After reading a profile on poet Mary Oliver in New Yorker magazine, I set out to get her works from the library. Reading her poetry, it’s not difficult to see that she holds nature as a sacred thing, consistently more pertinent than most human pursuits.

In the poem “Black Oaks,” from the collection titled Blue Iris, she writes: Listen, says ambition / nervously shifting her weight / from one boot to another / why don’t you get going? / For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees / And to tell the truth / I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness / I don’t want to sell my life for money / I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.

I have been asked, many times, why I have chosen to spend hours, days and weeks each month, giving away the moments of my life to write about musicians and list performances for no remuneration. Sometimes I wonder, “Am I a fool?” Then, a new burst of raw joy from a musical sorcerer lights me up and I chase the words to express the feeling, fleeing all doubt.

While most of us don’t have the freedom of a poet — the rent must be paid, after all — as we gather in the cathedrals of nature, in the fields, under trees, under skies of hallowed clouds, to genuflect before the lords and goddesses of song, every one of us may say, for just those few days, in those hours, in those moments … “I did not sell my life for money.”

Continuing with and expanding upon last year’s format, we’ll be pointing out acts unfamiliar to us (for the most part) and linking to videos we think are exceptional.
We hope you have the time and the inclination to enjoy some of them.

May 17 ~ 20   Spring Gulch Folk Festival

Spring Gulch Resort Campground, 475 Lynch Road,

New Holland, PA

Joe Crookston • Mama’s Broke • Tim O’Brien • Western Centuries • Maybe April • The Levins • Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes • Lizanne Knott • Mustard’s Retreat • Tempest • Roy Book Binder • Vanessa Collier Band • Craig Bickhardt • Katherine Rondeau • Kruger Brothers • Larry Aheam • Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Bands

We love so many of these guys: Joe Crookston, The Levins, Mama’s Broke, Roy Book Binder, Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes … wow. We thought we’d give a first look (for us) at the Vanessa Collier Band, whose titular leader plays saxophone in a jazz/blues format. Here, she takes on the Cannonball Adderley hit song “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” at the Westford, Mass., Blues & Brews Festival. About 2:30 in, the guitarist jumps in for his killer solo, and as one wag puts it in the comments section, “The guitarist is a beast … He didn’t want to let go of that solo … lol.” Amen!

May 25 ~ 28   DelFest

Allegany County Fairgrounds, Cumberland, MD

The Del McCoury Band • The Travelin’ McCourys • The Bluegrass Congress (The Del McCoury Band, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan) • Old Crow Medicine Show • Greensky Bluegrass • Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder • The Dawg Trio With David Grisman, Danny Barnes, Sam Grisman • Sam Bush • Richard Thompson • The Jerry Douglas Band • The Infamous Stringdusters • The Wood Brothers • Rhiannon Giddens • Mandolin Orange • Fruition • Sierra Hull • The Gibson Brothers • Rising Appalachia • Bryan Sutton Band • Billy Strings • The California Honeydrops • The Kruger Brothers • Joe Craven & The Sometimers • The Lil Smokies • Cris Jacobs • Dustbowl Revival • The Brothers Comatose • Horseshoes & Hand Grenades • Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band • New Orleans Suspects • Birds Of Chicago • Jon Stickley Trio • The Broomestix • The Grass Is Dead • Twisted Pine • Dré & The Gospel Collective • Justin Moses & Cody Kilby • Mountain Ride • Grand Ole’ Ditch

Always a lot of greats here: the McCourys in all their configurations, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas and on and on. Oh and … Richard Thompson, bluegrass? Ahh … who cares?

Because I never got into Medeski, Martin & Wood, I have been lax in finding out about The Wood Brothers (Oliver, acoustic guitar and vocals; Chris, upright bass and vocals). My bad. These extraordinarily gifted siblings absolutely kick the living bejeezus out of everything they touch. Chris’s bass work often catches people off guard. Online comments show them to be a bit gobsmacked (… “awesome, shreds on bass” … “That bass is FIRE” … “was not prepared for that bass, oh my goodness” … “that bassssss”). “When I Was Young” Live at WFUV offers definitive proof.

OK … life is not fair. I spent (or misspent, as it were) maybe 15-20 years trying to learn guitar before realizing I needed to stick to making graphics and visual art. Monster flat picker Bryan Sutton waltzes in with his band and makes my eyes fall out. On top of that he sings in a deep reedy baritone, just perfect for bluegrass. He and the band pick the daylights out of “Cumberland Reel.”

May 24 ~ Jun 10   Kerrville Folk Festival

Quiet Valley Ranch, Kerrville, TX


C Daniel Boling • Peterson Brothers • Heather Pierson Trio • Jon Brooks • Pierce Pettis  • Sirens Of South Austin • Walt Wilkins, Susan Gibson, Michael O’Connor • Drew Kennedy • Jaimee Harris • Johnny Nicholas • Johnsmith • Ordinary Elephant • Trout Fishing In America  • Steve Seskin • The Sherpas • Seth Glier • Amilia Spicer • John Gorka • Mary Gauthier • Beppe Gambetta • Sam Baker • Eliza Gilkyson • Big Thief • Warren Hood • Porterdavis • The Honey Dewdrops • David Ball and That Carolina Sound • The Crane Wives • Pike & Sutton • The Brother Brothers • Joe Filisko & Eric Noden • The Accidentals • Twisted Pine • Son Of Town Hall • Brave Combo • Bonnie Hearne Celebration/Remembrance Night  • Sultans Of String • Tish Hinojosa • Shake Russell & Michael Hearne • Bill Hearne Trio • Albert & Gage • Bob Livingston • All Our Exes Live In Texas • Ray Bonneville • Coffee Sergeants

There are a lot of Acoustic Live cover feature alumni at this festival every year. It’s nice to see the Heather Pierson Trio, Pierce Pettis, Sam Baker, Eliza Gilkyson, Seth Glier and John Gorka included in the lineup.

