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Newport Folk Festival Spotlight

Newport Folk Festival 2012- Sunday Recap

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | 2 Comments

Sleepy Man Banjo Boys @ Fort Stage– With an average age of 13 years, the Mizzone brothers were certainly the youngest group to take the stage at Newport this year. You may recognize Jonny, Robbie, and Tommy from this video which made the trio into a YouTube sensation early last year. Although 10-year old Jonny’s banjo picking skills is how the brothers gained their YouTube celebrity status, elder siblings Robbie and Tommy are equally as impressive on the fiddle and guitar respectively. As Newport producer Jay Sweet said when introducing the brothers, this won’t be the last time you see them on the Fort Stage.

Deep Dark Woods @ Harbor Stage– We only caught a a few songs by the band from Saskatoon, but lead singer Ryan Boldt’s voice was perfectly soothing for a sunny Sunday morning. If not for a broken string gaffe we would have been able to catch a few more tunes before heading over to Joe Fletcher’s set.

Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons @ Quad Stage– Not everyone can be as lucky as the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys and grace the stages of the Newport Folk Fest before they’re even old enough to drive themselves to the fest. For Rhode Island native Joe Fletcher, this performance has been nearly 40 years in the making. After quitting his job as an English teacher and pursuing a career in music full-time, Fletcher finally made it to the Newport stage, and he certainly made the most of it. Fletcher’s set was packed with proud (and loud) fans who came out to support the hometown folk hero. Fletcher ended his set in true Newport fashion by inviting a host of festival friends on stage to perform “Too Many Doors,” which is quite the sing-along song. Guests included Jonah Tolchin, Dave Lamb of Brown Bird, Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem, and James Maple of GraveRobbers among others.

Trampled By Turtles @ Fort Stage– Like Dawes and Brown Bird did on Saturday, the bluegrass boys from Minnesota graduated to the festival’s main stage this year. Although the intimate feeling from last year’s Quad stage performance was lost, TBT still brought the same energy and Ryan Young’s fiddle chops are still mind-blowing.

Jonathan Wilson @ Harbor Stage– I’m not one to complain about festival scheduling because I understand how many different factors go into sorting out the timing of the performances, but when the Newport schedule first came out and I saw that Jonathan Wilson and New Multitudes were performing at the exact same time I nearly had a panic attack. When push came to shove I decided to catch the front end of Wilson’s set and migrate inside the Fort to catch the end of New Multitudes, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Once Wilson began his set we were quickly mesmerized by his deft guitar work, lyrical imagery, and flowing hair (mostly the hair) and as Wilson performed the ethereal “Desert Raven” I think I may have gotten stoned simply by listening (don’t ask me how that works, because I don’t even know). We remained glued to our seats when Wilson brought out Jackson Browne to perform on “Gentle Spirit” where the duo’s harmonies were absolutely perfect. For me Wilson’s set was one of the best of the weekend, even though it did come at the expense of New Multitudes.

New Multitudes @ Quad Stage– As I mentioned in the last paragraph we were only able to catch the very tail end of this set, but from what we saw/heard, Jay Farrar, Jim James, Will Johnson, and Anders Parker performed quite the energizing set of Woody Guthrie tunes. If you told an unassuming folk fan that all the songs in the set were inspired by Woody Guthrie lyrics they would have called you a liar. The quartet brought a rock ‘n roll flair to Guthrie’s lyrics while still showing reverence to the folk legend and his family.

Gary Clark Jr. @ Quad Stage– All I can say about Gary Clark is that I wish someone had put this sign out in front of the Quad Stage before I walked into the tent for his set.

Tom Morello @ Harbor Stage– I could never do justice to the Nightwatchman’s performance or his inspirational words between verses of “This Land Is Your Land” so I’ll let this video do all the talking for me. And if you want to see how about half of the audience ended up on stage with Morello for the last song, then you’ll have to watch this video too.

Tune-Yards @ Harbor Stage– Merrill Garbus and co. were certainly the biggest stretch for fitting into the “folk” genre in the historic sense of word, but on Sunday afternoon no one seemed to care that a girl and her loops were being billed as “folk” (whatever that means these days). The Harbor stage was packed with young festival goers and old folkies alike and although one may think that the latter group of attendees would find Tune-Yards’ brand of folk a bit abrasive, everyone in the tent was entranced by Ms. Garbus’ unique blend of vocals and percussion. Let’s just say she knows how to get down to bizness (sorry I know that’s such a Dad joke, but I had to).

