Suwannee Springfest This Weekend; & a Look Back at Magfest ’09

Headed to Suwannee Springfest in Live Oak this weekend, to hear another great four days’ worth of Americana, folk, bluegrass, country and more?

I can’t make it this time, but I wish I were going. The Lineup is great for the fest, which runs this Thursday through Sunday. And the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was added to the mix after the initial announcement.

Here’s who else is playing: Leftover Salmon, Robert Earl Keen, Jonathan Edwards, Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan, Ruthie Foster, Jim Lauderdale, Verlon Thompson, Joe Craven, Roy Book Binder, 18 South, Scythian, Tornado Rider, Turtle Dukhs, the SteelDrivers, Bryn Davies, Belleville Outfit, Jessica Havey, Dread Clampitt, Mosier Brothers with David Blackmon, Tammerlin, Gatorbone Trio, Quarter Moon, Willie Mae, Doug Spears, Grant Peeples & the New 76ers, Sloppy Joe, Lyndsay Pruett, Matt Grondin, Tom Nelly, Sue Cunningham, and Suwannee Muzik Mafia.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of a rewind, a look back at last year’s edition of sister festival Magfest. Below is a review that was intended for print publication, but fell victim to some sort of communication breakdown:


Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park

Live, Oak, Florida

Oct. 22-25

Annually drawing devotees from all over the Southeast, MagnoliaFest succeeds in part because the festival gives listeners the annual shot of creatively programmed Americana, folk, bluegrass, altcountry, and jam-oriented rock that they want, along with a surprise or two.

In the latter category for MagFest’s  13th anniversary edition were acts ranging from the sublime – a 10-man mash-up of sacred steel, bluegrass and R&B when The Lee Boys collaborated with The Travelin’ McCourys for an explosive set ranging from Bill Monroe to gospel standard “Down By the Riverside”; beautifully  furbished Beatles covers from Rubber Souldiers, featuring Chris and Lorin Rowan, and David Gans – to the faintly ridiculous, as in Tornado Rider, a pop punk trio led by a hyperactive, shirtless singer playing an effects-driven cello.

Expected but still adored was Donna the Buffalo, whose infectious blend of American styles was demonstrated to great effect on each of the event’s four days.  The hand-in-glove vocal harmonies of fiddler Tara Nevins and guitarist Jeb Puryear on such Donna favorites as “Way Back When” and “Living in Babylon,” on Thursday, were augmented Friday by guest singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale on music including Lauderdale’s bluesy “Slow Motion Trouble” and rambling “Wait ‘Til Spring.”

Daddy, with journeymen singers and guitarists Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack, came off like an underappreciated Americana supergroup.  Splitting up lead vocal duties, the two led a hard-driving band variously emphasizing Southern rock, Bo Diddley beats, CCR-style swamp rock, and scorching roots rock in the Cracker vein.  Engaging story songs, passionate vocal delivery, and complementary guitar styles added up to the fest’s sleeper set.

Spread out across five stages, MagFest offered plenty of other memorable sets.  A blistering three-guitar attack by a reinvigorated Dickey Betts and Great Southern reminded listeners of how integral Betts was to the design of the Allman Brothers’ sound, while Seth Walker pulled sweet Texas- style blues from his guitar.

Mostly unplugged, The Golden Ticket and singer-songwriter Eliza Lynn variously fused folk and mountain styles, while the Holy Ghost Tent Revival injected banjo and trombone playing into a catchy mix of old-time and gospel music.  Moonalice’s jammy blend proved mighty appealing, too.

Robert Earl Keen, Leftover Salmon Among Suwannee Springfest Headliners

Gifted Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen and influential Colorado jamgrass band Leftover Salmon are among the headliners slated to play this year’s Suwannee Springfest.

The 14th annual festival of Americana, folk, country and bluegrass music is slated for March 25-28 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, a sprawling, scenic campground in Live Oak, Florida.

Leftover Salmon, who rarely play Florida, are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band. Salmon mandolinist Drew Emmitt, lately busy with the Emmitt-Nershi Band, recently told Glide Magazine that Salmon won’t be getting back to its hard-touring days anymore. The group last played Dec. 30-31 in Boulder, and currently has just five shows (including Springfest) on its 2010 calendar.

“There’s been the possibility of doing a string of shows, but even that’s far-fetched now,” Emmitt said. “We’re really enjoying the one-off situation, to tell you the truth: do festivals or a couple of shows, and go home. What we’ve worked for and where we’ve gotten to now is a situation where we can do that and not do the full on thing. And I think the fact that we have all our side projects really helps the freshness when we do get back together.”

What to expect at Salmon shows:  “We’re doing a little bit of the music from our most recent records, bringing in a bunch of songs from our solo records, and maybe if Vince has some new songs, we’ll work those in,” he said. “The main focus is to bring back the old Salmon material, and keep it the reunion feel. We’re kind of leaving the idea of newer stuff to the side.” Click here for the rest of the Glide magazine story.

Also slated to play are two groups associated with Americana favorites the Duhks (now on hiatus) — Duhks leader Leonard Podalak is bringing the Turtle Duhks, while original band vocalist Jessie Havey is debuting a new band at Springfest.

Springfest, as laidback, wel-organized and full of high-quality music as any outdoor festival I’ve ever attended, for its 2010 edition will also include new group 18 South, led by singers Jon Randall and Jesse Alexander, and including former members of the Del McCoury Band and Emmylou Harris‘s group; and the Belleville Outfit, from Louisiana, a 2009 nominee for an Americana Music Association award.

Also expected to play are several Springfest regulars, including singer-songwriters Peter Rowan and Guy Clark, Southern jamgrass group Blueground Undergrass, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven.

Springfest is sister to the fall’s Magfest, also organized by Randy and Beth Judy. For more details and ticket information, go to the festival’s official site.