We’re brand-new fans of The Accidentals, whose core members, Savannah Buist and Katie Larson, harmonize fluidly and write erudite songs firmly rooted in reality. Their song “Michigan and Again” is a fine example.

We first saw The Brother Brothers at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference (NERFA) last fall. Adam and David Moss positively nail down the commonly accepted theory that musical siblings have a leg up when it comes to blending vocals and instruments, as their Audiotree session demonstrates.

May 25~27   GottaGetGon Folk Festival

Saratoga County Fairgrounds/Ballston Spa, NY

John Roberts • Cindy Kallet & Grey Larsen • Mama’s Broke • Roosevelt Dime

We’re familiar with British trad superstar John Roberts, having seen him in New Bedford a few times. We were  introduced to the ebullient original trad-ish repertoire of female duo Mama’s Broke at NERFA last year and we’ve known about Brooklyn’s male folk quartet Roosevelt Dime for a while.

The new discovery here for us is the duo of Cindy Kallet & Grey Larsen. Cindy plays guitar and sings beautifully in a light alto while multi-instrumentalist Grey (flute, concertina, harmonium, fiddle) harmonizes in a reedy baritone. Their wide-ranging repertoire includes traditional and trad-sounding original songs. Their delightfully goofy video (robot suits!) of “Back When We Were All Machines,” a scathing send-up of iPhone/techno slaves, is a departure from their traditional fare.

Strawberry Park Festivals

42 Pierce Road, Preston, CT   860.886.1944

May 31~ Jun 3    Bluegrass

The Stockwell Brothers Band • Rhonda Vincent • The Gibson Brothers • The SteelDrivers • The Kruger Brothers • Twisted Pine • Sideline • Dry Branch Fire Squad • The Lonely Heartstring Band

I probably first heard The SteelDrivers on Bill Frater’s Americana podcast Freight Train Boogie, back when megastar Chris Stapleton was still with the group. Their “Midnight Train To Memphis” went into heavy rotation on my iPod. Although it’s been eight years since Chris went solo, with present lead vocalist Kelvin Damrell and original fiddler Tammy Rogers, the group is still a beloved addition to any bill. Twisted Pine has performed at this festival before, but until now we hadn’t researched this ridiculously talented string quartet (Dan Bui, mandolin; Kathleen Parks, fiddle, vocals; Chris Sartori, bass; Rachel Sumner, guitar, vocals). Our online perusal was a revelation. Their sweet, clean sound has already won them a large following. The band gives a stellar performance of “Hold on Me.”

June 8~11   Cajun-Zydeco

Jimmy Jo & the Jumbol’ Ayuhs • Magnolia • Zydegroove • Dennis Stroughmat & Creole Stomp • Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew • Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys • Rusty Metoyer & the Zydeco Krush • Kevin Naquin & The Ossun Playboys • Wayne Singleton & Same Ol’ 2 Step • Geno Delafose • Pine Leaf Boys • C’est Bon

There are a few bands here that we haven’t heard before. One of them is, regrettably, Rusty Metoyer & The Zydeco Krush. Oops! Where have WE been? These guys get it all down — that addictive shuffle dance groove using seamless accordion and scratchboard plus beautifully woven harmonies. Their song “In Due Time” gets it done.


Jun 8~10  Roots on the River

Bellows Falls, VT     I-91, Exit 6      866.484.3669

Mary Gauthier • The End of America • Vance Gilbert • Miss Guided Angels • Julie Rhodes • Roger Marin & Friends • Hayley Reardon • Nora Jane Struthers • The Slambovian Circus of Dreams • Bayou X • Alice Howe • Low Lily • Freebo • Starline Rhythm Boys • The Black Lillies

Festival lineups continually offer opportunities to catch up. We’ve seen the name Hayley Reardon around, but hadn’t seen or heard her. So, thanks YouTube for the edification. Wow. This richly distinctive singer/songwriter is/has been, no doubt, on a fast track to prominence. We particularly like her song for a frenetic friend called “The Going.”

The Starline Rhythm Boys (Danny Coane, lead vocal, guitar; “Big Al” Lemery, lead guitar, harmony vocal; Billy Bratcher, bass) were a fun discovery for this geezer. Their rockabilly repertoire brought happy memories of the author’s teen years in the 1950s. Bratcher’s stand-up slap bass is pure joy. Watch their rendition of “A Fighting Chance” — I got Brylcreem hair and pleated pants / to give myself a fighting chance. A swing-dancing couple in this video is icing on the cake.

