Main Stage Schedule
We’re excited to share the complete main stage schedule for our 32nd annual “summit on the song.” Also, check out the schedule of artists in the Wildflower Pavilion throughout the Festival.
August 12 Aug 12
With her 2017 debut Shame, Americana songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Baiman emerged as a fearless voice of the American female experience. “Shame” was featured on NPR’s “Songs We Love”, called a “Rootsy Wake-up Call” by Folk Alley, and described by Vice’s “Noisey” as “flipping off authority one song at a time.” On her new full-length album Cycles, Baiman has found a grittier musical medium for her signature unabashed and defiant songwriting, employing a majority-female team including co-producer Olivia Hally, known as the front woman of Indie-pop band Oh Pep!
Cycles is a collection of songs encompassing the many ways that we destroy and rebuild as people, as families, and as a country. Songs about the cycle of life inspired by the birth of a nephew and the loss of a grandmother, songs about internal mental cycles of ambition and self-doubt, the cycle of progress and regression in our country’s political journey, and the cycles of growth and reinvention that relationships take on. At times heartbreaking, at times celebratory, the album is a reflection of a lot of life experienced in a relatively short amount of time, a desire to hold fast to the people we love in the wake of so much uncertainty, and an exploration of the immense and unique strength of women in the face of adversity.
Originally from Chicago, Baiman moved to Nashville at eighteen, and has spent the last decade working as a musician in a wide variety of roles, from session musician (Molly Tuttle, Kelsey Waldon, Caroline Spence), to live sidewoman (Kacey Musgraves, Amy Ray), to bandmate and producer. Fiddle music was her first love, and she is known in the bluegrass and old time world for her work with progressive acoustic duo 10 String Symphony with fiddle player Christian Sedelmyer. Her first solo album Shame, was produced by Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange, and established her role as part of a new generation of political songwriters. Since 2017, Baiman has toured her solo project internationally with appearances at the Kilkenny Roots Festival in Ireland, the Mullum Music Festival in Australia, and the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington, DC. She has also released a variety of small scale projects; her 2018 Free Dirt EP Thanksgiving, which read as a sort of epilogue to Shame, a duet project with singer Mike Wheeler, which is a more stripped down nod to her acoustic roots, and a 2020 single, Wrong Way Round, which shows more sonic experimentation and hints at musical direction of Cycles.
A cliché has it that you have to beware of the quiet ones, because most of the time their voices speak sharper and with more range than the loudmouths. Every cliché, however, has a grain of truth in it, and so it’s fair to say that while County Cork singer-songwriter Mick Flannery is outwardly reserved, his songs are fluent in expressing layered aspects of the human condition, its flaws, triumphs, and general uncertainty.
An award-winning, double-platinum selling artist, Mick Flannery has not only released his self-titled sixth album (debuting at No. 1 in Ireland), but also oversaw the worldwide premiere of the stage musical, Evening Train (so named after his 2007 debut album). He began to write songs as a teenager in his home of Blarney, County Cork. As musical influences from albums by the likes of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits seeped into his creative DNA, Mick absorbed, learned and honed the craft that would send him on his way into the world. The path was smoothed somewhat when, at the age of 19, he became the first Irish songwriter to win the Nashville-based International Songwriting Competition. By the time he turned 21, he had signed to a major label and released his debut album.
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Courtney Hartman started playing guitar at the young age of eight, after having already spent several years on the fiddle and mandolin. Her early years were spent steeped in American Roots music, and today she has fused a diverse range of influences from Norman Blake to Bill Frisell, creating music that acknowledges and pays homage to her roots, while pushing beyond its defined boundaries. Courtney was recently nominated by the Americana Music Association for 2017 Instrumentalist of the Year, following the release of her solo project ‘Nothing We Say’. Her songs are flush with intimate ruminations on her life as a traveling musician and a deep curiosity about the world around her. The luminous EP delivers on the promise always apparent in her work as a guitarist and songwriter for Della Mae, the Grammy-nominated string band, along with her collaborations with Bryan Sutton, Jim Lauderdale, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, among others. Acoustic Guitar Magazine lauds Courtney as a”distinctive guitar stylist… and a songwriter that delights and disturbs.”
With more than 40 years of American roots music under his belt, Texas native Rodney Crowell is a two-time Grammy Award winner who has written fifteen #1 hits with five Number One hits of his own and a legacy of songwriting excellence which has made him an icon among giants.
