We’re excited to share the complete main stage schedule for our 31st annual “summit on the song.” Also, check out the schedule of artists in the Wildflower Pavilion throughout the Festival.
August 07 Aug 07
Alexa Wildish is a singer songwriter currently in Nashville, TN, with roots all around this beautiful country. Her music is defined by her refined vocal skill and technique, and is tinged with influences of country, bluegrass, Americana and traditional Celtic folk.
In 2019, performing original material, Alexa won the Songwriter Showcase at the Annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and has been invited to perform a full set on the main stage for the 2021 event (past alumni include Ani Di Franco, Josh Ritter, Regina Spektor and Indigo Girls).
Her eponymous EP was produced by Dan Knobler & Russell Durham at Goosehead Palace in Nashville, TN and features artists such as Ruth Moody (the Wailin’ Jennys), Jordan Tice (Hawktail) on acoustic guitar, Kris Donegan (Molly Tuttle, Shania Twain) on electric guitar with string arrangements, violin and octave mandolin by Russell Durham (Courtney Hartman, Maya DeVitry).
Rifles and Rosary Beads
New studio album co-written with wounded combat veterans over the last four years via SongwritingWith:Soldiers.
Every single day, which means some days are better and some much worse.
Every day, on average, twenty-two veterans commit suicide. Each year seventy-four hundred current and former members of the United States Armed Services take their own lives.
That number does not include drug overdoses or car wrecks or any of the more inventive ways somebody might less obviously choose to die.
It seems trivial to suggest those lives might be saved — healed, even — by a song. By the process of writing a song.
And yet there is nothing trivial about Mary Gauthier’s tenth album, Rifles and Rosary Beads (Thirty Tigers), all eleven songs co-written with and for wounded veterans. Eleven of the nearly four hundred songs that highly accomplished songwriters have co-written as part of Darden Smith’s five-year-old SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.
None of the soldiers who have participated in the program have taken their own lives, and there’s nothing trivial about that. Something about writing that song — telling that story — is healing. What Smith calls post-traumatic-growth.
Gauthier’s first nine albums presented extraordinary confessional songs, deeply personal, profoundly emotional pieces ranging from “I Drink,” a blunt accounting of addiction, to “March 11, 1962,” the day she was born — and relinquished to an orphanage — to “Worthy,” in which the singer finally understands she is deserving of love. Maybe that’s where the confessional song cycle ends, for she has midwifed these eleven new songs in careful collaboration with other souls whose struggle is urgent, immediate, and palpable. And none are about her.
Each song on Rifles and Rosary Beads is a gut punch: deceptively simple and emotionally complex. From the opening “Soldiering On” (“What saves you in the battle/Can kill you at home”) to “Bullet Holes in the Sky” (“They thank me for my service/And wave their little flags/They genuflect on Sundays/And yes, they’d send us back”), to the abject horror of “Iraq,” and its quiet depiction of a female mechanic’s rape, each song tells the story of a deeply wounded veteran.
Darrell Scott, returning from one of Smith’s first retreats, called and told Mary she needed to participate. “I felt unqualified,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about the military, I was terrified of fucking it up. I didn’t feel I knew how to be in the presence of that much trauma without being afraid. But Darrell knew I could do it. Turns out, I was able to sit with the veterans with a sense of calmness and help them articulate their suffering without fear. I was shocked by that. And I took to it.”
It has become a calling. “My job as a songwriter is to find that thing a soul needs to say,” Mary says. “Each retreat brings together a dozen or so soldiers and four songwriters, three songs each in two days. We don’t have a choice. We have to stay focused, listen carefully, and make sure every veteran gets their own song. And we always do.”
“None of the veterans are artists. They don’t write songs, they don’t know that songs can be used to move trauma. Their understanding of song doesn’t include that. For me it’s been the whole damn deal. Songwriting saved me. It’s what I think the best songs do, help articulate the ineffable, make the invisible visible, creating resonance, so that people, (including the songwriter) don’t feel alone.”
The impact of these songs becomes visible quickly, unexpectedly.
Featured in the TV series “Nashville,” the Bluebird Cafe now prospers as a tourist destination. The room fills twice a night with people thrilled to be in the presence of real live Nashville songwriters.
Who, in turn, are thrilled to be in the presence of a paying audience that can do nothing to advance their careers, save give a genuine response to their songs.
