Planet Bluegrass Folks Festival, August 11, 12, and 13, 2023
It seems to me and many folks I have spoken to that the line-up for Folks Festival is getting more eclectic every year, and this year even more so. Some describe Folk music as the music of the common people. It tells stories in a way anyone can understand and bonds people together. Folk comes from the German word ‘volk’ meaning ‘the people’ and folk music is often thought of as being the music belonging to ‘the people.’ I have often described Folk music as the music of the folks and this year’s line-up is surly that.
DAY ONE, FRIDAY
So, Friday after the Songwriter Showcase, around 12:45 p.m., the first artist is Caitlin Canty who is a singer/songwriter raised in a small-town in Vermont, who moved to New York City to start her career; and now makes Nashville her home. She has a new recording called “Quiet Fame,” all acoustic, no drums, no electric instruments, produced by Chris Eldridge, who appears on the record with such luminaries as Sarah Jarosz, Brittany Hass, Paul Kowart, and others. Very well done and pleasant to listen to.
Next up at 2 p.m. is Milwaukee duo Dead Horses songwriter Sarah Vos and upright bassist Daniel Wolff. Sarah has a compelling husky voice that blends so well with Daniel’s you would think they are siblings or at least have been singing together all their lives. The songwriting is contemporary, while traditional and evocative.
Around 3:45 p.m. the stage will bring Benjamin Dakota Rogers who hails from Ontario, Canada, where he grew up on the family farm. His lyric sensibility is rare among young artists, and Rogers finds a way to match his instrument to the guttural twang of his voice. His precise picking turns short stories into songs, backed by a minimal rhythm section.
At 5 o’clock look for Georgia-based Katie Pruitt She learned to play the guitar from her mother as a kid. “I sort of used writing songs as an outlet to work through what I was feeling, which is why I still do it now,” says Pruitt. As a 27-year-old lesbian Catholic she has much to write about and does it very well.
Next up at 7:15 p.m. is The Tallest Man on Earth -Kristian Matsson- Where the name comes from, I have no idea. “Henry Street,” his sixth album, is the first time he recorded with a band. When performing Live, he is often very animated, known to dance and prance around the stage, while he plays some exceptionally fine guitar. His original tunes are remarkably interesting and unusual. He has spent the last few years on his farm growing produce and writing songs.
Closing out the day of music at 9 p.m. will be Larkin/Poe; and the sister act will leave you with a rocking set that will have you dancing and jumping. The multi- instrumentalists have been Grammy nominated. They write great songs and pick some covers that you would not expect. They flashed on the blues scene a few years back and are now obviously branching out. One of my favorite acts this year. Catch ‘em; you will not be sorry.
DAY 2, SATURDAY
Saturday’s first act is Shanna in a Dress at 11 a.m. She won the songwriting competition last year and will play with a full band that morning. A witty wordsmith and a great entertainer, with smart, bold, and accessible lyrics. She is delightfully unique and one to watch in the future.
Next up at 12:15p.m. is Humbird, a beautiful singer and phenomenal songwriter. Also known as Siri Undlin, she and her band will combine folk, rock, jazzy groves, and electronic music. Her songs touch on social issues and are creative, daring, and thoughtful.
Around 1:45 p.m. look for Leyla McCalla, Grammy award winner, originally with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. She is a Haitian American, now on her own, and blend’s traditional Haitian music with modern sounds. Her songs speak of racial, social, and political unrest.
Stephen Kellogg is up next at 3:30p.m.; a veteran with many CD’s and an incredibly positive outlook in many of his songs. He has authored a book, made films and does public speaking, has a wonderful voice, and a knack for writing great tunes by a true family person.
At 5:15 p.m. look for Celisse, who is a multi-instrumentalist powered by a soulful, blues-tinged voice. She has appeared on TV on many shows, collaborated with Alicia Keys, Joni Mitchell, and Brandi Carlile to name a few, and performed at the Grammy awards. Her protest song called “Freedom” is a gem and needs to be heard by everyone in these troubled times.
Shovels and Rope, at 7p.m., have been together over a decade. The duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, who make Charleston, S.C. their home, have curated music festivals and a musical film. They have performed all over the planet. The dynamic married couple play and sing inspirational songs and put on a great and fun show.
Starting at 9p.m. John Ritter and the Royal City band is the closer for the day. Ritter has released eleven recordings, and two well received books. Ritter is a slinger of serious ideas and high-flown imagery. He has a great voice and writes compelling tunes. The Royal City band includes Zack Hickman, Sam Kassirer, Josh Kaufman, and Ray Rizzo.
DAY 3, SUNDAY
Sunday’s music starts off at 10:00 a.m. with The Sensational Barnes Brothers, a pair of Brothers who harken back to the sounds of Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers and Stax studio in Memphis. They appear on Grammy-nominated projects. They are from a musical family, and have harmonies that resonate with both their blood and their kindred souls. Should be a perfect opening act on Sunday with their gospel sounds.
At noon look for The Pairs, a Canadian collective. These classically trained vocalists bring you into their tunes with great stage presence, and performance. They will have the crowd’s attention with the first song, and rightfully so.
Seth Walker is next; his fine husky vocals blend with his wide-ranged stories and his guitar ability shines through. Considered an Americana artist, he is at home with the blues, rock, gospel, and pop, with a dash of country thrown in.
Kuinka takes the stage at 3:15 p.m. They feature several lead singers, four- part harmonies and eclectic instrumentations. Their show should bring out the dancers with their high energy performance. Some call it joyous folk pop, and it is incredibly fun to see and hear.
Next up is The Secret Sisters, Alabama based. Sisters Laura and Lydia Rodgers were born to sing together like only siblings can. Their recent recording “Saturn Return” follows their Grammy nominated “You Don’t Owe Me Anymore.” They admit they write mostly sad songs, but they are a joy to listen to.
Tank and the Bangas will follow the sisters at 6:45 p.m., with their version of jazz meets hip hop, soul meets rock, with funk underling everything they do. They delightfully push the boundaries of Folk music, but it is still the music of the modern-day people. They have been heralded as the best live band in America; and I cannot wait to experience their colorful performance and lively show.
Charley Crockett closes the festival at 9 p.m. for another year of wonderful entertainment. He was born and raised in Texas, a blues, country and Americana singer and songwriter. He has released over ten recordings since 2015. He is a distant relative of Davy Crockett and underwent open heart surgery in 2019. His voice is unique but stems from Ernest Tubbs’ honky tonk, Bill Withers’ soulful crooning, and a jazzy New Orleans second line swagger. Referred to as a “Gulf Western” sound. This guy’s music and life one day will stand with stars like Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. Make sure you stay and see him.
Planet Bluegrass Folks Festival, August 11, 12, and 13, 2023