Folk Fest Four

big time sarah 4

Shortly after I took this picture “Big Time” Sarah Streeter, a veteran Chicago blues singer performing her last of two tunes with Magic Slim and the Teardrops on opening night, would be whisked away to VCU Medical Center ER.  Just recovering from pneumonia before her trip to Richmond, needing oxygen and insulin, Sarah also needed some big time TLC.  She was very well cared for…the staff even looked up and enjoyed her YouTube videos.  She was well enough to be discharged by lunchtime Saturday, just in time to make her two remaining appearances with Magic Slim, with renewed vim and vinegar.  The backstory here is that my big time sarah 2caring wife Deveron was Sarah’s artist host, one of more than 40 dedicated individuals whose task is to make sure all these performers of many cultures, speaking many languages get from hotel to stage to another stage to CD signings and back to the hotel.  And maybe shuttle them to CVS or the ABC store…generally just look after them while they’re guests in our city.  Or in Deveron’s case, without hesitation, spend a busy Friday night in the MCV Emergency Room with a woman who needed her.  We got home around 4am after quite an adventure that included a renewed respect for the police, fire and EMT crews and the hospital staff who accomplish the impossible against all odds every night of the week.  chuck 2An easy segue to expressing my gratitude to all the artist hosts who ensure our RFF performers are where they need to be when, with all they need to give us their very best.  And as compensation, they get to experience moments like this as seasoned host Chuck Wrenn (right)shares some up-close inspiration with his daughters courtesy of New Orleans “Piano Prince” Davell Crawford.

Our seventh year of these riverfront revivals of music and culture was set against another glorious three days of October weather, helping us set a new attendance mark of 200,000 making RFF the largest folk festival in the country.  I’ll roll out a few of my other images in the right-hand column, but for the full visual story, check out the great work of official photographer Skip Rowland here.  Skip was everywhere, and what an eye he has.  Another very proud moment for RVA, well covered here by the Style Weekly writers.

sabot outreachAnd another compelling day of JAMinc-facilitated school outreach performances on Friday that included an intimate al fresco session with Crooked Road instrument builders/musicians Gerald Anderson and Scott Freeman at the Sabot School at Stony Point.  Thanks to sabot outreach 3Billy Rice, Andy Garrigue, Charlie & Helen Ogden, Marshall Pearsall, George Turman, Mark Pellman and the NCTA’s Dan Samuels for making this important initiative happen again this year.


festy zoomSince the Folk Festival was held a week later than usual this year out of respect for Yom Kippur, we were free to take in the 2nd annual Festy Experience October 7-9, hosted by that savvy band of promotion-minded musicians, the Infamous StringdustersThe setting was the Devil’s Backbone Brewery up near Wintergreen, with a kind of Telluride-east feel…the older-gentler Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the festival grounds.  Great close-by camping (with our new Friends of Jay), beautiful weather, great sound and staging, plus a wide ranging lineup that included Railroad Earth, Toubab Krewe, David Grisman, Jim Lauderdale plus great acts we caught for the first time: Lake Street Dive, the Two Man Gentlemen Band and the Wood Brothers.  Plus of course individual and collective appearances by the Dusters all weekend long.  new kid on the blockThe host band also introduced their newest member replacing mandolin master Jesse Cobb…Berklee alumnus Dominick Leslie (left), who made an auspicious debut on the smoke-filled main stage Saturday night…to the delight of banjoist Chris Pandolfi.  There was a world class bon fire lit eachP1030745 night that burned ‘til morning…something taken full pyrotechnic advantage of by guitarist Larry Keel.  The main stage alternated with the smaller Southern Stage so there was no annoying sound bleedover, nor any of the stressful moments one feels at larger festivals when you’re always missing something. And the secluded workshop stage was the scene of many instructive moments like campsite coffee making, cold weather camping, and some wonderfully intimate songwriting seminars like this one featuring (below L to R) Elizabeth Foster, Julie Lee, Sarah Siskind and Jim Lauderdale.  Sarah’s latest CD Novel can be checked out here.  Jim’s new one, Reason & Rhyme, with Robert Hunter here.eliz, julie, sarah & jim

garrett gospel 11

And there was this uplifting gospel set on Sunday afternoon hosted by Duster fiddler Jeremy Garrett and his dad Glen that featured an ever evolving cast that included the three women mentioned above and a soulful appearance by Dirty Kitchen bandleader Frank Solivan.  (L to R above: Andy Falco, Jeremy, Frank, Travis Book and Glen Garrett)  Joyful smoke dusters 10noise was made.  Much credit is due the Stringdusters for all they’ve accomplished musically and now promotionally in creating a well-conceived and executed event that’s matured beyond many festivals in two short years.  But we’ll miss Jesse.  We had a great time and only regret that it looks like it will conflict with our Richmond Folk Festival from now on.  Sigh…


james & jim

Before I shift focus forward, I want to give a shout out to my Music For Massey compadres for the past seven years, Jim Napier and Patrick McCarty for another chance to hang with the amazing west coast Waybacks and their special guest this year Jim Lauderdale on October 6th.  Moving to the rose garden at Lewis Ginter this year well past the summer’s heat was a brilliant stroke and we were blessed with a perfect night of weather and a fully-engaged lawn full of fulfilled music fans.  Hated to miss the afterparty on Friday, but what a great gathering of talented people for all the right reasons.  Thanks to the Garden’s Frank Robinson for hosting this year and to Tom Beals for his highly sought-after production expertise.  Fist bumps…

vishten 4And big thanks to Sarah Masters for arranging our private concert at In Your Ear Monday night with eastern Canada’s phenomenal Acadian trio Vishten.  The good news is that you’ll be able to hear much of a magical night of music on one of our upcoming In Your Ear radio shows, airing every Saturday at 1pm on WCVE Public Radio HD.


harris bros

We first were made aware of Lenoir, NC’s Harris Brothers by Virginia Folklorist Jon Lohmann at last year’s Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion when he grabbed Dev and me and led us into the Shanghai Asian Restaurant to hear Ryan and Reggie hold court with our fast-lane friend Nate Leath sitting in on fiddle.  A major first impression was made.  Fast forward to October 27th, 2011 and with a little friendly persuasion, we’ve got the Harris Bros. coming to play our next JAMinc/In Your Ear Studio Concert with Nate Leath along for the ride.  This is going to be one for the books…make your reservations promptly please.


sunnysde poster11x17cI’ve really been wanting to see and hear dear friend Jackie Frost in her acting debut as country music matriarch Sara Carter in Swift Creek Mill Playhouse’s production of “Keep On The Sunny Side.”  We’re finally going Friday and the show closes Saturday.  Just under the wire.  Better late than never Jack!  Call 748-5203 for reservations for dinner and/or theater.


Hohner, Inc. president and Richmond friend Clay Edwards tells me that the ukulele has astonishingly surpassed the harmonica in world wide sales for his company, so it’s fitting that the River City Ukulele Society has been formed for those wanting to make the most of their diminutive four-stringed instruments.  Previously only associated with Hawaii, Arthur Godfrey and Tiny Tim, thanks to new stars like Jake Shimabukuro, you’re seeing them in all kinds of band settings now.  Find out more about the society and their upcoming events/jams by contacting Ron Gentryrondgentry@gmail.com

My parting gift this time around is a link to a breathtaking first look at Yo-Yo Ma’s upcoming release The Goat Rodeo Sessions, out October 24th.  Believe me…omg…you will want to check this out.  Hope to see you at IYE on the 27th.


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