With strong roots in country music, Crowell has written chart-topping hits for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Keith Urban and more. But owing to the distinctly universal, literary quality of his writing, has also penned beloved songs for artists as diverse as Bob Seger, Etta James, the Grateful Dead, John Denver, Jimmy Buffett and countless others.
A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Crowell is also the author of the acclaimed memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, and teamed up with New York Times best-selling author Mary Karr for Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell in 2012, with Karr saying of her collaborator, “Like Hank Williams or Townes Van Zandt or Miss Lucinda, he writes and croons with a poet’s economy and a well digger’s deep heart.” Crowell was honored with ASCAP’s prestigious Founder’s Award in 2017, and that same year released the album Close Ties, which spawned another Grammy nomination for “It Ain’t Over Yet” with Rosanne Cash and John Paul White in the category of Best Americana Song.
In 2018, he opened his own record label, RC1 Records, and released Acoustic Classics in 2018 and TEXAS in 2019. Also in 2019, Crowell received the Academy of Country Music’s Poet’s Award. His latest album, Triage, was released last July to much critical acclaim.
August 13 Aug 13
Megan Burtt is an international touring singer/songwriter decorated with national recognition. She is the winner of the Kerrville NewFolk, Rocky Mountain Folk Festival and Westword Music Award and a finalist in Mountain NewSong, Songwriter Serenade and Great American Song Contest.
In 2010 she released “It Ain’t Love”, a 12-song collection she made with bandmates, among them, Louis Cato (of Jon Batiste and Stay Human, house band for Stephen Colbert, Marcus Miller, Snarky Puppy, and Bobby McFerrin). She worked with the same group for her 2015 release “The Bargain” which charts her recovery from a serious illness with songs that move from darkness to light. In 2013 she released “In Good Company: The Colorado Sessions” a collaborative album of co-writes with Colorado bands including SHEL and Covenhoven.
December 2019 marked the 10th year Megan performed throughout the Pennsylvania state maximum security prison system with her band.
Megan has toured as a headlining artist, and as support for acts including Gregory Alan Isakov, Marc Cohn, Brett Dennen, Glenn Phillips of Toad The Wet Sprocket, Lissie, Stephen Kellogg and Leanne Rimes. In 2015 she collaborated with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra as a featured artist.
Megan is also a member of an Americana-Roots band called Gingerbomb made up of five redheads. In addition, she is currently in the studio working on her third solo full -length record slated to release early 2021.
Andrea von Kampen’s That Spell is an emotionally evocative powerhouse. It’s cinematic and sweeping- with literary references, reflections on nature and above all the ability to transport you to a memory, a place in time or somewhere you saw in a dream with vivid lucidity. Like a film director, she works as an aural auteur building scenes with her rapturous voice and the plaintive plucks of her guitar strings. With these ten songs, the Nebraska-raised singer-songwriter immediately establishes herself as a formidable talent with her deeply felt folk-indebted sound and inquisitive, empathetic lyrics. Andrea excels at connecting the dots between personal experience and the world at large, and it’s what makes That Spell such an instantly memorable breakthrough to experiencing her artistic state of mind and the worlds she builds in her music.
The fact that That Spell achieves such cohesion and confidence is no accident. It’s the culmination of a life immersed in music. The youngest of four children, Andrea, and her siblings all learned instruments—a byproduct of their musician mother and choir director father. Their parents fostered a love of music, but it was also the family business – and the generational passing down of the skills they’d honed to their children was a given and a blessing. Andrea’s instrument of choice was the guitar and she picked it up at a young age.
“Music was just what we did,” she remembers, as she absorbed the work of vocal jazz icons like Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald as well as folk-pop legends Paul Simon and James Taylor—both of whom, like Andrea, are also part of the Fantasy Records family. Andrea wrote her first song, the inquisitive and quietly glowing “Trainsong,” in college—which set off a creative spark that’s fueled her since. “Ever since then I’ve looked daily for that hour to read, write, listen, and be intentional with keeping my creative muscle working,” she explains.
In 2015, Andrea released her debut EP Another Day, and the following year she submitted a performance of “Let Me Down Easy” to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest that was shared by All Things Considered. After a steady stream of EPs that included 2016’s potent Desdemona, her debut album Old Country followed in 2019; since then, Andrea’s also starred in and composed the soundtrack for the forthcoming film Molto Bella and has accrued hundreds of thousands of regular Spotify listeners worldwide….