Conor Oberst @ Fort Stage– The Bright Eyes frontman was another serial collaborator this weekend and his own set was no exception. Through a mix of Bright Eyes tunes and solo material, Oberst invited various festival artists on stage including Jim James, Jonathan Wilson, the boys of Dawes, and the ladies of First Aid Kit. Needless to say, this set was a favorite of the folk.

Jackson Browne @ Fort Stage– Even though the rains came in for a second headlining set in a row, we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. We couldn’t help but smile when Browne took the stage as it seemed a fitting ending for such a legendary songwriter to close out the perfect weekend.

Newport Folk Festival 2012- Friday and Saturday Recap

Posted on by Eric in M&T Favorites, Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

With another Newport Folk Festival in the books it is sad to think about how quickly it went by, but after sifting through photos, videos, and interviews it has become quite apparent that this year’s edition of NFF is going to be one that people will be talking about for quite some time. What makes Newport so wonderful is what Dawes lead singer Taylor Goldsmith pointed out during the band’s main stage set on Saturday, “It feels more like a family reunion than a festival of music.” The weekend was filled with collaboration and it felt like you couldn’t go a set without another festival artist being invited to join on stage (most of the time that artist was Ben Sollee). With other festivals you daydream about collaborations, but at Newport they become a reality and that’s what makes this festival so special. Here’s our rundown of Friday and Saturday’s festivities, and make sure to check back later this week for our Sunday recap as well as photos and videos from the weekend.

Wilco @ Fort Stage (Friday 7/27)– Let’s break this set down by the numbers- 23 songs, 4 Woody Guthrie songs, 2 encores, 2 appearances by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, and one mean shirtless cowbell performance by hot ’70s roadie on “Hoodoo Voodoo.” I’d say that qualifies as a phenomenal way to kick off the festival weekend.

Apache Relay @ Harbor Stage– We couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off our Saturday than with this group of Nashvillians. Their set featured collaborations with Ben Sollee, some new tunes (including the video below), and plenty of energy to make everyone forget that it was only 11:30 in the morning.

Jonny Corndawg @ Quad Stage– Taylor Goldsmith on guitar, a ridiculous drummer with dreadlocks, a fiddle player that could set the stage on fire, and Corndawg’s ridiculous antics to boot. I think it’s safe to say we were 2 for 2 in the “What more could we have asked for?” category on the day.

Deer Tick @ Quad Stage– After Corndawg finished his set the fun continued on the Quad Stage with hometown heroes Deer Tick, who in some ways were the headliner to this festival. Although they technically weren’t the top billed act, it was their after parties at the Newport Blues Cafe that closed out each night (more on those later) and the general feeling around the Fort was that this was Deer Tick’s weekend to shine. This isn’t your grandpappy’s Deer Tick anymore though, as we saw a few weeks back at Forecastle and again this weekend at Newport, John McCauley has relinquished some of his frontman duties to the other very capable members of the band. It’s no knock against McCauley, but I think that my two new favorite songs to hear live are “Now It’s Your Turn” and “Clownin Around” with guitarist Ian O’Neil performing lead vocal duties on the former and drummer Dennis Ryan on the latter.

Alabama Shakes @ Fort Stage– As we found out back in March at SXSW, these guys can bring it and this weekend was no different. After they had finished their set, and for the remainder of the day, the Fort was abuzz with festival goers who were blown away by the vocal abilities and stage presence of frontwoman Brittany Howard. Everywhere you went it was “Man that girl had some pipes” or “How is she not hoarse by the end of each show?” or “Brittany will you marry me?” err maybe that last one was just what I was thinking for the rest of the weekend.

