The talk around Folks Fest this year was how eclectic and interesting the line-up was. Here is a list of the groups I was hugely impressed by, some old favorites, and some acts new to me.
Courtney Hartman, from Loveland a wonderful guitarist, singer, writer, and producer with a reputation for collaborations, was joined by Emma Rose and Bonnie Paine to fill out a notable set of tunes. Bonnie played the washboard, and the saw.
Rodney Crowell, one of my favorite songwriters, put on a terrific set of new tunes and some real classics and delivered them in his typical laid-back fashion. His songs have been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to the Grateful Dead. A future Hall of Famer.
Sarah Jarosz a true student of Rocky Grass’ Kids Academy, is so comfortable on stage that she makes you feel good enjoying her incredible voice, and her ability on many stringed instruments. Her set was extraordinary as her voice floated over the hills of Planet Bluegrass. The audience was mesmerized by her and rightfully so. She is destined for many more awards.
Headliner Yola was one I was very interested to hear for the first time. Wondering what a British Black R&B singer was doing on this line-up and found out quickly as she sored through some very interesting originals. A great entertainer, vocalist, guitar player with a very big sound.
Saturday Highlights for me started with Cedric Burnside, Grammy award winner, from the Hill Country of Mississippi. A true Bluesman, he got the audience into his hypnotic funky blues and proved that the audience was ready for something different, and they danced readily.
Carsie Blanton was a true force; the audience loved her fun attitude and songs. She presented her tunes with a smile, even if they were protest songs about tough times.
Robert Earl Keen played his ass off from a chair with a pirate’s patch over one eye. He got the whole place up on their feet with his anthem, The Road Goes on Forever, dancing and shouting the lyrics. A real trouper, he laid it all out and had an impressive set. Most of you know he is retiring from touring September 4th, and he says “It is not because he is sick or experiencing an existential crisis.” I am very glad I got to experience one of his last performances. It was one to remember.
The crowd roared for Ani DeFranco. After seven times performing at Folks Festival, they obviously wanted more of her and her equal rights songs, mainly about woman. At the end, their even louder cheers brought her out for a two-song encore, which is very rare for the festivals here.
I had to leave early and missed most of headliner Bruce Hornsby’s set, but heard from others that he brought his all and lived up to his statement that “I’m often looking to make a sound that I haven’t heard before.” And he came up with some unusual pieces. The audience cheered both the old and new tunes.
On Sunday, TK & the Holy Know Nothings were as good if not better than I expected. Wild funky songs and antics on stage by the whole group culminated with T.K. rolling around on stage not missing a beat. As any good bar band does, they took hold of the audience and never let go. They were one of the audience favorites.
The Wailing Jenny’s were possibly my favorite group this weekend. Yes, they were heavenly, and their blending of voices was impeccable. Their stage banter and songwriting were exceptional, and the crowd really enjoyed them.
John Craigie was another person I was interested to catch as I had not heard of him before. What a pleasant surprise he was. His stories and stage banter were fabulous. He is a real entertainer, his stories about where his songs came from were sometimes longer than the songs were, which is hard to do; but that is how good his conversations with the audience were. His story about almost being at Woodstock 2 was one I really enjoyed. Then when TK & the Holy Nothings joined him on stage, the show went up a couple of notches.
Sorry to their excited fans but, in my opinion, headliner Indigo Girls paled after the previous three or four bands.
Despite a few showers, we did get incredibly lucky with the weather this year thankfully.
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