Take one glance at the iconic tintype photograph which serves as the cover to his new album, Benton County Relic, and you know immediately that Cedric Burnside is the real deal. “When I first saw it, I thought I looked like an outlaw,” he laughs.
The 39-year-old still lives on several acres not far from the Holly Springs, Mississippi, home where he was raised by “Big Daddy,” his grandfather, the late singer/songwriter/guitarist R.L. Burnside whom Cedric famously played with, just as his own father, drummer Calvin Jackson, did. Cedric was literally born to the blues, more specifically, the “rhythmically unorthodox” Hill country variant which emerged from Mississippi, where he grew up surrounded (and influenced) by Junior Kimbrough, Jessie May Hemphill and Otha Turner, as well as delta musicians T-Model Ford and Paul “Wine” Jones.
Grammy-nominated in 2015 for Best Blues Album for the Cedric Burnside Project’s Descendants of Hill Country, as well as the recipient of the Blues Music Awards honor as Drummer of the Year for four consecutive years, Cedric’s latest album offers a showcase for his electric and acoustic guitar, recording 26 tracks in just two days with drummer/slide guitarist Brian Jay in the latter’s Brooklyn home studio in a rush of creativity. It’s his first release for Single Lock Records, the Florence, Alabama label headquartered across the Tennessee River from the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and responsible for critically acclaimed records by John Paul White, Nicole Atkins, Dylan LeBlanc and St. Paul & the Broken Bones.
And while Cedric humbly refers to himself in the album’s title, the music within is anything but ancient, the rich tradition of Hill country blues dragged kicking and screaming into the modern-day with crackling electricity amid its nod to life’s essentials. If the blues has traditionally been about getting through hard times, Benton County Relic offers the kind of deep baring of the soul that enables us to transcend oppression, whether in the 19th century or in the precarious present.
The Road Goes On Forever…until it doesn’t. Legendary Texas songwriter and entertainerRobert Earl Keen wraps up 41 years on the road with his 2022 Final Tour, I’m Comin’ Home: 41Years On The Road.
Keen made the announcement in January, 2022, with a personal video posted on his social media accounts. “I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of brilliant, talented, colorful, electrical, magical folks throughout my life,” Keen said. “This chorus of joy, this parade of passion, this bullrush of creativity, this colony of kindness and generosity are foremost in my thoughts today. It’s with a mysterious concoction of joy and sadness that I want to tell you that as of September 4, 2022, I will no longer tour or perform publicly.”
With a catalog of 21 albums, his band of stellar musicians, and many thousands of shows under his belt, POLLSTAR ranked Keen in its Top 20 Global Concert Tours in July, 2021. Keen has blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trail that’s earned him living-legend status in the Americana music world.
The Americana genre was officially recognized by the music industry in 1998 and Keen was the first artist to be featured on The Gavin Report’s Americana Music Chart and on the debut cover of its magazine.
Keen continues to blaze a trail for other artists with Producer, Clara Rose, and their Americana Podcast. In 2019, Americana Podcast launched with the inaugural episode featuring JamestownRevival and Lucero. The Americana Podcast has furthered the interest in artists Billy Strings, Lori McKenna, Drew Holcomb and I’m With Her.
Bruce Hornsby is on a roll. After taking the music world by surprise with his wide-ranging, critically acclaimed 2019 album Absolute Zero, the singer, songwriter, composer and bandleader returns with a follow-up that picks up where its predecessor left off. Non-Secure Connection features 10 new songs exploring a broad range of themes, from civil rights to computer hackers, mall salesmen to the Darwinian aspects of AAU basketball.
Hornsby plays piano, of course, but the songs on Non-Secure Connection also feature Hornsby’s electric sitar and Chamberlin, along with guitars, horns, strings and subtle samples from sources as varied as minimalist composer John Cage and Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand. Like Absolute Zero, Non-Secure Connection also features a wealth of collaborators: singer James Mercer of The Shins and Broken Bells, singer and poet Jamila Woods, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Bon Iver leader Justin Vernon and the late Leon Russell, who appears thanks to a demo that he and Hornsby recorded together more than 25 years ago.