Dawes @ Fort Stage– It’s safe to say that Dawes has graduated to the big time. In 2010 we saw Dawes play the Sonic Stage at Bonnaroo and the Quad Stage at Newport. This year it was The Other Tent at Bonnaroo and Fort Stage at Newport and I couldn’t think of a band that deserves it more. With a work ethic and touring schedule that would make my head spin, these boys from California didn’t disappoint when given the chance to make their main stage debut. Their set list featured a healthy mix of North Hills, Nothing Is Wrong, and even some newer material that should be expected on the band’s next LP. The only thing missing from the set was Lenny Goldsmith running in from the crowd and onto the stage to join his sons in 3-part family harmony, but I guess we can’t have everything.

Iron & Wine @ Quad Stage– After performing at the festival back in 2009, Sam Beam was back in action at the Fort and this time he brought along a full band. The highlight of the set was one of the weekend’s many Levon Helm tributes as Beam and the band performed a cover of The Band’s “Long Black Veil.”

My Morning Jacket @ Fort Stage– This set can be summed up by the astonishing collaborations that My Morning Jacket pulled off– Ben Sollee and Laura Veirs on “Wonderful”, Will Johnson on “Bermuda Highway”, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Clint Maedgan of Preservation Hall Jazz Band on “It Makes No Difference”, and Ben Sollee and Conor Oberst on “Smokin From Shootin”. Keep in mind this set was shortened by rain…can you even imagine what they had in store for the finale?

Jonny Corndawg/Sharon Van Etten/Middle Brother/Deer Tick @ Newport Blues Cafe– This night was destined to be a Middle Brother reunion and although it was never confirmed before the show, I think there would have been quite a few upset fans in the crowd if Matt Vasquez (who was not on the Newport lineup) was brought in and there were no Middle Brother tunes. Sharon Van Etten was a great sport and powered through some heckling from a few drunk bros who were acting like such clowns that I was embarrassed to even be in the same room as them. All clownin’ around aside, the boys of Middle Brother certainly stole the night at the Blues Cafe. The trio of Vasquez, Goldsmith, and McCauley were joined on stage by Dawes drummer Griffin Goldsmith as well as the honorary fourth Middle Brother Mr. Jonny Corndawg. The short yet oh so sweet set featured “Blue Eyes”, “Theatre”, “Middle Brother”, and “Million Dollar Bill”. This may be the last time that Middle Brother performs together for a long while (or ever for that matter), but I think it is safe to say that the impact of each individual member on the Newport Folk Festival will be something that is long lasting. Hilary Hughes from DigBoston may have put it best when she called the Deer Tick/Delta Spirit/Dawes/Jonny Corndawg contingent “The spirit animal of the Newport Folk Festival.”

Newport Folk Spotlight: The Nightwatchman

Posted on by Caroline in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

When Tom Morello was standing on stage, completely naked, in protest of music censorship, or when he was being forcibly escorted from the premises of Saturday Night Live, or when he played a protest concert, causing a major police riot, outside of the 2000 Democratic National Convention…

Would any of us have guessed that he’d end up playing Newport Folk Festival someday? While the former Rage Against the Machine guitar legend may seem too edgy for the family-friendly weekend, Morello’s presence at the Fort this weekend makes sense in a lot of ways. Morello will be playing Newport under his “folk alter ego,” the Nightwatchman. Morello has released four records now under this alias, most of which feature acoustic guitar and politically-heavy lyrics. If that doesn’t sound like Newport Folk Festival, I don’t know what does. Luckily for us fans of Morello’s old school musicianship, the Nightwatchman’s most recent record, World Wide Rebel Songs, has some blistering electric guitar solos that I’m hoping we’ll get to experience live. At the very least, we can expect Morello tip his hat to Woody Guthrie, a major inspiration of the Festival. Morello is known to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad,” which is heavily inspired by Guthrie himself.

So to clarify, don’t get your hopes up for seeing Morello in full-frontal protest mode, but I can guarantee that The Nightwatchman’s politically charged set will satisfy us all.


Newport Folk Festival 2012 Spotlight Series

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

All year leading up to this weekend’s Newport Folk Festival we have been highlight artists on this year’s lineup in our Newport Folk Festival Spotlight Series. Below you’ll find all of the reading, research, and listening that you need to do for this week. We’ve made it easy for you to skim through all of our spotlights and listen to our festival preview playlist on Spotify while you do it. I know, we’re way too good to you guys.


