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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
FolkWest’s festival season will kick off in three short weeks with the sixth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival, taking place June 7-9 on Reservoir Hill.
Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to see and hear more than 20 live performances from 16 different bands on the main stage and late night stage over the course of the three-day event. This year’s phenomenal lineup represents a variety of musical styles and genres — from amazingly tight bluegrass to what could be classified as new acoustic classical. The lineup includes The Band of Heathens, The Duhks, The Iguanas, The Defibulators, The Black Lillies, The Warren Hood Band, Taarka, Front Country, The Haunted Windchimes, Paper Bird, Finnders and Youngberg, Corn Yeti, The Expedition Quintet, The New Shoots Trio and this week’s featured bands, Della Mae and the Matt Flinner Trio. You can find links to all of the festival artists on the festival web site, www.folkwest.com.
Making their FolkWest/Pagosa Springs debut at this year’s festival, Della Mae proves again and again the endless possibilities found in the tried-and-true marriage of fiddle, fretboard, and voice. Their lineup is a who’s who of promising young pickers: lead singer Celia Woodsmith, guitarist Courtney Hartman, bass player Shelby Means, mandonlinist Jenni Lyn Gardner, and two-time National Fiddle Champion Kimber Ludiker are all seasoned performers who have won countless contests and shared the stage with the likes of Willie Nelson, Del McCoury, Leon Russell, and Laurie Lewis. Though they don’t shy away from showing off their considerable technical talent, Della Mae is at heart a song-driven band with vocals that can tell an entire story in the merest syllable, and instruments that play with finesse and vivacity to match. Their 2011 release, “I Built This Heart,” was an impressive debut, a delicate balance between bluegrass grit and singer-songwriter sensitivity. With a new album in the works produced by Bryan Sutton and their first label release, it’s clear that Della Mae is just getting started.
Della Mae will play the main festival stage on Sunday, June 9, at 4:30 p.m.
Front man and multi-instrumentalist Matt Flinner has made a career out of playing acoustic music in new ways. Starting out as a banjo prodigy who was playing bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens, Flinner later took up the mandolin, won the National Banjo Contest at Winfield, Kans., in 1990, and took the mandolin award there the following year. Since then, he has become recognized as one of our premier mandolinists as well as one of the finest new acoustic/roots music composers today.
Flinner has toured and recorded with a wide variety of bluegrass, new acoustic, classical and jazz artists, including Tim O’Brien, Frank Vignola, Steve Martin, Darrell Scott, the Modern Mandolin Quartet, Leftover Salmon, Alison Brown, Tony Trischka, Darol Anger, and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. He has also recorded two Compass Records CDs and toured as part of Phillips, Grier and Flinner with bassist Todd Phillips and guitarist David Grier. His two solo CDs (also on Compass), “The View from Here” and “Latitude,” are now widely considered classics in the new acoustic/modern bluegrass style.
His current group, the Matt Flinner Trio has been forging new pathways for the standard bluegrass trio since its inception in 2002. Flinner, along with guitarist Ross Martin and bassist Eric Thorin, cover a wide variety of musical styles—all with the common ground of American roots as well as originality. Bluegrass, jazz and Celtic music are all present here, but not necessarily overtly or in a contrived sense. Call it Americana Music, or New Acoustic or Chamber Grass, or just call it Great Music; whatever label you put on it, it is guaranteed to be fresh and original, and definitely something you’ve never quite heard before.
The trio began doing “Music du Jour” tours in 2006, in which each member of the group writes a new composition the day of the show, and all three new pieces are performed on that evening’s concert. After several of these tours the trio recorded its first CD, Music du Jour, on Compass Records in 2009. They have now performed over 75 “du Jour” shows and continue to explore new frontiers and new sounds in acoustic string band music. Their second CD, “Winter Harvest,” was released on Compass Records on Jan. 31, 2012.
The Matt Flinner Trio returns to Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass with a main stage set on Saturday, June 8, at 2:30 p.m.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part with funding from Colorado Creative Industries.
FolkWest’s other big event, the Four Corners Folk Festival, takes place Aug. 30-Sept. 1. This year’s exciting lineup includes headliners John Hiatt and the Combo and Natalie MacMaster along with The Wood Brothers, Darrell Scott Band, Jimmy LaFave, John Fullbright, Elephant Revival, the Lone Bellow, Sarah Siskind and Travis Book, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Baskery, New Country Rehab, Aoife O’Donovan Band, Slaid Cleaves, The Giving Tree Band, and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams. Tickets are currently on sale on the FolkWest website.
For more information on either festival, or to purchase tickets, visit www.folkwest.com or call 731-5582. You can also find both festivals on Facebook, which is a great way to keep up to date on the latest announcements.