“I must be the only person around that has a record with James Mercer, Jamila Woods, Leon Russell and Vernon Reid,” Hornsby says with a laugh. “It’s a great, disparate crowd.”
It’s the kind of unexpected roster that listeners have come to expect from Hornsby, who has built a distinctly unique career since his debut with The Range on their multi-platinum 1986 album The Way It Is. From there, Hornsby has steered his way through a stint on keyboards for the Grateful Dead, writing music for Spike Lee’s films, and albums exploring jazz, bluegrass and contemporary classical music.
“I’m often looking to make a sound that I haven’t heard before, and find a place in what I guess is the context of popular song for some new information,” he says.
August 14 Aug 14
Singer / Composer Moira Smiley has toured and made records with a renowned variety of artists, including indie-pop stars Tune-Yards; Irish-American legends, Solas; early music pioneers, Theater Of Voices; choral composer, Eric Whitacre; Americana archivists, Jayme Stone’s Lomax + Folklife Projects; multi-Grammy winning pianist Billy Childs; UK-based folk troubadours, Sam Amidon and Sam Lee, Rising Appalachia, The New World Symphony, KITKA as well as Smiley’s own ensembles VOCO and VIDA.
She is regularly commissioned to write large-scale choral & chamber music works, with millions singing her choral music around the world. Moira has been featured in TED conferences, on BBC Radio and TV, NPR, ABC Australia, and live at countless venues from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to Walt Disney Concert Hall and Royal Festival Hall. Smiley is known for enchanting audiences whether on stage, atop glaciers, inside ships or in cozy kitchens from Norway to Tasmania.
As one of North Carolina’s most beloved roots music outfits, Chatham Rabbits has swiftly emerged from the fertile Americana scene in the Triangle. The husband-and-wife duo of Sarah and Austin McCombie favors rustic, minimalist acoustic arrangements—mainly clawhammer-style banjo and guitar that showcase deftness and maturity with their songwriting. The duo has a way of connecting with their audiences that is warm and universal. Chatham Rabbits’ first album All I Want From You (2019) was recorded with the help of Watchhouse’s Andrew Marlin, and their sophomore album, The Yoke is Easy, The Burden is Full, released May 1, 2020. Their song “Oxen” was named one of the “Top Folk Songs of 2020” by Paste Magazine and the band has been covered by Garden & Gun Magazine, American Songwriter, and No Depression. Their ingenuity during the Covid-19 crisis led to the building of their own venue, The Burrow, and the creation of their mobile concert experience, The Stay at Home Tour which took Chatham Rabbits to 194 neighborhoods in 2020-21. The duo is currently filming a new television show for PBS NC, On the Road with Chatham Rabbits for PBS NC that will premiere in Spring 2022.
Rejecting the influence of fleeting scenes and encroaching developers; the Laurelthirst Public House has always stayed in tune with its generations of muddy patrons carving out lives as blue-collar artists. “The Thirst” — Portland, Oregon’s oldest independent venue — has always been a sort of misfit stronghold — a sanctuary for the same kind of spirit that sustained local punk legends Dead Moon and outsider folk hero Michael Hurley. It’s also become a lifeblood for working-class musicians like Taylor Kingman. Most nights, you’ll likely find the TK & The Holy Know-Nothings songwriter and lead vocalist on stage (or at the bar). Ask around the place and you’ll quickly uncover Kingman’s reputation as the sort of songwriter who makes other songwriters jealous, even angry. You’ll also hear about his hustle as both a player and writer, as those same songwriters line up to play with him. It’s led to countless projects, exploring myriad concepts and styles, and making the sort of honest music that stands starkly, alongside the Laurelthirst, against the backdrop of a city quickly fading under the lacquer of gentrification.
TK & The Holy Know-Nothings is perhaps Kingman’s most beloved project. Half-dutifully and half-facetiously self-dubbed “psychedelic doom boogie,” the group was born out of Kingman’s desire to create a loose, groove-heavy bar band that never sacrifices the importance of good, honest songwriting. Doing so required pulling together a local supergroup of friends, neighbors, and fellow Laurel thirst royalty, including drummer Tyler Thompson and multi-instrumentalists Jay Cobb Anderson (lead guitar, harmonica), Lewi Longmire (bass, guitar, pedal steel, flugelhorn, mellotron, lap steel) and Sydney Nash (keys, bass, slide guitar, cornet). It’s a band of deeply contrasting styles buoyed by a sincere and palpable mutual trust — one that allows them to find and lose the groove with the same ease. They build graceful, spaced-out landscapes around Kingman’s storytelling — his voice ragged and broken one moment and raging the next — only to deconstruct them through a fit of manic and often dissonant rabbit holes. And Kingman’s equally irreverent, delicate, and cerebral first-person narratives somehow merge seamlessly with it all.