2012 Festival Preview Playlist

Alabama Shakes

Ben Sollee

Blind Pilot

Brown Bird

City and Colour


Jonathan Wilson

Middle Brother

New Multitudes/Woody Guthrie

Of Monsters and Men

Punch Brothers

Spider John Koerner

Spirit Family Reunion

Newport Folk Festival 2012 Preview Playlist

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight, Playlists | Leave a comment

We hope that everyone out there is as excited as we are for the best weekend of the summer aka Newport Folk Festival. We’ve been trying to contain our excitement this week, but it’s difficult knowing that in less than four days we will be down at the Fort soaking in the sun and the wonderful tunes. To prepare ourselves and you, we created a Spotify playlist featuring tracks from 25 of the artists that will be appearing at the festival this weekend. The playlist includes tracks from the usual suspects like Deer Tick, Dawes, and Ben Sollee, while also highlighting NFF n00bs like Jonathan Wilson, Blind Pilot, and Joe Fletcher. Click the link below for the full playlist and make sure to let us know who YOU are most excited to see on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Maimed & Tamed Newport Folk Festival 2012 Preview Playlist

New Music Mondays: Ben Sollee

Posted on by Eric in New Music Mondays, Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since our last post, but we will be back in action all week as anticipation builds for Newport Folk Festival 2012. With the festival less than a week away we will be highlighting artists and info from this year’s festival all week long on M&T. Today we are kicking things off with a brand new song from Newport Folk veteran Ben Sollee. “Unfinished” will appear on the master cellist’s album Half-Made Man which is due out September 25, 2012. We’re expecting big things from Sollee this weekend down in Newport as he has proven himself to be a festival warrior over the years and we wouldn’t be surprised if he sits in on more than a couple sets down at the Fort (My Morning Jacket? Preservation Hall Jazz Band? Sara Watkins?).

You can stream “Unfinished” via Paste Magazine and read about Sollee’s bike tour from Newport here.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Spider John Koerner

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

[Eric’s Note: This is another wonderful piece from our DC contributor Tess O]

My last Newport Spotlight featured the new band Of Monsters and Men, but one of the amazing aspects of Newport is its ability to blend up-and-coming acts with seasoned folk veterans like Spider John Koerner, whose first performance at Newport was in 1964.

Koerner, who came onto the Minnesota folk scene in the late 1950s (and reportedly both influenced and collaborated with Bob Dylan at the time), is a master of the traditional song. He is most well known for his work with Dave Ray and Tony Glover in the blues trio Koerner, Ray and Glover, although he has also done plenty of solo work.

The most recent solo release from Koerner, besides a 2010 release of 1963 archival recordings, is 1996’s Stargeezer. With other artists, the relevance of a performance 16 years after the latest release might be questionable, but not with Koerner. His isn’t the kind of music that becomes less relevant each year after it was written– it’s timeless. It’s folk music, plain and simple, the type of music that Newport was built on, and that it still continues to grow and thrive on.

Watch the video for a Newport Folk Festival throwback; Koerner starts playing at about the 1:15 mark

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Woody Guthrie/New Multitudes

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Woody Guthrie was one of the most important figures, if not the most important figure in modern folk music. Woody’s impact on the world of music is still felt today, more than 40 years after his passing and in the year that he would have turned 100 years old. His lyrics and music have been an inspiration for generations of musicians including many who have taken on Woody’s unrecorded material and breathed new life into it, most notably Billy Bragg and Wilco and their Mermaid Avenue sessions.

More recently Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), Anders Parker (Varnaline), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and Will Johnson (Centro-matic) collaborated on a Guthrie inspired project called New Multitudes. Much like Bragg and Wilco, the foursome took to the Woody Guthrie archives guided by Guthrie’s daughter, and curator of the archives, Nora. What the songwriters found were notepads, napkins, journals, basically anything that Woody so much as scribbled a line on. These artifacts became the driving force behind a collection of over 25 songs that were released under the New Multitudes moniker earlier this year via Rounder Records.

As part of the centennial celebration of Woody’s birth, New Multitudes will be performing live at this year’s Newport Folk Festival along with other performances in honor of Woody including one by various Guthrie family members dubbed Guthrie Family Reunion.

