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.

Best Jazz CDs of the Year?

It’s always one of a music critic’s toughest jobs.

How do you pick out the “best” recordings, of any genre, for any given year?

And, given the volume of CDs that continue to be unleashed, who – anywhere – has the time and wherewithal to listen to all the good, or even great, stuff that’s out there?

I never feel like I get it quite right – as soon as one of my year-ender pieces is published, I feel like I ought to go back and sub one of the discs for another that I’ve decided is more deserving.

At any rate, with the certainty that I’m leaving out one or two, or a dozen or more, great recordings, below is my “working” list of the year’s best jazz CDs.

This, of course, doesn’t include my favorites from other genres, a list that would include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, and the self-titled debut from The Steeldrivers.

An expanded version of my jazz list, with teensy descriptions of each disc, will soon be published elsewhere. When that happens, I’ll link to it.

The Best Jazz Discs of 2008 (in alphabetical order)

  • Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • John Ellis, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)metheny
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)
  • Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Robert Walter, Cure All (Palmetto)
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)