The Incredible Heat Machine, the band’s forthcoming album, is an album of growth. It doesn’t diverge all that much from 2019’s Arguably OK (and 2020’s B-sides EP Pickled Heat). Its story is simply that of a working band coming off the road and going right back to work, intent on capturing the growth and wear amassed in the meantime. Both albums were recorded in just a few mid-winter days (two years apart) in Enterprise, Oregon, a quiet cowboy town at the foot of the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains. They were both made live, with no overdubs, on stage at the historic OK Theatre, where much of their budget was again spent on keeping the heat on. And again, Thompson engineered on the fly with the help of old buddy and local theater resident Bart Budwig. While Arguably OK introduced listeners to the band’s distinct brand of unbound rock & roll infused with the strange, wide-open, outsider nature of Western country; The Incredible Heat Machine just goes stranger, wider, and further out. Lyrically, Kingman delves deeper into the struggles of the working-class musician with themes of substance abuse and redemption, companionship as salvation, and the ever-present shadow of disillusionment. His lyrics are again intensely honest, full of all the lessons learned and ignored, while always tempered with mystery and room for the listener.
“I like to alternate between plain-spoken truth and fragmented visions of painfully vivid dreamscapes,” Kingman notes. “Songs need a listener to be complete. And I don’t want to tell the listener what to think or do. It’s our job to present honesty, good or bad: an unfinished song from an unfinished life. And everybody hearing it gets a co-write because each moment is unique.”
This is apparent from the start, as album opener “Frankenstein” comes to life with deceptive lyrical hooks, coupling the pieced-together aesthetic of the famous resurrected corpse with generous metaphorical roundabouts. Its psychedelic wormholes envelop the song in warm, trippy veils, transcending the confines of its Western country roots to an altogether more experimentally robust misfit anthem.
“Serenity Prayer” follows with the Sisyphean journey of a working musician who makes good for a few hours each evening playing at the local tavern before finding themselves inevitably drawn to a seat at the bar again. It’s an entreaty to oneself to find the strength to change tomorrow, as Kingman writes, “Grant me the serenity to pay for this in change,” and “Grant me the wisdom to know I owe the difference,” before always returning to, “But a friend behind the bar is a mighty fine deal.”
Kingman’s songwriting vacillates between the specter of longing and the levity of self-awareness. “The trick is to be honest,” Kingman says. “And there are many ways to be honest.” It comes in songs as crushing as “Hell of a Time” and “I Don’t Need Anybody”; in irreverent tracks like “I Lost My Beer,” a love letter to a misplaced libation that is already a favorite among Laurelthirst patrons; and in the rattling regret of hangover lament, “Bottom of the Bottle.” And then there’s the title track and its “Preprise,” a two-part roadhouse opus that splits The Incredible Heat Machine, comprising a formidable showcase of TK & The Holy Know-Nothings’ divergent styles, both sonically and lyrically. “I want a line to fill me with golden light and then leave me alone in the pale desert with just the wind and my heartbeat,” Kingman shares.
Finally, the album closer “Just the Right Amount” ties the album’s themes together as Kingman places himself on stage, staring at the mic and the crowd, reflecting on the experiences and decisions that led to these songs. “I think he liked the way it sounded / Drunk and bleeding on a borrowed mic / I’ve never seen a bar so crowded / Dead quiet on a Saturday night / Maybe one to get them crying / Maybe one to help them fight / You gotta do a little wrong, kid / To get that kind of right.”
“At our core, we are working musicians. And that’s why we will always be a bar band no matter where we play. We are players and that’s all we wanna do. We live for songs and we take them very seriously. Even the stupidest ones. It’s all sacred and that’s why it should be mangled by children.”