What makes the New Multitudes project so special though is that four individual songwriters with differing styles and backgrounds were able to collaborate under the common inspiration of Woody’s unfinished work. Through a very informative interview series with each New Multitudes collaborator in American Songwriter (Jay, Anders, Jim, Will) we learned that each of the four songwriters reviewed Woody’s works individually and developed their own song ideas before coming together and solidifying the tracks in a collaborative setting. For each songwriter Woody’s words were interpreted and imagined in a different way, and for each, the inspiration and legacy of Woody took on a different meaning.

After thoroughly exploring New Multitudes and reading many an interview on the process behind making the record, we decided to find out what impact Woody Guthrie has had on other individuals in the music industry. We took to the streets (actually our email inbox) and asked, “What does Woody Guthrie mean to you?” Here is what we found out:

“For a few years now a lot of the Newport Folk staff wear t-shirts that say ‘What Would Woody Do?’ in honor of Guthrie. It’s a mantra we cite to make sure everything we do at Newport Folk stays as authentic and genuine as possible.  Woody represented the entirety of the human condition, humor, passion, truth, tragedy and celebration. If you want to keep it real, all you need to ask is ‘What Would Woody Do?’  Trust me it works.”

– Jay Sweet (ProducerNewport Folk Festival)

“I picked up the Woody Guthrie Library of Congress Recordings on vinyl many years ago.  As I listened, I became fascinated with the songs and stories he would tell.  His art painted an honest picture of the people, and the tough times many of them faced in our country at the time.”

– Chris Van Slyke (FounderBoston Through My Eyes)

“Woody Gutherie is an American icon, a hero for working class Americans and in many ways the embodiment of the American experience.  He chased the American dream using song as his vehicle for change and left us all with a body of work that stands the test of time.  His songs are just as relevant today as they were in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s and he will always be a true inspiration as one of the great American songwriters.”

– Sam Margolis (Board MemberNew England Americana Association and guitarist of Comanchero)

If you can’t take it from these guys, then just ask Justine Townes Earle:

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Of Monsters and Men

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

[Eric’s Note: Although I wish I could take responsibility for this wonderful piece of writing, I’ve got to give our wonderful DC contributor Tess O the credit here]

I fully expect Of Monsters and Men to follow in the footsteps of fellow folk-pop acts Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (in 2010) and The Head and the Heart (in 2011) in drawing a big crowd at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. All three bands bring catchy melodies and great chemistry between the male and female vocalists, not to mention a large ensemble.

This six-piece consists of co-singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, co-singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson. If you’re like me and don’t know how to pronounce any of those names, you can just call them a bunch of cool Icelanders (pun completely unintended). The band’s rise has been rapid; Nanna and Raggi started writing songs together in 2010, the band won Iceland’s annual battle of the bands competition in the same year, and their song “Little Talks” hit number one in Iceland in the summer of 2011.

With “Little Talks” and many of the other songs off of their debut album, Of Monsters and Men have proven themselves quite capable at the art of the crescendo. Their buildups to exuberant sing-along choruses are what they do best, but they also know how to slow it down, as they do on “Love Love Love.”

I caught Of Monsters and Men at the Black Cat in DC back in April before My Head Is An Animal was released in the US, but the venue was still packed with fans that belted out the lyrics along with the band. It was a fun show and I can’t wait to see this group of talented musicians bring their songs to life once again at Newport.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Honeyhoney

Posted on by Kyle in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

Honeyhoney is sure to give one of the most electrifying performances at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. Vocalist Suzanne Santo can turn a stage into an emotional fireworks show complete with banjo and violin. I can see any chorus turn into a passionate sing-along, filling Fort Adams with sounds of love and redemption.

Honeyhoney was noticed early by actor Kiefer Sutherland who promptly signed them to his label Ironworks. The release of First Rodeo in 2008 was met with critical praise and the band was quickly launched into the spotlight. Four years later they’re still touring hard, hitting SXSW and Coachella this spring. Their second effort Billy Jack came out late last year and has rapidly been gaining steam in the indie rock community.

Billy Jack is a revelation of Americana. What’s amazing is the emotion and ferocity in every performance. Santo’s voice is so strong and the songwriting partnership between her and guitarist Ben Jaffe is unmatched in music today. Their command over a multitude of instruments makes every performance a surprise and gives each song its own unique vibe. Let’s just say that shit is going to get real.