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Darrell Scott and Belleville Outfit headline Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass

We’re just one week out from the third annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival! Starting early next week, you’ll begin to notice some die-hard campers lining up across from the post office in anticipation of the campground opening on Friday morning. Hundreds of families and individuals will begin pouring into town next Friday for the kickoff Free Friday concert on June 4 at 5 p.m. at the Town Park gazebo. Everyone is welcome to attend and gates open at 4. Performers at Free Friday are Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams at 5:00 and The Quebe Sisters Band at 6:30.

 The rest of the festival takes place on Reservoir Hill with 23 performances by 12 bands spread out over two days and nights and three different stages. This year’s lineup includes the above bands, plus Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings, Missy Raines & the New Hip, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Matt Flinner Trio, Bearfoot, The Black Lillies, Badly Bent, Honey Don’t and headliners The Belleville Outfit and Darrell Scott.

 If you have already seen the Belleville Outfit perform — either at a Free Friday concert, or at the Folk ‘N Bluegrass or Four Corners Folk Festival — allow me to inform you that the group will be returning to perform at this year’s Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival. There. That should be enough of an announcement in and of itself to prompt you to get your tickets. But if you still haven’t witnessed the band’s incredibly dynamic live performance, read on and find out why you should plan to see them this June on Reservoir Hill.

The Belleville Outfit became instant legends in Pagosa Springs from the moment they stepped onto the stage here in June 2008, wowing the all-ages audience with a dynamic blend of Django-inspired dance tunes along with updated classics like “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Although the band seems impossibly young (the “senior” member is 25 years old), at times they seem to be channeling the spirit of another era, and channeling it very well by all indications. But the Outfit isn’t doesn’t play music for your grandparents, although the older generation would no doubt appreciate it. Wherever the band goes, teens and 20-somethings pack the dance area, and appear to be enjoying the band’s retro sound very much. Finding a band that successfully creates a multi-generational musical bridge is wonderful; finding one with that also possesses the level of musicianship displayed by the Belleville Outfit is a very rare thing indeed.

Based out of Louisiana’s finest music and arts city, the Belleville Outfit serves up a truly unique mix of gypsy swing, big band jazz, and roots Americana/Bluegrass. Both innovative in their combining of genres, and true to their musical roots, the Belleville Outfit solidified itself as a tour-de-force in the world of acoustic music, with a self-released debut album (“Wanderin’”) that topped out at No.10 on the Americana Music Chart. Watch for their new CD to be released soon.

Band members Rob Teter, Marshall Hood and Jeff Brown toured extensively with a group based out of South Carolina called the DesChamps Band, an all acoustic swing/bluegrass group that has shared stages with such prestigious acts as The Waybacks, Junior Brown, the Del McCoury Band, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Duhks, and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, as well as released two full length records.

Now, as the Belleville Outfit, with the additional talents of Phoebe Hunt on violin, Connor Forsyth on piano, and Jonathan Konya on the drums, the group is poised to introduce their inventive sound into the ears of anyone and everyone who will listen. The band headlines Saturday at this year’s Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival on June 5 at 7:30 p.m.

 Sunday night’s closer is an old friend of FolkWest. He has been here a number of times playing with his own group and playing with Sam Bush, John Cowan and Tim O’Brien. Darrell Scott’s star is rapidly rising and we count ourselves among the lucky few who discovered his immense talent early in the game.

Born on a tobacco farm in London, Ken.., in 1959, and raised in East Gary, Ind., Darrell was part of a musical family. His father Wayne, a steelworker by trade but a songwriter in his heart, moved his clan to Southern California when Darrell was 11. Soon Darrell and brothers Denny, Dale, Don and David were part of their dad’s band, getting on-the-job training in country music as they played its hits on the stages of roadhouses and taverns as far north as Alaska.

Darrell eventually left the band and California, paying some more musical dues in Toronto and in Boston and earning a degree in poetry from nearby Tufts University, where he also studied literature. With his lyric skills sharpened and his abilities on guitars, banjo and other instruments already road-tested, Darrell followed his muse to country music’s Ground Zero, Nashville. His key to entering Music Row’s inner circles was, at first, his string-slinging skills — starting in 1992, he appeared on albums by alt-country mavericks Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Randy Travis, Patty Loveless, and dozens more.

As his day job as a picker flourished, Darrell channeled his other creative energies into his own songwriting and recordings. By the time he had released his debut CD, “Aloha from Nashville” (1997), its follow-up “Family Tree” (1999), and “Real Time” (2000), a duo album with “newgrass” trailblazer Tim O’Brien, Darrell’s original songs were much in demand by singers looking for more than “big hat” bragging or slick country-pop. Suzy Bogguss was the first of many to record a Scott song, taking his “No Way Out” into the country singles charts in 1996. Darrell’s compositions became highlights of albums by Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Kathy Mattea and Guy Clark. The Dixie Chicks’ recording of “Long Time Gone” from “Real Time” was not only a hit for the Chicks but garnered a 2003 Grammy nomination for “Best Country Song.” “The Second Mouse,” a Scott/O’Brien tune from “Real Time,” was a Grammy finalist as Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2001. That same year, Darrell was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, an honor repeated by ASCAP in 2002.

Darrell’s solo CDs, session work, touring gigs with Steve Earle’s Bluegrass Dukes (of which he remains a member), Guy Clark, and Newgrass Revival founder Sam Bush, and his own live shows have steadily drawn reviews even payola can’t buy. USA Today praised his “brilliantly clever songs”; Entertainment Tonight raved about his “powerful songwriting, passionate vocals and masterful picking”; Rolling Stone listed his 2003 CD, Theatre of the Unheard, in their list of Critics’ Top Albums and compared him to Clark and Springsteen “at their best.” Performing Songwriter went all the way, dubbing him “the best of the best.”

Somehow, Darrell has continually found the time and energy to expand his musical activities ever further. In 2003, he launched his own label, Full Light Records, and his first move as owner was to produce a traditional, mountain country album for his father, This Weary Way, that finally showcased Wayne’s original songs. For the past three years, Darrell has been the artist in residence with Orchestra Nashville (members appear on Modern Hymn’s “Joan of Arc”), creating what he calls “diverse musical happenings — the odder the better,” mixing the string section with such guests as Sam Bush, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and other musicians from many genres.

Darrell has also been stockpiling songs and ideas for his next few CDs, including orchestral recordings, a “stone country” album, a duets project, and a band record of roots, Americana and folk-rock songs. He plays more than 50 shows a year, including prestigious U.S. and UK festivals, and conducts songwriting workshops around the country. He recently was selected to tour with Robert Plant for a series of shows beginning in July. Darrell’s closing set will start at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 6.

Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass 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.

Tickets to Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass can be purchased downtown at Moonlight Books or the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, and uptown at ReSport  in the Country Center. Tickets and additional information are available by calling (877) 472-4672 or online at www.folkwest.com.