The 14th annual Four Corners Folk Festival will take place Sept. 4-6 on Reservoir Hill. The festival will feature performances on three different stages from 14 different bands including Tim O’Brien, Sara Watkins, Darrell Scott, the subdudes, Eddie From Ohio, The Bills, The Greencards, The Infamous Stringdusters, Russ Barenberg Trio, The Quebe Sisters, Anne and Pete Sibley, the Marc Atkinson Trio and this week’s featured artists — relative newcomers who are taking the Americana and roots music scene by storm.
“Shannon Whitworth’s fluid voice rolls lazily over her lyrics; contemporary, bluesy, rooted in traditional but bearing a feel of Billie Holiday” or “an interesting and sporadically brilliant musician with a smoky singing voice that reminds me of a grittier Neko Case or a harder Patsy Cline.” These evocative statements are samples of how music critics are describing Shannon Whitworth’s music.
Shannon Whitworth currently lives in the mountains of western North Carolina, where she has spent the last 10 years focusing on mountain, bluegrass and country music. Her talent as a singer and songwriter enabled her to spend four years touring the United States with a band she co-founded, The Biscuit Burners, where she received national praise for her definitive songwriting and captivating voice. Over the past several years, Shannon Whitworth’s impact in the world of Americana music has created lofty expectations from fans nationwide.
On clawhammer banjo and guitar, Shannon’s compositions contributed depth to The Biscuit Burners’ material and have helped her gain respect as a truly talented singer and songwriter. Her solo release, “No Expectations,” features 10 of Shannon’s most recent compositions accompanied by an all-star cast of musicians. The CD is one of the finest and freshest Americana/country/roots records you will hear today. Great singing, great writing, and great picking makes Shannon Whitworth’s first solo project unforgettable.
Shannon has appeared at the Four Corners Folk Festival with The Biscuit Burners, and also played the inaugural Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival with her own band. She will perform on the main stage at this year’s Four Corners Folk Festival on Sunday, Sept. 6, at 12:15 p.m.
This week’s second band, The Wiyos, has traveled a very long distance, both geographically and figuratively, during their five-year lifespan. There are the statistics — they have driven over 400,000 miles in seven different countries and played over 1,000 shows — but there is also the creative journey, which has been just as epic and equally adventurous.
Many musicians throughout history have made their way leading the lives of wandering troubadours, and The Wiyos have definitively embraced and embodied this tradition. They began life as an acoustic trio in a tavern in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the summer of 2002 (a neighborhood historically known as the “Five Points” district). An old street gang from that area, The Why’os, became the band’s namesake, and soon thereafter on their inaugural tour to New Orleans, the band put down their hats and plied their trade. Originally meant to be a few days stopover in the Crescent City, their van broke down and they stayed for two weeks, becoming enchanted with the city, meeting many new musicians and beginning the process of steeping themselves in the early swing era.
The Wiyos’ eclectic debut album, entitled “Porcupine,” made sense for a group of music geeks with omnivorous and expansive musical tastes ranging from early jazz to hip-hop, country blues to classic rock, New Orleans brass bands to Appalachian stringbands, The Beatles to Beck and Tom Waits. Around the time of the first record, they began to devote themselves intensely to the study of the spectrum of traditional American musical idioms that were recorded from circa 1900 through the 1930s.
The WIYOS decided to make their next recording project a document of their high-energy stage shows. The band recorded their second and third records at PIE studios, which is equipped with some of the world’s best vintage analog gear. Both records were cut entirely live over the course of a few days. Due to their years of dedication to being a well-rehearsed touring ensemble, almost all the songs were captured on the first take.
Both the second album “Hat Trick” and the most recent, “The Wiyos,” derive inspiration from the great dance bands and house party music of 80-90 years ago; the early swing syncopations, the grit and intensity of rural blues, the bouncing rhythms of piedmont fingerpickers, the vocal antics, mannerisms and physical comedy of vaudeville-era performers. The result is some very interesting and singularly original music. The Wiyos’ songs exist in multiple styles and eras simultaneously without sounding forced or affected.
The Wiyos are currently on tour this summer with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp and will finish up the summer season with a set in Pagosa Springs on Friday, Sept. 4.
Tickets to the Four Corners Folk Festival are on sale at Moonlight Books and at ReSport in Pagosa Springs. Tickets can also be purchase online at www.folkwest.com or by calling (877) 472-4672. The Four Corners Folk Festival is supported by a grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Colorado General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.