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Steep Ravine, Sunliner and Beth Wood to hit Folk Fest stage

By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW

The 19th annual Four Corners Folk Festival will take place Aug. 29-31 on Reservoir Hill in downtown Pagosa Springs.

This year’s lineup includes 16 stellar folk, bluegrass, newgrass and indie folk bands from all over the U.S. and Prince Edward Island, Canada. Headliners are Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, and Elephant Revival. Other performers throughout the weekend include Sarah Jarosz, The Oh Hellos, Baskery, Caravan of Thieves, Paper Bird, Heather Maloney/Darlingside, the Shook Twins, Marley’s Ghost, Haas Kowert Tice, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys and this week’s featured artists — Steep Ravine, Sunliner and Beth Wood.

Steep Ravine hails from the San Francisco Bay area. The band’s unique sound — equal parts poetic lyricism and string-playing ingenuity — bends folk and bluegrass in compelling new directions. “Trampin’ On,” the quartet’s debut album of originals, is an ode to Steep Ravine’s musical prowess, blending melodic verse, tight harmonies and rich instrumentals, and showcases the diverse musical backgrounds of the band mates, which also encompass classical, jazz and funk.

Simon Linsteadt (guitar, lead vocals) and Jan Purat (violin, vocals) began playing music together back in high school, later moving on to study music at UC Santa Cruz, where they fortuitously met Andy O’Brien (mandolin, vocals) and Alex Bice (bass, vocals). The chemistry and enthusiasm of the youthful quartet was immediate. Their riveting live performances catch audiences by surprise with the sheer acoustic power of their collaborative sound — a mix of soulful tunes and fiery instrumentals.

After the fall 2013 release of the album, Steep Ravine embarked on its first national tour, with shows in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New Orleans, St. Louis, Denver, Seattle, Portland and many points in between.

In its first month of national release, the album made it onto the Radio DJ Folk Music Chart of Top Albums and Songs for January 2014, and has garnered reviews in Bluegrass Today, FolkWords and Prescription Bluegrass.

In addition to a packed schedule of shows around the San Francisco Bay area and beyond, the band has made appearances at such music festivals as Outside Lands and the Northwest String Summit.

During the summer of 2014, Steep Ravine has hit the road again with a busy roster of music festivals around the country, including the High Sierra Music Festival, Redwood Ramble and Parkfield Bluegrass Festival in California; Pickamania in New Mexico; Seattle Folklife Festival in Washington; the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival in British Columbia; and, of course, the Four Corners Folk Festival, where they will play the main stage on Friday, Aug. 29.

Sunliner is a roots rock band that fuses the artistry of Travis Book and Sarah Siskind. Featuring the songs of Siskind — one of the world’s most celebrated young songwriters — stories of heartbreak, self discovery, love and life are sung by Book and Siskind. The sound is unique, encompassing rock, folk, country, jazz fusion and blues, but the music remains firmly rooted in the Virginia soil where they now make their home.

Originally from North Carolina, Siskind is an NPR favorite with a distinct style that’s taken her on the road with Bonnie Raitt, Swell Season, Bon Iver, Paul Brady and more. Dozens of artists have covered her songs, including the Grammy-nominated “Simple Love,” recorded by Alison Krauss and the indie favorite “Lovin’s for Fools,” performed by Bon Iver. Her songs have been heard on ABC’s hit show “Nashville,” as well as MTV’s “Teen Mom 2” and ABC’s “Pretty Little Liars.” At SXSW 2013, Time Magazine called her “one of the five best voices” in today’s music scene.

Originally from Colorado, Book is a lead singer and bass player for the Grammy-nominated, modern acoustic phenomenon, The Infamous Stringdusters. Thick bass grooves, warm vocals and his trademark smile define his style, but he’s not just a bass player. In January 2014, he demonstrated his musical versatility when he released a solo guitar-vocal tribute to his mentor Benny Galloway called “Alice.”

Both musicians are recognized as among the best in their field, but they’ve never worked on a project quite like Sunliner, song-driven roots rock from the mountains of Virginia.

Sunliner will play the festival’s main stage on Saturday, Aug. 30.

Beth Wood is a modern-day troubadour and believer in the power of song. Her exceptional musicianship, crafty songwriting and commanding stage presence have been winning over American audiences for 16 years. Wood’s music is a soulful, organic, intelligent, barefoot, high-energy communication of joy.

Picture a homebody with an ever-present wanderlust, an introvert with a passion for performing, a creative free spirit with enough discipline to rework her dream year after year, calloused little hands and a big pile of curly hair — you’ve got Beth Wood.

Beth Wood began her musical journey in Lubbock, a high plains Texas town with a uniquely rich musical heritage that includes Buddy Holly, Natalie and Lloyd Maines, Mac Davis and Joe Ely, to name a few. When she wasn’t dodging tornadoes and dust storms, Beth was studying classical piano, violin, harp and voice, and contemplating the greatness of her dad’s record collection.

With big dreams of becoming a musician, Beth left west Texas to study voice and piano at Brevard College in North Carolina. A detour from her classical studies led her to Austin, where she picked up a degree in literature and a guitar. Beth began writing her own songs and quickly discovered a feeling of musical freedom that she has been hooked on ever since. Sixteen years, thousands of shows, nine albums, three cars and numerous awards later, Beth has never looked back.

“The Weather Inside,” Beth’s eighth studio release, is a case study in contrast. A coming-of-age statement record from a veteran artist, Beth’s latest work embraces strength and tenderness, the polished and the well-worn, the broken and the hopeful heart. Produced by Billy Crockett at Blue Rock Studio in Wimberley, Texas, “The Weather Inside” delves deep into Beth’s creative reserves and delivers a strong collection of songs and performances to remember.

Beth has been featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Artbeat and on Troubadour, Texas — a nationally syndicated documentary-style singer-songwriter reality television series. Beth has also been a three-time featured artist on Cayamo: A Journey Through Song, a week-long Caribbean songwriters’ cruise along with Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, John Prine, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson and many more.

In May 2013, Beth launched her Song of the Month Club, an innovative way to engage fans and offer a steady stream of new work recorded in her adopted home town of Eugene, Ore., with rising star producer and singer-songwriter Tyler Fortier producing. Beth has immersed herself in the northwest music scene, including working on staff with the Sisters Folk Festival and Americana Song Academy for three years as an instructor and host of the Sunday Community Celebration.

Beth will open performances on the main stage on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Tickets and information about the upcoming Four Corners Folk Festival can be found online at www.folkwest.com or by phone at (877) 472-4672.

Bio information courtesy of Steep Ravine, Sunliner and Beth Wood.

This story was posted on July 17, 2014.