Jun 15~17   Warren Haynes’ Mountain Jam

Hunter Mountain, NY

Jack Johnson • Sturgill Simpson • Alt-J • The War On Drugs •  Portugal. The Man • Father John Misty • The Decemberists • Jenny Lewis • Kurt Vile & The Violators • George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic • Rag’n’Bone Man • Turkuaz • Chicano Batman • The Record Company • Anderson East • The Felice Brothers • Mondo Cozmo • Son Little • Alice Merton • Everything Everything • Lewis Capaldi • Steve Gunn • Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles • Woods • Andy Frasco And The U.N. • Thomas Wynn & The Believers • Jade Bird • The Stone Foxes • Liz Vice • John Craigie • Jack Broadbent • Eric Tessmer Band • Jocelyn & Chris Arndt • Larkin Poe • Mapache • Oliver Hazard • Honeysuckle • Sydney Worthley • Sweet Marie • Jane Lee Hooker • Cicada Rhythm • The Other Brothers • 4 Gun Ridge • Blueberry • Yard Sale • Rock Academy • Ratboy Jr.

You know it’s a busy life when a soul singer like Anderson East escapes your attention. The video for “Satisfy Me” is followed by a bunch of posts saying they were tipped off by Ed Sheeran. Ed never got in touch with me. I’m just lucky I picked Anderson out of the Hunter lineup to research.

Speaking of Ed, Lewis Capaldi has been dubbed the Scottish Ed Sheeran. Wikipedia tells us that he learned guitar at age 9 and started his career singing in pubs at age 12. This performance of his song “Fade” should make believers out of anyone else who’s behind the curve (like me).

Jun 16~17   Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival

Croton Point Park, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Jeff Tweedy • The Mavericks • Ani DiFranco • They Might Be Giants • Rhiannon Giddens • Hot Rize • Beth Orton • Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore • Langhorne Slim • Willie Nile Band • Margaret Glaspy • Parker Millsap • River Whyless • Making Movies • Jalen N’Gonda • Mipso • Tom Paxton & The Don Juans • The War And Treaty • Joanne Shenandoah • Beausoleil Avec Michael Doucet • Tom Chapin • Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza • Choir! Choir! Choir! • David Amram • Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience • Jay Ungar & Molly Mason • CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band • The Mammals (Feat Mike & Ruthy) • Ramy Essam • The Kennedys • The Nields • Deadgrass • Yael Deckelbaum & Prayer of the Mother’s Ensemble • Betsayda Machado • The Vanaver Caravan • Funkinships • Karim Nagi “Turbo Tabla” • The Amazing Max • Josh White, Jr. • Walkabout Clearwater Chorus • Roger The Jester • The Greenheart • Work O’ The Weavers • Sloan Wainwright • The Levins

We’re familiar with almost everyone in the mind-blowing Clearwater lineup. One performer we’re eager to see for the first time, though, is brilliant U.K. singer/songwriter Beth Orton. A while back, we listened ad infinitum to her lush, atmospheric 2002 album Daybreaker. She can be seen without all the studio effects, using only an acoustic guitar, in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

I can’t recall if I’ve seen Parker Millsap before, so that must mean I haven’t (or my memory is even worse than I thought). This guy is unforgettable. What cojones. If he came along in 1954, he would have been Elvis instead of Elvis. Watch his full live performance on KEXP and see if you don’t agree.

Jun 21~24   Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Telluride, CO    800.624.2422

Tedeschi Trucks Band • The Del McCoury Band • I’m With Her: Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz & Aoife O’Donovan • The Wood Brothers • Billy Strings • The Railsplitters • Chris Thile • Greensky Bluegrass • Telluride House Band featuring Sam, Béla, Jerry, Edgar, Bryan & Stuart • Emmylou Harris • The Infamous Stringdusters • The Jerry Douglas Band • Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers • Frigg • The Maes • Leftover Salmon • Sam Bush Band • St. Paul & The Broken Bones • Telluride Troubadour • A live broadcast of “Live From Here” with Chris Thile • Peter Rowan & the Free Mexican Airforce • Béla Fleck & Brooklyn Rider • Sugar & the Mint • Band Contest Finals • Sturgill Simpson • Punch Brothers • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band • Yonder Mountain String Band • Tim O’Brien Band • Edgar Meyer & Christian McBride • The War & Treaty

There are a lot of perennial favorites at this festival: Sam Bush, Emmylou, Railsplitters, Stringdusters, etc. Festival attendees will certainly welcome I’m With Her, the relatively new collaboration of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz & Aoife O’Donovan. We were fortunate to catch a TV appearance. Due to an injury, I missed Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers at a local gig I was planning to attend in Manhattan. My loss. The live performance of “Walk Away” at a Stone Room House Concert in Falls Church, Va. (nice venue, great sound) shows why Phoebe is in for a long career.

Aside from all the bluegrass superstars, I was intrigued by the band name Sugar & the Mint and decided to give them a look. There are some nice live videos, but I particularly enjoyed the official video for a studio version of “Ain’t No Grave.”

Jun 22~24  Old Songs Festival of Traditional Music & Dance

Altamont Fairgrounds,  Altamont, NY

Happy Traum & Jim Kweskin • Bon Debarras • Low Lily • Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton • Maivish • Alderson, Foley & Murray (of The Yanks) • The Vox Hunters • Bob Franke • The Gaslight Tinkers with Choc’late • Elizabeth Laprelle & the Family Band • Beppe Gambetta • Ellis • Joel Mabus • Christine Lavin • Peter Mayer • Confluence • 3 Ravens • Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman • Stu Fuchs • Joe Jencks • Anne Hills • John Roberts • John Dickson • Roger the Jester • Arm-of-the-Sea Theater • Rare Spirits • Fennig’s All Stars • Peter & Mary Alice Amidon • Stefan Amidon • Windborne • More TBA

We’re heartened to see old-timers Happy Traum and Jim Kweskin still gettin’ it done. Likewise, songwriting guru Bob Franke. We also like it that the Amidon family is represented, even if Sam isn’t joining them.

