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It’s finally here. Tomorrow, Reservoir Hill will come alive with the sound of music — folk, bluegrass, indie and newgrass music, that is.
The 19th annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place this weekend, Aug. 29-31, and will feature performances from Sarah Jarosz, The Oh Hellos, Baskery, Caravan of Thieves, Sunliner, Paper Bird, Heather Maloney/Darlingside, Shook Twins, Marley’s Ghost, Beth Wood, Steep Ravine, Haas Kowert Tice, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys and festival headliners: Elephant Revival, the Sam Bush Band, and Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott.
Music unites us in ways that no other medium can. Even when we don’t understand one another’s languages — we can be moved by a rhythm, soothed by a song. Brought together by a unified sense of purpose — the spirit of five souls work as one, in harmony, creating sounds they could never produce alone.
The five souls in Elephant Revival are Sage Cook (banjo, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, bass and fiddle); Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle); Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox); Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo, bass); and Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo). All share vocals and write songs. Paine delivers additional beats via footstomps on plywood, her stockinged feet doing near jigs as her hands, encased in antique leather gloves, rub silver nickel against corrugated metal.
This Nederland, Colo., quintet are, needless to say, quite a sight — especially when they fall into the pocket of a groove containing elements of gypsy, rock, Celtic, alt-country and folk.
The Indie Acoustic Project simply labels their sound “progressive edge.” At least, that’s the category in which it placed the band when it gave their Ruff Shod/Nettwerk Records release “Break in the Clouds” a best CD of 2011 award. It’s as good a label as any to convey what Rose has described as their mission: “To close the gap of separation between us through the eternal revelry of song and dance.”
Elephant Revival also shares a commitment to responsible stewardship of the planet and its inhabitants, working with organizations such as the Conscious Alliance, Calling All Crows, Trees Water and People and other nonprofits supporting humanitarian causes. Their very name was chosen out of empathy for a pair of zoo pachyderms who, upon being separated after 16 years, died on the same day. The band related that heart-rending story during their April 2012 debut on fellow Coloradoan Nick Forster’s internationally syndicated eTown radio show — like Elephant Revival, a blend of music and social consciousness.
Sitting in the audience during their performance, one music blogger was moved to write, “Elephant Revival serenaded the crowd with arabesque melodies, harmonies and rhythms that braided and coiled into a sublime aural tapestry. Their instrumental dynamics, verse, and even the harrowing story that inspired their appellation, invoked the majesty, mystery and sorrow of Mother Earth.”
It’s a paradigm worth spreading, and that’s what Elephant Revival members intend to continue doing as they carry their music around the world, speaking one song at a time.
Elephant Revival will finish out Friday’s main stage performances with a 7 p.m. show.
Sam Bush Band
Alternately known as the King of Telluride and the King of Newgrass, Grammy award-winning multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush has been honored by the Americana Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. But honors are not what drive him. “I didn’t get into music to win awards,” he says. “I’m just now starting to get somewhere. I love to play and the older I get, the more I love it. And I love new things.”
Among those new things are the growing group of mandolin players that identify Bush as their musical role model in much the same way he idolized Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns.
Bush has helped to expand the horizons of bluegrass music, fusing it with jazz, rock, blues, funk and other styles. He’s the co-founder of the genre-bending New Grass Revival and an in-demand musician who has played with everyone from Emmylou Harris and Bela Fleck to Charlie Haden, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks.
And though Bush is best known for jaw-dropping skills on the mandolin, he is also a three-time national junior fiddle champion and Grammy award-winning vocalist.
But his greatest contribution may be his impact on the future.
“Chris Thile, Wayne Benson, Shawn Lane, Matt Flinner, Ronnie McCoury, Mike Marshall — they play in ways that I can’t play,” he says of today’s younger generation of mandolin players. “I’m hoping to be around for the next generation that comes along after that group. That’s going to be something. The music keeps evolving.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Bush says of his influence on today’s crop of mandolin players. “I’m proud to be part of a natural progression in music. And I hope to still be playing 30 years from now.”
“As long as I’m alive I hope I have the ability to play,” says Bush, a two-time cancer treatment survivor. “When the ability to play is taken away, it’s humbling. It teaches you a lesson: don’t take it for granted.”
“Circles Around Me,” Bush’s seventh solo album and sixth with Sugar Hill, is an aurally inspiring mix of bluegrass favorites and complementary new songs. Produced by Bush, the 14-song set includes appearances by Del McCoury, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas and New Grass Revival co-founder Courtney Johnson (posthumously). The album also employs the phenomenal talent of Bush’s band: Scott Vestal, Stephen Mougin, Todd Parks and Chris Brown.
“I get to play every show with my favorite musicians and I feel real fortunate,” Bush says of his band. “I love playing with them. I feel like this group is limitless and they proved it again on this record.”
Sam Bush will return to the festival for a Saturday night headliner spot starting at 8:30 p.m. on the main stage.
O’Brien and Scott
“Memories and Moments” is the second studio album from highly regarded writer/singer/multi-instrumentalists Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, released on their newly formed Full Skies imprint, a compound of O’Brien’s Howdy Skies and Scott’s Full Light labels. Comprising five songs apiece from O’Brien and Scott, plus one memorable collaboration in their timely “Turn Your Dirty Lights On,” and a spirited rendition of the John Prine classic “Paradise,” with its author guesting on guitar and vocals, “Memories and Moments” is a face-to-face record by design.
Back in 2000, the two kindred spirits had joined forces to record the deep and scintillating “Real Time,” which was widely acclaimed on release and has since become recognized as a towering achievement in Americana annals. Following that album, O’Brien and Scott became an in-demand touring act, hitting the road together whenever their schedules allowed. Over the ensuing years, each has been asked incessantly when their paths would next cross. Indeed, the prospect of a Real Time Redux has come to take on an almost mythic significance in roots-music circles — the down-home equivalent of a Led Zeppelin reunion.
Meanwhile, the two multitaskers have conducted their parallel careers as solo artists and sidemen, cutting similarly wide swaths across the roots-music landscape. They’ve continued to release solo albums while leading their own bands and lending their talents to world-class musical aggregations — notably including O’Brien’s stint in Mark Knopfler’s touring unit and Scott’s foray with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy — as well as having their songs covered by the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Dierks Bentley, Kathy Mattea, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Trace Adkins and Tim McGraw. Along the way, Scott received a pair of Grammy nominations, and his composition “Hank Williams’ Ghost” was honored as the 2007 Americana Song of the Year, while O’Brien’s Fiddler’s Green won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2005.
Clearly, they didn’t need to reunite, but through the years each remained acutely aware of the chemical reaction that inevitably took place when their musical paths happened to cross.
For all those who made “Real Time” an enduring part of their lives, and who hoped that these two rarefied artists would one day conjure up the magic they’d made together, the long-awaited “Memories and Moments” will not disappoint — and that’s an understatement.
We are honored to have Tim and Darrell officially close the festival with a 7:30 p.m. set on Sunday, Aug. 31.
Learn more about the Four Corners Folk Festival — including schedule, in-depth lineup, performance and ticket information — online at www.folkwest.com. Tickets are available by phone at 731-5582.
Performer bio information provided by Elephant Revival, Sam Bush, and Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott.