Grammy Award winner, festival favorites to appear at Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass

By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW

The 12th annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival is a mere two weeks away, taking place June 9-11 on Reservoir Hill right here in Pagosa Springs.

Another terrific musical lineup is in store for 2017 including The O’Connor Band (2017 Grammy Award winners for Best Bluegrass Album), The Dustbowl Revival, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, Molly Tuttle, Western Centuries, Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers, The Barefoot Movement, the Luke Bulla Trio, The Last Revel, The Stash! Band, The Heartstring Hunters, Moors and McCumber and this week’s featured artists, the legendary Loudon Wainwright III and returning festival favorites The Lil’ Smokies.

Photo courtesy FolkWest
Loudon Wainwright III, known for both music and acting, will close the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival with a 6 p.m. set on June 11.

Loudon Wainwright III

Wainwright is well into the fourth decade of a career decorated with accolades and start-studded collaborations. He picked up a Grammy Award in 2010 for the Best Traditional Folk Album for “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.” Prior to that, he’d had two Grammy nominations for “I’m Alright” (1985) and “More Love Songs” (1986).

In 2009, Ken Tucker (NPR’s Fresh Air and Entertainment Weekly magazine) named “High Wide and Handsome” Best Album of 2009. It was also listed among the year’s best releases by Village Voice, No Depression, FolkWax and fRoots.

Wainwright stands out among the densely populated field of singer-songwriters as “the most candid diarist who brought confessional poetry into popular song,” according to Stephen Holden of The New York Times. Holden goes on to say, “Mr. Wainwright wrings more human truth out of his contradiction than any other songwriter of his generation.”

Perhaps it is that bare essence of humanity that make Wainwright’s songs so appealing. They’ve been covered by an array of talented musicians including Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Mose Allison, Big Star, Freakwater, Norma Waterson, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright, among others.

But he’s not only an award-winning, acclaimed musician. Wainwright’s film acting credits over the years include Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” (for which he also recorded the soundtrack) and “The 40 Year Old Virgin”; Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration”; Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown”; Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator”; Tim Burton’s “Big Fish”; “28 Days” alongside Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen and Steve Buscemi; “Jackknife” alongside Robert De Niro and Ed Harris; and Neil Simon’s “The Slugger’s Wife.”

And, if his face seems familiar, it is surely due to Wainwright’s numerous television acting credits including “Parks and Recreation”; “Undeclared”; “Grounded for Life”; “Ally McBeal”; “The T.V. Show,” where he played keyboard with the early Spinal Tap; a recurring role on “M*A*S*H”; and a role as the original musician/sidekick on The David Letterman Show.

Wainwright will close the festival with a headline set at 6 p.m. on June 11.

Photo courtesy FolkWest
The Lil’ Smokies, a returning festival favorite, will take to the main stage of the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival twice: at 8:30 p.m. on June 9 and at 5:30 p.m. on June 10.

The Lil’ Smokies

With their roots submerged in the thick buttery mud of traditional bluegrass, The Lil’ Smokies have sonically blossomed into a leading player in the progressive acoustic sphere, creating a new and wholly unique, melody-driven sound of their own.

The quintet, from Missoula, Mont., has been hard at work, writing, touring and playing to an ever-growing fan base for the past six years. The fruits of their labor recently culminated with wins at the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Award for Best Band and at the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass festival band competition. In 2013, the band also won The Northwest String Summit Band Competition.

With a unique blend of traditional bluegrass, newgrass, innumerable unique originals, sheer raw energy and exquisite musicianship, The Lil’ Smokies weave seamlessly through genres, leaving behind melodies you’ll be singing to yourself for days and a jaw you’ll have to pick up off the floor.

The Lil’ Smokies have no problem captivating large audiences, frequently sharing the stage with heavyweights like Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Keller Williams, Greensky Bluegrass, The Emmit-Nershi Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Travellin’ McCourys, Sam Bush Band, Fruition, Infamous Stringdusters, Bradford Lee Folk and The Bluegrass Playboys, and dozens of others.

The Lil’ Smokies will play twice on the main stage: June 9 at 8:30 p.m. and June 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Volunteers needed

We’re still looking for a few more volunteers; working two four-hour shifts earns you free three-day admission. Volunteering at a FolkWest event is great fun and it’s a fantastic way to meet people from Pagosa Springs and beyond. More info can be found at www.folkwest.com/pfb-volunteer.

Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part with funding from Colorado Creative Industries. Tickets and information about the festival can be found online at www.folkwest.com or by calling (877) 472-4672.

This story was posted on May 30, 2017.