasting cup and unlimited tastings.

A designated driver ticket is also available.

For more information and tickets, visit Debeerwinespirits.com.

Festivals abound

It’s a very busy weekend for festivals throughout the area. So let’s see what else is doing.

•At Dover’s Fordham & Dominion Brewing, it’s Cheesetoberfest time Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Cheesetoberfest is an all-out, no holds barred, grilled cheese and mac n’ cheese competition that features local restaurants battling it out to see who will be this year’s Grand Cheezmo.

In a change from previous years, the winner will be chosen just from those attending. There will be no judges’ awards.

Limited releases of Fordham & Dominion beer will also be on tap.

VIP tickets offer early entry into festival at 12:30 p.m., bottomless Cheesetoberfest beer stein, T-shirt and of course, cheese.

General admission tickets includes a beer stein, three beer tickets and all the cheese you can eat.

A designated driver ticket offers up unlimited offerings of Fordham & Dominion sodas and yes, cheese.

For more information, visit Cheesetoberfest.com.

•For food of a different sort, Bridgeville is set for its Apple-Scrapple Festival today and Saturday.

The festival starts at 4 p.m. today with the opening ceremony, the Little Miss Apple-Scrapple Contest, food court, entertainment and a carnival.

The festival opens at 9 a.m. with with a full array of crafters, vendors, children’s area, a car show, 5K and much more.

The day also includes the Invitational Scrapple Sling, Ladies Skillet Toss, Scrapple Chunkin and the Kids Apple Toss.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on North William Street will serve a chili luncheon from 11 am to 3 pm.

For full details, visit AppleScrapple.com.

•Continuing the food theme, Saturday also sees the second annual Leipsic Waterfront Oyster Festival,, which celebrates the working waterfront of the Kent County town.

From 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., there will be fried and fresh oyster platters, fish sandwiches, hamburgers and more prepared by the Leipsic Volunteer Fire Co. Ladies Auxiliary.

The day also includes live music, family fun, free activities, games and demonstrations.

For more information, visit LeipsicOysterFest.com.

•The annual Big Thursday on Sunday Festival in Bowers Beach this weekend will be preceded by a 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m.

This year, in addition to having craft and food vendors, the Delaware Lenape Tribe, the First Oystermen of the First State, will be celebrated.

At the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum, you’ll find native life demonstrations, and archaeology display, art exhibit and a drum circle.

A parade down Main Street also kicks off at 11:30 a.m.

Blues competition

To cap things off, the Central Delaware Blues Society will hold its fifth annual International Blues Challenge competition Sunday at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia with the doors opening at noon and the competition starting promptly at 1 p.m.

The winner is guaranteed at least $1,500 from CDBS to assist in travel expenses to the IBC in Memphis, Tennessee.

The free event will see a record eight bands competing.

They are Judy Sings the Blues, AC Steel and the Galvanizers, Blues Reincarnation Project, The Wet Bandits, The Greg Sover Band, The Grey Fox Band, lower case blues and The Tom Craig Band.

The playing sequence will be drawn at approximately 12:45 Sunday,

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Ant-Man and The Wasp” and the horror film “Unfriended: Dark Web.”

To share news of your entertainment event, venue or group, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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