We hope we’re not over-reaching by claiming a certain kinship to the remarkable musical and cultural events coming at us later in the week, because just 48 hours after we kick off the next edition of Music City Roots, the National Folk Festival will get underway on the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville. This event traces its origins to the time of the FDR administration and indeed vocal support from the great First Lady Eleanor. As they say on the website: “Musicians and craftspeople from every state in the Union and most U.S. territories have participated in this ‘moveable feast of deeply traditional folk arts,’ which is now attracting the largest audiences in its history.”
Our lineup this week also touches on folk culture from around the world, from traditional Irish to pure American bluegrass to power-folk with its roots in Australia.
The Greencards, featuring Aussies Kym Warner and Carol Young, launched in 2003 and climbed to the top of the new-acoustic/newgrass scene on the strength of expert musicianship, nonconformist songwriting and a full-tilt stage show that piles energy on top of energy. Personnel change of recent years have helped the band realize an even more complete sound, with the addition of Tyler Andal on fiddle and flatpicking champ Carl Miner on guitar. Their newest recording, The Brick Album, is their finest work so far, and with their intensity and finesse, they’ll be splendid show-closers.
The other Americana modernists in our midst are The Wrights, a country-plus duo featuring married couple Adam and Shannon Wright. They brought their incredibly fresh sound to our stage before, but sadly they drew a tough night – two days after the historic Nashville floods when we did an East Nashville theme, and there were about 12 people in the audience. We’re counting on showing them a much better turnout this time. They certainly deserve it.
The Greencards borrow ideas from Celtic music, but this week’s band McPeake is traditional Irish to the core. Scions of an influential family in Irish music, the fourth generation McPeakes have formed this band to carry on the family way and name. They’re new to me so I’ll be curious. I haven’t had a good dose of Celtic fiddling in a long time.
On the bluegrass front, we’re also well covered. New Found Road is a wonderful quartet that rides on the lead vocals of Tim Shelton and the fluid banjo of Junior Williams. These Rounder Recording artists were tapped recently to be the touring support band for country star Joe Diffie. He needed plug and play talent to support his bluegrass album, and he found it in NFR. That said, they were entertaining folks long before that and any fan of solid serious bluegrass should hear them. And on top of that, we’re getting a return visit from three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley. With a voice for the ages and a keen ear for fresh songs, she’s one of the greats of our time. Happily, she’ll be coming by just a week or so after the release of her latest CD, Somewhere South of Crazy. With support from Alison Brown, Steve Gulley, Mike Bub, Pam Tillis, Stuart Duncan and more, it’s promising to be another special project from a special artist.
So come start the biggest folk weekend of the year a little early this week.