TK & The Holy Know-Nothings’ new album is above all things true to the moment it was created, full of lessons unheeded and questions unanswered. In the end, it will always exist in that moment and whatever moment it shares with its listeners. Kingman sums it up best: “The Incredible Heat Machine is a haunted jukebox on wheels and God’s own check engine light. It’s a locomotive composed of living parts linked by some buck-toothed telepathy allowing it to make it down the tracks where there is no final answer or destination, just movement and feeling.”
Starting as a happy accident of solo singer/songwriters getting together for a one-time-only performance at a tiny guitar shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, The Wailin’ Jennys have grown over the years into one of today’s most beloved international folk acts. Founding members Moody and Mehta along with New York-based Masse continue to create some of the most exciting music on the folk-roots scene, stepping up their musical game with each critically lauded recording and thrilling audiences with their renowned live performances.
In 2004, The Wailin’ Jennys released their first full-length album 40 Days to great critical acclaim, netting a 2005 Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. Bolstered by their frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s public radio show A Prairie Home Companion, The Jennys exploded onto the roots music scene, performing at packed venues across the Canada, the U.S. and throughout the world.
The Jennys’ sophomore album, 2006’s Firecracker, served as a powerful follow-up to their career-making debut. Artistically, the record found The Jennys stepping out of the folk realm and into the world of alt-country, pop and rock. Garnering much attention, it was nominated for a Juno Award and won a 2007 Folk Alliance Award for Contemporary Release of the Year. Firecracker had legs, spending over 56 weeks on the Billboard charts.
The trio’s 2009 release, Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House, also spent over a year on the Billboard bluegrass charts. That landmark live album bottled the lightning of The Jennys’ live performances with show-stopping harmonies, impressive instrumental prowess, breathtaking songs and, of course, witty stage banter.
For 2011’s Juno-winning Bright Morning Stars, The Wailin’ Jennys joined the ranks of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and recorded with award-winning producer Mark Howard. Co-produced by frequent Jennys collaborator and Juno Award-nominated David Travers-Smith, the album combined fresh and innovative sounds with the band’s signature harmonies — a perfect mix of Americana, pop and traditional folk that has become a modern classic. Bright Morning Stars took home the Juno for Roots and Traditional album of the year in 2012.
In 2017, The Jennys turned 15 years old. To mark the occasion, the band took time away from the demands of motherhood to record and release a celebratory album for their fans: Fifteen. A carefully curated collection of some of their favourite songs, the new record was recorded true to their live show sound with their long time beloved side players, Richard Moody and Adam Dobres. Steeped in the artistry and elegance that has defined their career, the album presents the Jennys at their very best, highlighting their heartfelt vocals, otherworldly harmonies, and sophisticated arrangements. Fifteen was nominated for a Juno award in 2018 for Traditional Roots album of the year.
A lot of life can happen over the course of one record. Lyrics immortalize those characters, exploits, and memories. On his 2020 Asterisk The Universe, John Craigie awkwardly encounters previous flames, mistakes a Catholic School custodian as a saint (and prays to him anyway), pays tribute to modern-day revolutionaries, and explores what it all means to live in the 21st century where infinite possibility does not necessarily equate infinite understanding. He soundtracks these stories with a score of smoked-out soul, tender folk, and American songbook eloquence billowing right from the heart of California. Progressing once more, the interplay of live drums and bass hold the music in the pocket as it simultaneously emanates an acoustic campfire glow.
With these ten tunes, his journey unfolds in between organic instrumentation and lyrical observation. “As with any album, I want the lyrics to be heard, first and foremost,” he exclaims. “This is pretty similar to other versions of who I’ve been and who I am. It’s just one with a fresh batch of songs I’ll add to my setlist and new stories to tell from the road.”
Those stories from the road have endeared Craigie to the devoted fans he has earned, song by song, show by show since 2009. A Craigie performance is not just a music show, it’s a collective experience. Craigie shines by telling candid stories, humorous anecdotes, and leaving everything on the stage. Fiercely independent, Craigie prolifically unveiled one highly personal album after another while logging enough miles on the road to give The Grateful Dead a run for their money. Venues got bigger and bigger as audiences clamored for more. Capturing that electric feeling on 2016’s Capricorn In Retrograde… Just Kidding… Live in Portland, Craigie wound up on Jack Johnson’s car stereo on a road trip up the coast. Thoroughly impressed by what he heard, Johnson took Craigie on tour during the summer of 2017.