I think most people in the Northeast know Italian (Genovese) monster flat picker Beppe Gambetta (he lives in New Jersey now), but just in case, we’ve pulled his name out of the lineup. His between-songs patter can be hilarious. We recall the story (paraphrased here) where he said, “I have a recurring dream where I am in a flat picking contest in Italy and I always win because I am the ONLY flat picker in Italy!” A taste of his virtuosic playing and sense of humor can be heard in a “Live from the Dennison Lodge” concert.

Jun 23   American Roots Music Festival at Caramoor

149 Girdle Ridge Road, Katonah, NY   11:00am gates - late

7:30pm evening show: Aimee Mann • Valerie June

Daytime Performers, beginning at noon:  The Alexis P. Suter Band • Front Country • Anthony da Costa • Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons • Ryanhood • Night Tree • Amythyst Kiah • Ali Dineen • Feral Foster • Lily Henley • More TBA

We count 11 albums in the iTunes store for Aimee Mann. We’re assuming that the sound at Caramoor will be excellent and attendees will hear every pronouncement of her caustic wit in pursuit of life’s melancholy moments. For those who haven’t heard her live, her performance on KEXP is a terrific place to start.

It’s been more than a decade since we wrote “Sixteen Candles White Hot Burning”

about Anthony da Costa. He moved to Austin, then Nashville, to pursue his career in music. His career may not have exploded, as he so deserves (yet), but this performance of “Where We Go” might offer some proof of what we believe is eventual.

Jul 5~8    Winnipeg Folk Festival

Birds Hill Park, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Roger Roger • Mama Kin Spender • Elle King • John Butler Trio+ • Rising Appalachia • Las Cafeteras • Darlingside • The Strumbellas • Courtney Barnett • Mandolin Orange • Natalie MacMaster • Whitney • Bahamas • A Tribe Called Red • Boniface • Real Estate • Rhye • Lanikai • Five Alarm Funk • Too Many Zooz • St. Paul & The Broken Bones • Passenger • Sheryl Crow • Al Simmons • Amethyst Kith • 10 String Symphony • Ashwin Batish • Barney Bentall • Delgres • Donovan Woods • Elle King • Ferron • Five Alarm Funk • Fortunate Ones • Front Country • Gabrielle Shank • Gaelynn Lea • Genticorum • Gordon Grdina’s Haram • Gustavo & the Green Fools • Harrow Fair • Hiss Golden Messenger • Huun-Huur-Tu • Jade Kelly • Jeremy Fisher Junior • John Showman & John Tower • Julien Baker • Kacy & Clayton •  Ken Whitely and the Beulah Band • Las Cafeteras • Lee Ranaldo • Leonard Sumner • Lilly Hiatt • Lulu & the Tomcat • Mandolin Orange • Mappe Of • Martin Simpson • Matt Holubowski • Micah Erenberg • Mick Flannery • Mo Kenney • Nehiyawak • Phoebe Bridgers • Scott H. Biram • Secret Agent 23 Skidoo • Sidi Touré • The Lonesome Ace String Band • The Lumber Jills • The Lynnes • The War and Treaty • Valley Queen • Wallis Bird • We Banjo 3 • Waxahatchee • Whitney

Along with Canadian faves Natalie MacMaster and Ferron, we’re happy to see our upcoming September cover feature, The LYNNeS, included here. Lynn Miles and Lynne Hanson have teamed up and produced a new album, Heartbreak Song For The Radio. Despite the lyric, I’d rather feel the hurt than feel nothing at all, their song “Blue Tattoo” evokes a vision (for me) of a woman sitting alone in the dark with a bottle of Jack. Yikes.

The John Butler Trio was a major discovery for this author — so much great music coming out of three people! Butler, an Aussie, is a great amplified acoustic guitarist (slide as well) and a wonderful singer. His bassist and drummer provide tight instrumental and vocal backup. Although he sells platinum in Australia, I don’t hear anything quite like this in the States. If readers sample just a few videos in this issue, one of them should be the John Butler Trio // Live at Crossroads.

Jul 6~8     Great Blue Heron Music Festival

Wait Corners Road , Sherman, NY   716.487.1781

Donna the Buffalo • The Felice Brothers • Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad • The Suitcase Junket • The Gunpoets • The Town Pants • Driftwood • Bobby Henrie And The Goners • The Probables • Danielle Ponder And The Tomorrow People • The Hindu Cowboys • The Blind Spots • Cats On Holiday • Smackdab • One World Tribe • Bess And The Magic Ring • Sun King Warriors • Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers • Funktional Flow • Thunder Body • Cold Lazarus • Uncle Ben’s Remedy • Buffalo Zydeco • Qwister • Tiger Maple String Band • Stewed Mulligan • The Oak Hill Drifters • Kates Brothers Band • The Observers • Little Mountain Band • Kaleidoscope Sky • Cindy Haight & The Love • Juno Smile • John Merino • Tyler Smilo • Ken Hardley • Bill Ward And The Big Hand 4 • Max Garcia Conover • Janet Batch • The Stan Barton Band • Pay The Devil • Kitestring • Ezekiel’s Wheel • Jeb And Tara • Rolling Hills Radio Live • Rebecca Mcilvain

With only one exception, in checking the last six years, Donna the Buffalo has headed the list of performers at Great Blue Heron. Are they part owners in this festival? No complaints, though. If you’re going to develop a habit, it’s a good idea if it includes this band.

