Suwanee Springfest (concert review)

(originally published at jambands.com)

Suwannee Springfest, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, FL- 3/20-23

For its 18th edition, Springfest, the annual cornucopia of Americana, bluegrass and roots music in woodsy, moss-fest

ooned Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, seemed to attract a larger group of younger listeners than in previous years. At least, that’s what it felt like when festival favorites the Avett Brothers – who impressed Live Oak crowds long before Scott and Seth ascended to arena tours – packed the Amphitheater for two hours’ worth of stomping acoustic-electric music that had fans pushing to the front and singing along with every word of every song.

The North Carolina-born siblings and their four bandmates again demonstrated infectious high-energy joie de vivre, showcasing some material from the last two years’ “Magpie and the Dandelion” and “The Carpenter” releases. They also turned in stirring versions of the title track from “I and Love and You” and that 2009 album’s “Kick Drum Heart” and “Laundry Room,” as well as a moving “Amazing Grace.” There were also rowdy covers of Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time,” John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and traditional mountain song “Old Joe Clark” – the last two with a little help from Sam Bush, on fiddle.

The old guard and the younger crowd, though, on stage and off, handily mixed and matched in nearly 70 performances spread across four stages, with some acts playing twice. The Punch Brothers, whose leader, singer and mandolin wizard Chris Thile, has played the fest with Nickel Creek, turned in another of the weekend’s most impressive performances. The quintet excelled with airtight multipart harmonies, imaginative arrangements and locked-in acoustic synchronicity on “This Girl,” “New York City,” Seldom Scene favorite “Through the Bottom of the Glass,” a Debussy piece and, on the encore, a stunning, extended a cappella version of Dominic Behan’s “The Auld Triangle.”

This year’s Springfest was rangier than in the past, with a program encompassing the top-shelf bluegrass of Steep Canyon Rangers; the stomping country rock of Willie Sugarcapps, featuring singers-songwriters-instrumentalists Will Kimbrough and Grayson Capps; the laidback grooves of fest favorites Donna the Buffalo; the jaw-dropping mandolin work of Sam Bush, and his covers of Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, and Little Feat; and the songwriting brilliance and rugged twang-edged roots rock of Jason Isbell. Isbell’s bracing set included “Decoration Day,” “Traveling Alone,” “Stockholm,” and “Cover Me Up,” and shut down with a slamming “Super 8.”

Also making strong impressions were Tallahassee family group The New ‘76ers, featuring the Southern-fried soulful singing of Kelly Goddard; Asheville, N.C. newfangled string band Town Mountain, which dipped into jamgrass; Greensboro, N.C.’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival, its brass-edged rock ‘n’ roll played by young musicians perpetually in motion; prolific singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale; and Beartoe, with the Central Florida group’s three female backup singers echoing and engaging in call-and-response with front man Beartoe Aguilar on swampy blues and gospel-tinted rave-ups.

Bonnaroo’s Killer Lineup: Phish, Wilco, David Byrne, King Sunny Ade, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Gov’t Mule

Some of the country’s big ‘n’ eclectic rock/jam festivals, like Langerado in South Florida, are calling it quits this year. Or, at least, taking a break until 2010.

Bonnaroo, though, is standing strong, with a recently announced lineup that includes a huge gift to fans of a certain highly revered jamband.

Yep, Phish, reuniting in March to play three dates in Virginia, is headed to Bonnaroo, June 11-14 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Trey and Co., slated to play two shows – count ’em – at the music-and-camping fest, are at the top of the bill, along with a long list of acts boasting serious music muscle.

The lineup includes Wilco, David Byrne, Wilco, the Rev. Al Green, Elvis Costello (solo), and the seriously over-exposed Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. More: Gov’t Mule, Erykah Badu, TV on the Radio, Band of Horses, Ben Harper, Merle Haggard, moe, Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate, Galactic, Booker T & the Drive-by Truckers, David Grisman, Lucinda Williams, Gomez, Femi Kuti, Alejandro Escovedo, Cherryholmes, the Steeldrivers, and – yes – Nigerian juju star King Sunny Ade. More TBA.

By any measure, it’s a killer bill.

Suwannee Springfest: Lineup Announced

Suwannee Springfest regulars Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, Guy Clark, and the Duhks are headed back to Live Oak next year to play the 13th annual edition of the festival.

Also on the bill for the Americana-oriented festival, which always presents a high-caliber mix of country, altcountry, bluegrass, folk, roots rock  and related rootsy styles: the Emmitt/Nershi Band, Darol Anger & Mike Marshall, Darrell Scott, The Gourds, The Travelin’ McCourys, The Lee Boys, Josh Pinkham, Amy LaVere, Amanda Shaw, Roy Book Binder, Shannon Whitworth, and the Dedringers.

The 09 fest, March 26-29 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, will include performances by more than 40 artists on four stages, said fest head honcho Randy Judy.

Discounted tickets are on sale now. For all the details, go to the fest site.

Grammy Noms (2): Blind Boys of Alabama and other picks worth recommending

Blind Boys of Alabama

Blind Boys of Alabama

It’s almost too easy to beat up on the Grammy Awards.

And they deserve the slaps, too, given the cluelessness, historically, suggested by some of the picks: Milli Vanilli? Jethro Tull in the “metal” category? Christopher Cross? The Jonas Brothers?

