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Four Corners Folk Festival a week away

After writing these pieces all summer long I can scarcely believe that we’re here: the Four Corners Folk Festival is just one week away!

The 14th annual festival will open up for camping on Thursday, Sept. 3, with performances taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-6, on Reservoir Hill.

The outstanding lineup includes nationally-known musicians in the folk, bluegrass and Americana genres including Darrell Scott, Eddie From Ohio, The Bills, Sara Watkins, The Greencards, The Infamous Stringdusters, Russ Barenberg Quartet; The Wiyos, Anne & Pete Sibley, Shannon Whitworth, The Marc Atkinson Trio, The Quebe Sisters Band and this week’s featured artists: Tim O’Brien, the subdudes and Sarah Siskind.

 At a point in his career where you’d think he’d be charging at full speed toward the next big thing, Tim O’Brien confounded expectations by doing something else: he took time — and plenty of it — to create the next small thing. “Chameleon” is an intimate CD project that, in its blend of virtuosity, wit and warmth, is unmistakably his.

Back in January 2006, Tim decided to cut back on his monumental touring schedule and really focus on his next recording project. Of course, even at his most relaxed, the veteran O’Brien continued to be more productive than most. He still offered occasional performances, both on his own and in various configurations, and he worked on the acclaimed Blind Alfred Reed tribute, “Always Lift Him Up,” both performing Reed’s best-known song and sharing in the album’s production. But mostly he wrote, both on his own and with collaborators — and, in August of last year, he began work on “Chameleon” with award-winning engineer Gary Paczosa.

The resulting CD is a dynamite solo release that really focuses on O’Brien’s songwriting (musicians take note: he’ll be teaching a songwriting workshop with longtime friend and award-winning songwriter Darrell Scott on Saturday at the festival).

Though he first won renown as a member of one of bluegrass’s premiere bands, Hot Rize, O’Brien’s been doing solo performances for a long time, and pressed for antecedents, he offers up figures like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. “The folksinger with a guitar is a sort of an unassailable icon,” he says with a laugh. “Dylan, Woody Guthrie — what can you say? And I remember that when I heard the first Doc Watson album, I thought, what does he need a band for? This guy has got it all. But what happens is that when you go into the studio, you can play with a band and get the juices flowing and maybe do things that you might not be able to do on the road. So there’s a temptation to go that way. But this time, I thought, let’s just bring it inside.”

Tim O’Brien will play solo on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. and will close the show with his band at 7 p.m. Sunday night. His workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday.

 In 1987, four musicians got together for what they envisioned would be a one-time performance at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. It was a night of mostly acoustic music – sparse instrumentation with a strong emphasis on songwriting and vocal harmonies. The show far exceeded expectations, and on that March night the subdudes were born.

Nearly 10 years later, after five well-received albums and several years of hard touring, the subdudes called it quits. Spinoff projects ensued, as did the occasional reunion show. Finally, in February of 2002, three of the four original band members decided to get back together. They recruited additional longtime friends to fill out the sound and called themselves the Dudes, but the music was still unmistakably the subdudes.

Since 2003 they’ve once again been going by the name the subdudes and have released four CDs with another brand new one due out this September (“Flower Petals”). There’s still nobody in the world that sounds like the subdudes, with their unique blending of blues, gospel, funk and R&B topped with a layer of tight, harmonic vocals. The subdudes are Tim Cook, bass and vocals; Tommy Malone, vocals, acoustic, electric, and slide guitars; John Magnie, vocals, accordion, keyboards; Jimmy Messa, bass and guitar; and Steve Amedée, tambourine, drums, other percussions, and vocals. They’ll close the Saturday show with a rockin’ set at 7:30 p.m. on the main stage.

Sarah Siskind is known as one of Nashville’s most eclectic songwriters; her songs have been covered by Alison Krauss, Randy Travis, Bon Iver, the Infamous Stringdusters, April Verch and more.  Krauss released two Siskind songs as singles, and in 2008, her rendition of “Simple Love” was nominated for a Grammy.

This year, Sarah has stepped into the artist spotlight with her own album “Say it Louder” (Red Request Records/Thirty Tigers).  Although she has been making records since the tender age of 14, including the 2002 release Covered which featured world-renowned guitarist Bill Frisell, “Say it Louder” is making the biggest splash among fans and critics alike. Bon Iver, the indie-rock sensation who has been covering Siskind’s material live, states “Sarah’s music changed my life.”  Bob Boilen of NPR was so crazy about “Say it Louder” that he featured it on NPR’s “All Songs Considered.”  An invitation to perform on his exclusive video-cast “Tiny Desk Concert” series soon followed, and in June, the title track “Say it Louder” was named NPR’s Song of the Day.

Siskind’s busy summer/fall tour schedule includes a string of dates from coast to coast.  At Four Corners, she’ll be joined by Travis Book on bass and backing vocals. Book plays bass and sings in the acoustic-powerhouse group, the Infamous Stringdusters, winner of IBMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year in 2007.  A native of Colorado, he and Siskind wed in 2008, and combine their musical talents for a stellar performance. The two will kick off the music this year with a 2 p.m. set on Friday.

 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.

 Advanced tickets can be purchased locally through Sept. 2 at Moonlight Books downtown and at ReSport in the Pagosa Lakes City Market shopping center. They can also be purchased online at www.folkwest.com or by phone, (877) 472-4672 up to the day before the show. Additional festival information is available on the festival Web site: www.folkwest.com.