One of the more interesting online forays involved the duo Juno Smile — Jessy Lynn Martens and her husband Joseph. Jessy, a former child fiddle prodigy, sings and plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar. Joseph plays guitar and sings in a perfect reedy baritone. One of the more charming views is a series of grainy homemade videos of their motor home trip from Orlando to Alaska (and back!) with overlaid Juno Smile studio tracks. A promo video uses stills and video with better overall resolution.

Jul 6~8   Mariposa Folk Festival

Tudhope Park, Orillia, ON, Canada

A.J. Croce • Alan Doyle • Angelique Francis • Angie Nussey • Bahamas • Bill & Joel Plaskett • Birds of Bellwoods • Buffy Sainte-Marie • Danny Michel • Earle and Coffin • Fast Romantics • Fränder • Good Lovelies • Hat Fitz & Cara • Iskwé • Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton • Kevin Breit • Land Of Talk • Larkin Poe • Leif Vollebekk • Lisa LeBlanc • Molly Tuttle • Mélisande [électrotrad] • Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets • Port Cities • Skye Wallace • Tami Neilson • The Fred Eaglesmith Traveling Show featuring Tif Ginn • The Kubasonics • The Western Swing Authority • Valdy • Walk Off The Earth

A couple of years ago, Buffy Sainte-Marie appeared at Clearwater. We were astonished at the energy this ’60s icon still had.  We’re thrilled to see our March cover feature, Molly Tuttle, included in the roster of performers. We just know she’s going to blow some minds when her fleet fingers on guitar underscore her velvety vocals.

Revelations abound at every turn within the ranks of festival rosters. What is it with these Australians? I tend to think of gospel/blues as an intrinsically American idiom, but I’ve never seen anyone attack it like husband and wife duo Hat Fitz & Cara. Blues veteran Fitz opens the song “Power” with a riff on an electric guitar (with its own weird little mixing board), then, sitting behind a trap set, Cara (an Irish-born folksinger) joins in on tin whistle, after which she runs through a series of percussive effects while singing a powerful gospel rave-up —  before picking up her drumsticks at three minutes in. The term “jaw-dropping” doesn’t seem to cover it.

Jul 7~8   New Bedford Folk Festival

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park,

New Bedford, MA

Bourque Émissaires • Beppe Gambetta • Bob Franke • Bon Débarras • Brooks Williams • Cheryl Wheeler • Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan • Cliff Eberhardt • Connla • Dori Freeman • Emerald Rae • Garnet Rogers • Grace Morrison • J. P. Cormier • James Keelaghan • Keith Murphy • Kristin Andreassen • Laura Love Duo • Matthew Byrne • Mile Twelve • Musique À Bouches • Mustard’s Retreat Trio • Peter Mulvey • Reverend Robert B. Jones Sr. • Ronny Cox • The Kennedys • The Mammals • Tom Rush • Art Tebbetts • Back Porch • Charlie Cover • Chuck Williams • Dori Rubbicco • Fourteen Strings • Gregg Harper • Joanne Doherty • Little Blue Heron • Marybeth Soares & Dave Pereira • Mike Laureanno • Mud Daubers • New Bedford Harbor Sea Chantey Chorus • Sacred Harp With The Beans • Seamus Galligan • The Harper And The Minstrel • The Jethros

It’s such a pleasure to see favorites like Cheryl Wheeler and Cliff Eberhardt joining the gathering in New Bedford. A second glance reveals Beppe and Brooks as well — guitar heaven! Garnet Rogers … James Keelaghan … Canada in the house! There are actually too many riches here to enumerate.

It’s a mark of perceptive acuity to see that festival organizers included relative newcomer Grace Morrison from Warhead, Mass., in this lineup of heavy hitters. Grace is a keen observer of the contemporary scene and it shows in her writing. One song from her first full CD, “America,” addresses inequity: but how can I live it up / when I can’t even fill my cup / praying’s all I can do / they don’t see these sturdy feet / walking miles just to meet the ends / is it coming soon? Her song “Taking Johnny Home” for an uncle who returned from the Vietnam War, essentially broken, is presented with razor-sharp vision and vocals to match.

Jul 11~15   Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

Okemah, OK

John Calvin Abney • Andy Adams • David Amram • Nancy Apple • Taylor Atkinson • Lauren Barth • Sam Baker • Joe Baxter • Chris Blevins • Chris Buhalis • Wink Burcham • Lance Canales • Peter Case • Nellie Clay • K.C. Clifford • Don Conoscenti • Samantha Crain • Caroline Doctorow • George Ensle • Kalyn Fay • Michael Fracasso • John Fullbright • Seth Glier • Butch Hancock • Hardin Burns • Jaimee Harris • Ali Harter • Bill Hearne • Melissa Hembree • Susan Herndon • Malcolm Holcombe • The Honey Dewdrops • Beau Jennings • Peggy Johnson • Blake Lankford • Lauren Lee • The Gabe Marshall Band • Tom Marshall • Casper McWade • Dan Navarro • Annie Oakley • Ellis Paul • Grant Peeples • Rod Picott • Patrice Pike • Jeff Plankenhorn • Joel Rafael • Red Dirt Rangers • Kyle Reid • Rick Reiley • Buffalo Rogers • Knut Roppestad • Shawna Russell • Steve Chapman Smith • Johnsmith • Sky Smeed • BettySoo • Larry Spears • Gregg Standridge • Dylan Stewart • Lyal Strickland • Monica Taylor • Jonathan Terrell • Jacob Tovar • Danny Trashville • The Turnpike Troubadours • Jared Tyler • Colter Wall • Terry “Buffalo” Ware • Tania Warnock • Dustin Welch • Justin Whisnant and Cold Water County • Kierston White • Dar Williams • Robert Williams • WoodyFest House Band (aka The Oklahoma Geniuses)

WoodyFest tends to bring out the cream of good singer/songwriters who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the muck of social commentary. We see a bunch of Guthries — no surprise — plus perennial participants Ellis Paul and Okemah native John Fullbright. It’s fitting that John Trudell’s Bad Dog Band is here to present the legacy of this Native American activist legend.

I pulled Wink Burcham out of the mix and realized that it wasn’t the first time. He has what you might call a whiskey baritone and his bedrock viewpoint of life deserves a second look (and more). Wink is Tulsa, Red Dirt music, through and through. Oh, yeah… that’s a tattoo of Woody’s face on his right arm. Along with Wink’s typical blue-collar worldview, “Tryin’ To Get Paid,” Live at Neumeier’s Rib Room, features some hellacious support from the lead guitarist.

It’s also fitting that radical activist singer/songwriter Ryan Harvey is bringing his torrent of fighting words and music to the fest. One of Ryan’s many audio files, “If We Push Them Hard Enough They’ll Fall,” states: Well the power is an illusion, all they have given us is war / A billion broken promises, poverty and more / While their wealth may seem abundant / their numbers are so small / That if we push them hard enough they’ll fall.


Jul 12~15    Great South Bay Music Festival

Smith Street at Shorefront Park in Patchogue, NY

The Dickey Betts Band • Umphreys McGee • Sublime With Rome • The Front Bottoms • Dirty Heads • Electric Hot Tuna • Papadosio • Little Feat • Thrice • Pigeons Playing Ping Pong • The Get Up Kids • Envy On The Coast • Less Than Jake • JGB Featuring Melvin Seals • The Devon Allman Project • The Imagination Movers • Bohemians • Awaken • Callooh Callay • Ritual Talk

Hot Tuna began in 1970 as an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane because Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady couldn’t get enough of the blues. Nearly 50 years later, Electric Hot Tuna is still with us.

Aside from Electric Hot Tuna, Little Feat, The Dickey Betts Band and The Devon Allman Project are really the only bands in my wheelhouse. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is a tight funk quartet. Their Paste studio session provoked a lot of leg bouncing to their song rhythms as I wrote this. The festival crowd will be up and bouncing as well.

The Get Up Kids seem to have a Green Day vibe to these ears. The audio to their album Something to Write Home About might provide confirmation.

Jul 13~15   The Green River Festival  

Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, MA

The Mavericks • Big Al Anderson • The Sweetback Sisters • Western Centuries • Fulaso • Pedrito Martinez Group • Aliya Cycon Project • Lake Street Dive • Houndmouth • Pokey Lafarge • Amadou & Mariam • Darlingside • San Fermin • Big Sam’s Funky Nation • John Brown’s Body • Dan Bern • The Suitcase Junket • Tank & The Bangas • The Deslondes • Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams • Sun Parade • Workman Song • Hammydown • Twisted Pine • Dietrich Strause & The Blue Ribbons • Joe Russo’s Almost Dead • Funky Meters • The Infamous Stringdusters • Mandolin Orange • Chicano Batman • Robbie Fulks • Rachael Price & Vilray • Parsonsfield • Kat Wright • River Whyless • Bridget Kearney • The Dustbowl Revival • Madam Uncle • Sweet Crude

There’s a lot to like at Green River … The Mavericks, Lake Street Dive, Dan Bern, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams … plus a couple of our cover features,

River Whyless and Darlingside.

I was intrigued by the band titled Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. It turns out that “Almost Dead” refers to Grateful Dead material. It seemed bluesier to me initially than the Jerry Garcia/Bob Weir sound (thus, the “Almost”), sort of like The Allman Brothers. However, after a lengthier listen, I could more clearly hear the intended influence. Definitely quality stuff, but not one of my passions, so the reader might cut me some slack.

Tank & The Bangas from New Orleans — a unique combination of R&B with hip-hop poetry and storytelling — is something extraordinary. This eight-piece group employed a sense of playful wonder, especially in their last number, “Rollercoaster” at 14:00 in their NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

The documentary of this band was a window into a wondrous phenomenon. Take some time to watch it. You won’t be sorry.

