Four CornersFolk Festival lineup to include Front Country, Sam Reider and The Human Hands

By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 23rd annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place at the end of this month on Reservoir Hill Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
This year’s world-class musical lineup includes The Dawg Trio (featuring David Grisman, Danny Barnes and Samson Grisman), Nahko And Medicine For The People, Sam Bush, Amy Helm, We Banjo 3, The Accidentals, Darling West, Jon Stickley Trio, The Jacob Jolliff Band, The Western Flyers, Bonnie and the Clydes, Tallgrass, Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton, and this week’s featured performers: Front Country, and Sam Reider and The Human Hands.

Photo courtesy FolkWest
Front Country will play the main stage of the 23rd annual Four Corners Folk Festival on Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m., with an earlier set on the late night stage Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.

Front Country
An acoustic band born in the land of tech innovation, Front Country was unlikely to be accepted as an authentic American roots band out of the gate. Cutting their teeth in progressive bluegrass jams in San Francisco’s Mission District and rehearsing across the bay in Oakland, they fashioned their own take on roots music with the tools they had on hand: A mandolinist with a degree in composition and classical guitar. A guitarist-trained in rock and world music. A bassist equally versed in jazz and bluegrass. A violinist with technique that could seamlessly hop between honky tonk and electropop. And a female lead singer with grit and soul who was also a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter.
In a wood-paneled country dive bar in the shadow of the San Francisco skyline, Front Country forged a sound hell-bent on merging the musical past with the future. The result lies somewhere between Americana and bluegrass, in a nether-region they’ve come to embrace as their own.
This West Coast outfit was just a group of friends playing a monthly gig until 2012 and 2013 when Front Country gathered around a single microphone at the RockyGrass and Telluride festivals, and won first prize in those prestigious band contests that once launched the careers of the Dixie Chicks, Greensky Bluegrass and the Steep Canyon Rangers. The contest wins bolstered their confidence in their unique mix of original songwriting, vocal harmonies and instrumental virtuosity, steeling their resolve to take a leap of faith and become a full time touring band.
With the release of their debut full-length album, “Sake of the Sound,” in 2014, Front Country began the nose-grinding work of making their name as a national touring act. Still based in the San Francisco Bay area, they would trek the 6,000-plus-mile circle around the U.S. for months at a time, introducing themselves for the first time to every room that would have them. Thanks to the glow of their contest wins, festivals around the U.S. caught wind and invited them to play for their large audiences, giving Front Country a crucial first break.
Old Settlers in Austin, MerleFest in North Carolina, Wintergrass in Seattle, Strawberry in California and Grey Fox in New York all took a chance on the promising new band and solidified Front Country’s hold on the imagination of progressive-leaning acoustic music fans.
Front Country’s sophomore release, “Other Love Songs,” is their roots pop opus, a graduation from mere concept to a high-speed rail line traveling at breakneck speed with the listener able to walk to the back of the train and look out at a distant but constant glimmer of the past.
While their ultimate goal is musical space exploration, the technology of Front Country’s sound has evolved significantly in their five short years as a band, all while maintaining a tool kit of wooden string band instruments. Like a carpenter building a rocket ship, there is a whimsy to Front Country’s perspective that takes an active, imaginative listener to appreciate. It’s not a sound based on current trends of what any mainstream audience has asked for, it is a new perspective looking to find a new audience. Creating one’s own audience from the ground up is never an easy path, but, if successful, several decades later, the reward is worth the risk and the journey is its own reward.
“Other Love Songs” is Front Country’s first record relying on lead singer Melody Walker’s songwriting first and foremost. With eight of the 12 tracks penned by Walker and the two instrumentals composed by mandolinist Adam Roszkiewicz, it is their most original body of work yet. Round out the intensely creative band arrangement style of guitarist Jacob Groopman, bassist Jeremy Darrow and five-string violinist Leif Karlstrom, and the synergy is electric. The two cover songs on the album are the poignant “Millionaire” by David Olney and a swampy blues-rock reimagining of the Carter Family’s “Storms are on the Ocean.” Altogether, the majority of the songs are quite emotional in nature and tend toward relationship themes, sometimes with a twist, hence the title “Other Love Songs.”
Since music and love are borne of the same ether, it’s no surprise that Front Country’s musical path has taken the form of an “Other Love Songs” all along, finding their own harmony that plays to the strengths of each member and doesn’t worry about fitting into a mold.
Front Country will play the Four Corners main stage on Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m., with an earlier set on the late night stage Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.

Photo courtesy FolkWest
Sam Reider and The Human Hands will take the stage of the 23rd annual Four Corners Folk Festival on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.

Sam Reider and The
Human Hands
Jazz pianist turned roots musician Sam Reider is redefining American music on the accordion.
He’s been featured at the Lincoln Center and on NPR, and performed alongside pop stars, jazz and folk musicians around the world ranging from Jon Batiste and Stay Human, to viral YouTube sensation CDZA and T-Pain, Bluegrass mandolin prodigy Sierra Hull to Venezuelan cuatro virtuoso Jorge Glem.
Reider’s debut record, “Too Hot To Sleep,” presents his unique compositional voice alongside an ensemble of top-drawer musical collaborators and compadres called The Human Hands.
Reider grew up in San Francisco, the son of a musical theater composer and klezmer musician. He began performing at a young age and was interviewed on Marian McPartland’s “Piano Jazz” on NPR when he graduated high school. At Columbia University, he fell in love with American folk music. While writing his senior thesis comparing the songwriting of Woody Guthrie and Ira Gershwin, Sam began studying bluegrass and old-time music, transcribing the fiddle melodies for the accordion and learning to sing the songs.
This set him off on a journey that has taken him from back porches and dive bars to concert halls and major festivals in practically every state in the country. Representing the U.S. Department of State as a musical ambassador, Sam has traveled to China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Turkey and Azerbaijan, carrying his accordion on his back everywhere he goes and collaborating at every opportunity with international artists.
Now he’s surrounded himself with a crew of some of the most in-demand young acoustic musicians on the scene. The Human Hands are a collective of virtuoso jazz and bluegrass musicians based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Along with Reider, they include violinist Alex Hargreaves (Turtle Island Quartet, Sarah Jarosz, Béla Fleck), saxophonist Eddie Barbash (Late Night with Stephen Colbert, Jon Batiste and Stay Human), guitarist Grant Gordy (David Grisman, Darol Anger, Aoife O’Donovan), mandolinist Dominick Leslie (Michael Daves, Tony Trischka, The Deadly Gentlemen), guitarist Roy Williams (Stephane Wrembel) and bassist Dave Speranza (Jim Campilongo). The ensemble has developed a cultish following and a reputation for mind-bending sets of high-energy, improvised music.
Sam Reider and The Human Hands will take the stage on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.
More information
The Four Corners Folk Festival is a family-friendly event, with free admission for children 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) and lots of free activities and entertainment at the Kids Tent offered throughout the festival.
The festival takes place rain or shine, and a central feature is the 10,000-square-foot tent with general admission seating for 1,300 people, available on a first-come basis. The meadow and trees outside the tent provide ample room for tarps, blankets and low festival chairs.
Additional information about tickets, performers and schedules can be found online at www.folkwest.com. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 731-5582. There is information available on the website about volunteering for a festival ticket (ages 17 and up); volunteer shifts are filling quickly.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is supported in part by a matching Colorado Creates grant from Colorado Creative Industries. Bio information provided by Front Country and Sam Reider.

This story was posted on August 7, 2018.