2017 would be a watershed year for Craigie. From No Rain, No Rose, “I Am California ” [feat. Gregory Alan Isakov] eclipsed 4.5 million Spotify streams followed by “Highway Blood” [feat. Shook Twins, Gregory Alan Isakov] with 3.5 million Spotify streams. Additionally, he performed everywhere from High Sierra Music Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, and Kate Wolf Music Festival to Burning Man and Summer Camp Festival. He attracted the admiration of not-so secret admires a la Chuck Norris, while earning acclaim from No Depression, SF Weekly, AXS, Seattle Times The Portland Tribune, and The Stranger who christened him, “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg.” 2018’s Scarecrow was originally plotted as a “vinyl only” release, but the diehard fanbase wasn’t having it. An onslaught of emails and social media messages demanded Craigie shared the music online. It appeared on DSPs shortly thereafter.
Following the tour in support of No Rain, No Rose, Craigie dug into a different well of inspiration.
“I’d been listening to a lot more hip-hop and soul on the trip, and I found myself writing songs that had very simple chord structures and repetitive rhythms,” he recalls. “In a lot of those tunes, you hear old samples from Bill Withers, Al Green, and Nina Simone. I knew those artists’ talents were far beyond my own, but they still influenced the structure of what I was doing. I even thought about doing a sample-based album, yet I knew live was going to be the best. I wanted to record in a similar way to No Rain, No Rose in a room with all of my friends.”
This time, the room would be in the Bodega, CA—home of The Rainbow Girls. Opening up the creative ecosystem, he welcomed a bunch of buddies: Matt Goff [drums, Marty O’Reilly], Ben Berry [bass, Old Soul Orchestra], Jamie Coffis [keys, The Coffis Brothers], Lorenzo Loera [organ, The California Honeydrops], Niko Daoussis [guitar, The Shook Twins], and, of course, The Rainbow Girls—into the fold.
On their 16th studio album, Indigo Girls tell their origin story. Look Long is a stirring and eclectic collection of songs that finds the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers reunited in the studio with their strongest backing band to date as they chronicle their personal upbringings with more specificity and focus than they have on any previous song-cycle. “We’re fallible creatures shaped by the physics of life,” says Saliers. “We’re shaped by our past; what makes us who we are? And why?”
Produced by John Reynolds (Sinéad O’Connor, Damien Dempsey) and recorded in the countryside outside Bath, England at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, these eleven songs have a tender, revealing motion to them, as if they’re feeding into a Super 8 film projector, illuminating a darkened living room. “When We Were Writers” recounts the flying sparks and passion Saliers felt as a young college student when the duo first started performing together. “Shit Kickin’” is a nuanced love letter to Ray’s Southern heritage. “I’m a little bit left of the ‘salt of the earth’ / That’s alright, I’ll prove my worth,” she sings.
Released in 1989, Indigo Girls’ eponymous major label debut sold over two million units under the power of singles “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” and turned Indigo Girls into one of the most successful folk duos in history. Over a thirty-five-year career that began in clubs around their native Atlanta, Georgia, the Grammy-winning duo has recorded sixteen studio albums (seven gold, four platinum, one double platinum), sold over 15 million records, and built a dedicated, enduring following.
“We joke about being old, but what is old when it comes to music? We’re still a bar band at heart,” says Saliers. “We are so inspired by younger artists and while our lyrics and writing approach may change, our passion for music feels the same as it did when we were 25-years-old.”
Amidst our often-terrifying present, Look Long is a musical balm for those of us in search of a daily refuge, an hour or two when we can engage with something that brings us joy, perspective, or maybe just calm.
“People feel lost in these political times,” explains Saliers. “Let’s lament our limitations, but let’s also look beyond what’s right in front of us, take the long view of things, and strive to do better. As time has gone on, our audience has become more expansive and diverse which gives me a great sense of joy.” Jubilant crowd singalongs that often overpower the band itself are a trademark of Indigo Girls concerts. With the highly anticipated return of live music, soon the night sky over amphitheaters all across the country will fill once again with those collective voices raised in song. The phenomenon epitomizes the sense of belonging and celebration that Indigo Girls’ music radiates. As one bar band once put it, “We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains…we go to the Bible, we go through the work out.” For millions, they go to Indigo Girls. On Look Long they’ll find a creative partnership certain of its bearings, forging a way forward.