Jul 19~22   Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

The Walsh Farm, 1 Poultney Road, Oak Hill, NY

Host Band Dry Branch Fire Squad • Billy Strings • The Del McCoury Band • Sam Bush Band • Hot Rize • Jerry Douglas • The Wood Brothers • Della Mae  • Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers • Dailey & Vincent • Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band • Sierra Hull • Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver • Flatt Lonesome • Molly Tuttle • Songs From The Road Band • Horseshoes & Hand Grenades • Front Country • The Hillbenders • The Lonely Heartstring Band • Country Current • Lindsay Lou • Rapidgrass • Joe Newberry & April Verch  • Ginny Mules • Fireside Collective • Mile Twelve • Kaia Kater • Mountain Ride • Beg, Steal Or Borrow • Colebrook Road • Man About A Horse • Mark Lavengood Band • Meadow Mountain • Dirty Grass Players • Cane Mill Road • Quickstep • More TBA

There’s a lot of consistency at Grey Fox: Dry Branch hosting, Del McCoury, Jerry Douglas and Tim O’Brien and Hot Rize plus his other incarnation, Red Knuckles. We didn’t see Molly Tuttle’s name at first and thought, “Whoa, did somebody fall asleep at the wheel?” Nope. There she is.

In case you missed the video links we posted in the March feature article, here’s one from last year’s Grey Fox.

We see that Front Country, who appeared on our cover in January 2016, have rejoined the proceedings. The very exciting quartet Man About a Horse, who we found at NERFA 2016, will be bending some ears.

There were, as usual, some new discoveries for this author. The Hillbenders are known for their bluegrass version of the Who’s Tommy. Who knew? I didn’t (pun unintended). There’s an hour-long video of the entire album, but it you just want to catch “Pinball Wizard,” here it is:

A while back, Americana artist Trent Summar wrote a song called “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades.” It’s nice that a bluegrass group took the name and did something enjoyable with it. Besides being a smoking-hot, tight group, they have a harmonica player. For me, that’s happiness in a bottle, right there. Their Audiotree session was a real treat.

Jul 19~22    The Peach Music Festival

The Pavilion at Montage Mountain & Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA

Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band • Gov’t Mule • Joe Russo’s Almost Dead • Dicky Betts and his Band • Umphry’s McGee • The Revivalists • Moe. Moe. & Little Feat • Wake Up with Warren Haynes • Otell & Friends • Twiddle • Michael Franti & Spearhead • Chris Robinson Brotherhood • Blackberry Smoke • Pigeons Playing Ping Pong • Turkuaz • Spafford • The Marcus King Band • Leftover Salmon • Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe • Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band • Devon Allman Project w/ Duane Betts • ZZ Ward • Dumpstaphunk • Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene Band of Changes w/ Harford, Metzger, Dreiwitz & Russo • Third World • The Suffers • Nicki Bluhm • Aqueous • Big Something • The Main Squeeze • Ghost Light w/ Holly Bowling • Tom Hamilton • Brandon “Taz” Nlederauer • Organ Freeman • Driftwood • The Magic Beans • Midnight North • Utz • Mo Lowda & The Humble • The Commonheart • Kitchen Dwellers • The Blue Stones • Hayley Jane & The Primates • Soule Monde • Gatos Blancos • Flux Capacitor • JP Biondo • Bobby Lee Rodgers • Bishop Gunn • Thorp Jenson • Funky Dawgz Brass Band • Juice

This festival is stoked with hot bands: Phil Lesh, Joe Russo, Dicky Betts and cohorts. The amalgamation of Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene Band of Changes w/ Harford, Metzger, Dreiwitz & Russo sounds almost too big for even a festival stage. We saw Anders a few years ago and he lit up the crowd at Rhythm and Roots in Rhode Island. We know of the Allman and Betts offspring, Michael Franti and some others but, as usual, needed to do additional research.

If Southern rock is your thing and the reincarnation of a ’70s Southern rock band like Black Oak Arkansas gets it done, then Blackberry Smoke is for you. However, these guys sing really well and stretch out on acoustic guitars as well as electric. Their performance of “One Horse Town” in The Backyard Sessions is worth watching.

Big Something is an alt rock band that uses horns for a big sound. They appear to have a wide stylistic range, from blues to jazz fusion and lots in between. On this song, “The Undertow,” they use a Reggae beat.

There’s a full length set at The Acoustic Cafe in my old hometown of Bridgeport, Conn., that checks in at 1:49:23. I dropped the cursor in at several spots and found I’d have no trouble leaving this on in the background while tending to the listings section.

Jul 25~29   FloydFest

Floyd, VA   540.745.FEST

Foster The People • Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit • Old Crow Medicine Show • Gov’t Mule • The Infamous Stringdusters • Tyler Childers • ZZ Ward • Leftover Salmon • Hiss Golden Messenger • Greta Van Fleet • Keller Williams • Keller Williams’ Pettygrass • Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real • Antibalas • Buffalo Mountain Jam • V3 • Langhorne Slim • Nikki Lane • The Steel Wheels • Son Little • The Mother Hips • The Lil Smokies • Horseshoes & Hand Grenades • No BS! Brass Band • Nicki Bluhm • Devon Gilfillian • Lindsay Lou • Kaleta & Super Yamba Band • Songs From The Road Band • Mr. Jennings • South Hill Banks • Dharma Bombs • Mapache • The National Reserve • The Native Howl • The Broadcast • Erin & The Wildfire • Travis Meadows • Mama Said String Band • Che Apalache • The Harmed Brothers • Fireside Collective • Sol Searchers • Blue Mule • The Jam • The Floorboards • My Radio • Black Mountain Revival • Dead Reckoning • Omegawolfe • Gote • Jordan Harman Band • Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers • Los Chupacabras

Readers are probably familiar with the big names here: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Old Crow Medicine Show, Gov’t Mule and The Infamous Stringdusters. I made some notes on some acts I was unfamiliar with.