It’s worth mentioning, too, that if there are going to be categories for best tropical Latin album, best regional Mexican album, best tejano album, best banda album, best Hawaiian album, best Native American album, best surround sound album, and other obscure areas, then FOR PETE’s SAKE it might be time to have categories for  New Orleans/Louisiana artists, jambands, and altcountry artists, and give Americana its own category (separate from folk).

On the other hand, the Grammys sometimes do provide much-needed attention to deserving artists.

Herewith, a few of the Grammy nominations for releases by worthy musicians and bands that you might not have heard about:

  • Best bluegrass album – Cherryholmes, Cherryholmes III: Don’t Believe; Del McCoury Band, Live at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
  • Best new age album (?) – Jack DeJohnette, Peace Time
  • Best traditional gospel album – The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans – check out my review
  • Best traditional blues album – Buddy Guy, Skin Deep; B.B. King, One Kind Favor; Elvin Bishop, The Blues Rolls On
  • Best contemporary blues album – Marcia Ball, Peace, Love & Barbecue; Solomon Burke, Like a Fire; Dr. John and the Lower 911, City That Care Forgot (good playing and funky grooves, but not one of his finest); Taj Mahal, Maestro; Irma Thomas, Simply Grand.
  • Best contemporary folk/Americana album – Ry Cooder, I, Flathead; Rodney Crowell, Sex & Gasoline; Emmylou Harris, All I Intended To Be; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
  • Best zydeco or cajun music album – releases by Michael Doucet, Pine Leaf Boys, BeauSoleil, and Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
  • Best reggae album – Burning Spear, Jah is Real; Lee Scratch Perry, Repentance; Sly & Robbie, Amazing
  • Best traditional world music album – Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu
  • Best contemporary world music album – releases by Gilberto Gil; Youssou N’Dour; and Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo

Grammy Noms: Good Love for Radiohead; Plant/Krauss; and jazz noms

Yes, some encouraging news came out of Wednesday night’s hourlong Grammy nominations shindig on television.

I mean, aside from the fact that two of the year’s most impressive releases — Radiohead’s superb In Rainbows, and Raising Sand, the intriguing Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration — were actually nominated for Album of the Year honors (along with a pretty good Coldplay CD and hyped releases by New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne and R&B artist Ne-Yo).

Krauss and Plant also picked up a Record of the Year nom, for “Please Read the Letter,” and three other noms. Radiohead nabbed five noms, too.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there’s a possibility that presentations of jazz and classical awards, typically given short shrift during the Grammy show, will be recorded, packaged with performances and offered to public television and cable outlets.

About time.

Quite a few first-rate musicians were nominated in the jazz categories. The “contemporary jazz” category, thankfully, includes several artists – Randy Brecker and John McLaughlin, in particular – whose music has little in common with the bland wallpaper sounds associated with “contemporary jazz” radio.

Here’s the jazz list, courtesy of Grammy.com:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

  • Randy In Brasil
    Randy Brecker
    [MAMA Records]
  • Floating Point
    John McLaughlin
    [Abstract Logix]
  • Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley
    (Various Artists)
    Gregg Field & Tom Scott, producers
    [Concord Jazz]
  • Miles From India
    (Various Artists)
    Bob Belden, producer
    [4Q/Times Square Records]
  • Lifecycle
    Yellowjackets Featuring Mike Stern
    [Heads Up International]

Best Jazz Vocal Album

·
Imagina: Songs Of Brasil
Karrin Allyson
[Concord Jazz]

  • Breakfast On The Morning Tram
    Stacey Kent
    [Blue Note]
  • If Less Is More…Nothing Is Everything
    Kate McGarry
    [Palmetto Records]
  • Loverly
    Cassandra Wilson
    [Blue Note]
  • Distances
    Norma Winstone (Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing)
    [ECM]

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

· Be-Bop
Terence Blanchard, soloist
Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
[Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

  • Seven Steps To Heaven
    Till Brönner, soloist
    Track from: The Standard (Take 6)
    [Heads Up International]
  • Waltz For Debby
    Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
    Track from: The New Crystal Silence
    [Concord Records]
  • Son Of Thirteen
    Pat Metheny, soloist
    Track from: Day Trip
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Be-Bop
    James Moody, soloist
    Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
    [Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

  • The New Crystal Silence
    Chick Corea & Gary Burton
    [Concord Records]
  • History, Mystery
    Bill Frisell
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
    Brad Mehldau Trio
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Day Trip
    Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Standards
    Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio
    [Fuzzy Music]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Appearing Nightly
    Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band
    [WATT]
  • Act Your Age
    Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
    [Immergent]
  • Symphonica
    Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra
    [Blue Note]
  • Blauklang
    Vince Mendoza
    [Act Music and Vision (AMV)]
  • Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard
    The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
    [Planet Arts Recordings]

Best Latin Jazz Album

  • Afro Bop Alliance
    Caribbean Jazz Project
    [Heads Up International]
  • The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter
    Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band
    [Half Note Records]
  • Song For Chico
    Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
    [Zoho]
  • Nouveau Latino
    Nestor Torres
    [Diamond Light Records]
  • Marooned/Aislado
    Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates
    [Picaro Records]