Moving from the Loveless Cafe to the Factory came with many upsides and a few things we miss, but one of the toughest peanuts to swallow was losing the barn that sheltered our annual Barn Dance. The Loveless let a little weather in, for good or for ill, and in May it was never ill. Light and air filled the room. People smiled and twirled. Some of our best memories of the show in general come from those nights. So can we have a Barn Dance in a Factory? Of course. Because the term has multiple meanings. As a radio genre, we are a Barn Dance, which is a live show with country music and a barn set. That goes back to the days when folks around the countryside would move their furniture, crank up the Grand Ole Opry on the AM radio set and frolic at home. You can do that but we’d much rather you put on dancing shoes and come join us in Liberty Hall. Bring the spirit of that word to your feet and let’s see how big a dance floor we might need. We have plenty of space.
We also have fantastic bands.
Everyone has their own secret groove – the sound and beat and feeling that is guaranteed to make them move. As y’all may know, for me those beats come from Louisiana: Cajun and zydeco music. Layers of rhythm blend together with a rock steady pulse in the middle. The accordion, a favorite instrument of mine, works in tandem with the snare drum. It’s bluesy and as skanky as music gets, while fiddle gives it smoothness and air. And it’s half in French. How awesome is that?
Speaking of, since I saw them last Fall at the Americana conference I’ve been listening intently to and singing the praises of Lafayette, LA band Feufollet. The name is Cajun French for some kind of firefly or sprite. And they do for Cajun music what New Grass Revival did for bluegrass, playing freely with musical ideas and influences while staying grounded in a venerable tradition. When I covered their show for The Bluegrass Situation I wrote this:
Mingled in with the French songs and prairie heartbeat were strains of 60s pop, R.E.M. southern jangle and Jamaican dance hall. Vocalist Kelli Jones-Savoy (she married into the legendary Cajun music family) pierced my heart.
Now they’re out with Two Universes, a completely enthralling album that I believe is the first to feature Jones-Savoy on lead vocals and the most far-reaching project of their career so far. I’ve seriously been wearing this one out. The opening single “Tired Of Your Tears” is a magnificent take down of a woe-is-me whiner that feels like a Loretta Lynn classic. I love the ballad “When You Said Goodbye” for its delicate musicianship. And it’s hard to find album that save a song as good as “Questions Sans Responses” (Questions Without Answers) for the closing track. Yeah, I’m flipping out a little.
Contrasted to my savoir faire and effortless mastery in Louisiana styles on the dance floor, I’m more of an enthusiastic goofball when it comes to swing, so we’ll just have to see how it goes when Blair Crimmins & The Hookers take the stage. Celebrated in their home town of Atlanta and beyond, Blair is a rakish, charismatic front man who conducts a horn-heavy, driving ensemble. It sounds like Preservation Hall without the reverence – a stew of hot swing and sexy early jazz. They win awards. They light up audiences. They make brilliant videos. Coming out for the first time, this should be a Roots revelation.
We have to have a square dance. That’s the one where they tell you exactly what to do. And it’s always the sweaty highlight of the Barn Dance experience. Returning for this very important set is the Hogslop String Band, Nashville’s big band of banjo/fiddle music. To quote their own bio: Known for their outrageous facial hair and a rollicking repertoire heavily based on Georgia and Middle Tennessee fiddle tunes, these boys have provided entertainment for fashion shows, political conventions and whiskey distilleries as well as countless weddings, parties and soirees.
And we’re rounding out our multi-genre dancestravaganza with blues from Mephis. Or actually blues believe it or not from Israel by way of Memphis. The guitarist and bandleader Ori Naftaly grew up in Israel studying a variety of guitar styles. He relocated to one of his musical Meccas and has been earning accolades with a style that’s fiery and far-reaching. The Ori Naftaly Band just announced a major personnel change in the person of lead singer Tierinii Jackson. We look forward to being part of her maiden voyage with an exciting band on the make.
This is gonna be fun. Round up friends. We’ll be in a Factory but it’ll feel like a barn.