Nicki Bluhm: a full-bodied, husky, yet feathery vocalist; smooth soulful blues and folk “Remember Love Wins.”

Tyler Childers: high baritone with a slight rasp, reminiscent of Jimmy Lafave. His writing has real-feel for locale and human nature.

Hiss Golden Messenger: Americana folk music band, originating from Durham, N.C., led by M.C. Taylor; flinty, Dylan-like vocals, joined by a number of guest musicians. Lush melodies, introspective lyrics.

Full Performance Live on KEXP.

Che Apalache: A four-man string band based in Buenos Aires with members from Argentina, Mexico and the United States.  It’s well worth checking out “Maria” from the album

Latin Grass.

Jul 26~29  Ossipee Valley Music Festival 

Ossipee Valley Fairgrounds, 291 South Hiram Road,
S. Hiram, Maine

The Wood Brothers • Billy Strings • Dustbowl Revival • Alash • The Suitcase Junket • The Lonely Heartstring Band • Lakou Mizik • Upstate Rubdown • Town Mountain • Mile Twelve • Twisted Pine • The Wiyos • Lula Wiles • Molsky’s Mountain Drifters • The Ladles • The Bagboys • New England Bluegrass • More TBA

Ossipee Valley  We’re proud that we featured Upstate Rubdown in September 2017 after seeing them at Falcon Ridge last summer. If nothing else, they should make a big splash in the Northeast. We’re familiar with Molsky’s Mountain Drifters and we’ve already touted Twisted Pine.

Dustbowl Revival is a Los Angeles-based old-timey eight-piece band (in various configurations) with touches of jug band (kazoo, harmonica, washboard). They’ve expanded their repertoire recently to include some contemporary material as evidenced by “Call My Name.”

Lula Wiles is a female bluegrass trio featuring tight harmonies and instrumentals (guitar, upright bass, fiddle and mandolin). We particularly liked “Travelin’ On” from the video page on their website.

Jul 27~29   The Lowell Folk Festival

Downtown Lowell, MA | 978-275-1764

Artists TBA

Wikipedia states: The Lowell Folk Festival is the longest running and second largest free folk festival in the United States. Only Seattle’s Northwest Folklife is larger. As of late April, their website did not show who will be playing. One of this festival’s chief organizers, Craig Gates, the executive director of the Lowell Festival Foundation, passed away recently. They are understandably slower this year in posting their list of performers. Check their website for updates.

July 28~30   Newport Folk Festival

Fort Adams State Park, 

Harrison Avenue, Newport, RI

Amanda Shires • Darlingside • Fantastic Negrito • Glorietta • Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit • JD McPherson • Lucius • Moses Sumney • Rachael & Vilray • Sidi Touré • Sturgill Simpson • The Wood Brothers • This Is The Kit • Tyler Childers • Bedouine • Caamp • Colter Wall • Courtney Barnett • Curtis Harding • Daniel Norgren • Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam • Hiss Golden Messenger • Low Cut Connie • Phoebe Bridgers • Tank And The Bangas • A Change Is Gonna Come • Brandi Carlile • Charlie Parr • Gary Clark Jr. • Jen Cloher • Langhorne Slim and the Lost at Last Band • Nicole Atkins • Passenger • The Lone Bellow • The War And Treaty • The Weather Station • Twain • More TBA

It’s no surprise to us that Darlingside is making appearances at a number of large festivals this year, playing the same stages as Gary Clark Jr. and Brandi Carlile. They can put out a sound (some have said, “like an acoustic ELO”) that is large enough to satisfy a huge crowd. This is in addition to their softer, lacy, precise harmonies and chamber-like pieces that play so well in small rooms. Given that Amana Shires is the wife of Jason Isbell, it doesn’t seem like a stretch that she’d get her own billing along with Jason and his 400 Unit. We certainly love The Lone Bellow and have pointed them out for the past couple of years.

For my taste, the guy I’d want to see is JD McPherson. He’s got that throwback ’50s rock sound that burrows into this author’s bloodstream. His ragged baritone (on upbeat numbers — he can croon when he wants to) and his Chuck Berry licks are perfect for the rockabilly material. Online interviews show this former schoolteacher to be a thoughtful, intelligent, erudite musician who mines and distills the best facets of ’50s rock ’n’ roll — every style and nuance — and crystallizes it into varied works of original art. The upright bass, honkin’ sax and boogie woogie piano (think Jerry Lee Lewis or Johnny Johnson) are major contributions. The failure of eMusic  to stock JD was one major reason I gave up on them a few years ago. If there are any like-minded geezers (or if you just like roots/rock) out there, check out the band’s Live on KEXP full performance during the 2012 South by Southwest Festival.

After hours of sitting transfixed, watching JD videos, I happened upon a Live on KEXP @Pickathon IN THE WOODS where JD and the band lose the electrics and do it all acoustically. It didn’t slow them down one bit. Wow.