The gentleman at the next table has handsome white hair and a hundred-dollar casual shirt, and almost certainly had no idea who Mary Gauthier was, nor what her songs might be about, when he came out of the sunlight into the darkened listening room. He knows, now. Thick, manicured fingers cover his face, trying to catch his slow tears. His wife sits close, watches carefully, but knows better than to touch him.
He is not alone in that small audience.
Every day we are touched by the veterans in our lives, whether we know it or not.
Every single day. Even if it’s only the guy on Main Street, in the wheelchair, with the flag.
Every single day.
And, yes, a song may be the answer.
“Because the results are so dramatic, this could work for other traumas,” Mary says. “Trauma is the epidemic. You say opioid, I say trauma epidemic. As an addict, I know addiction is self-medication because of suffering, and beneath that pain is always trauma. Underneath so much of the problems in the world is trauma, it’s the central issue humanity is dealing with. We’ve found something powerful here, that brings hope to people who are hurting. So they know they are not alone.”
Multi-Instrumentalist and Singer-Songwriter Darrell Scott mines and cultivates the everyday moment, taking the rote, menial, mundane, and allowing it to be surreal, ever poignant, and candidly honest, lilting, blooming, and resonating. The words he fosters allow us to make sense of the world, what is at stake here, and our place in it. And ultimately, Darrell knows the sole truth of life is that love is all that matters, that we don’t always get it right, but that’s the instinctive and requisite circuitous allure of things, why we forever chase it, and why it is held sacred.
Darrell Scott comes from a musical family with a father who had him smitten with guitars by the age of 4, alongside a brother who played Jerry Reed style as well. From there, things only ramped up with literature and poetry endeavors while a student at Tufts University, along with playing his way through life. This would never change.
After recently touring with Robert Plant and the Zac Brown Band (2 years with each), and producing albums for Malcolm Holcomb and Guy Clark and being named “songwriter of the year” for both ASCAP and NSAI, these days ﬁnd him roaming his Tennessee wilderness acreage hiking along the small river, creating delicious meals with food raised on his property and playing music. He often leads songwriting workshops to help people tell their own truths with their stories, and is as busy as always writing, producing, performing, and just plain fully immersing himself in life.
Three-time GRAMMY winner Shawn Colvin stopped the industry in its tracks with her arresting 1989 debut, Steady On, a stunning introduction to an artist who quickly established herself as a mainstay in the singer-songwriter genre. The album was lauded for its confessional songwriting and well-crafted melodies, and for Colvin’s delicate and provocative vocals. Colvin received the ultimate acknowledgement for Steady On when she was awarded the GRAMMY award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. She swiftly amassed a dedicated and passionate fanbase, to whom this album remains very special.
As the record’s 30th anniversary looms, the trailblazing singer and songwriter has recorded a truly mesmerizing acoustic reinvention of her landmark album, lacing up each track with fresh layers of warmth, charm, and wisdom. Colvin brings a 30-year lens to her treasured songs, casting new light on the stories she first told as a young artist. Colvin has always been hailed as an exemplary solo acoustic performer and these new recordings are a brilliant showcase for her enduring artistry.
“I was 32 years old, and the dream of my life had been fulfilled,” Colvin says, “not only because I made an album but mostly because I had written or co-written every song, an accomplishment that was hard won. I was so proud. My feeling was then — and still is — that if I never made another album, Steady On would have been enough.”
The newly-recorded version of Steady On strips each song to the core, placing Colvin’s songwriting masterclass on full display. “I’ve played these songs countless times, primarily as a solo acoustic artist,” she says. “All in all, this is the incarnation that feels most genuine. And so, to commemorate this milestone I decided to celebrate Steady On by recording it again, this time using only my voice and my guitar. This represents who I am as an artist and all I ever wanted to be, and I believe it does its predecessor proud.”
Over the course of three decades, Colvin has established herself as a legacy artist by creating a remarkable canon of work, touring relentlessly both nationally and internationally, and having her songs featured in television and film. She is a revered storyteller deserving of the special recognition of both her peers and those who have been inspired by her songs. The reworking of her iconic debut feels not only timely but essential, further underscoring that Colvin remains a vital voice for women in music and reaffirming her status as an Americana game-changer.
Shawn Colvin will perform Steady On Acoustic in its entirety in what promises to be a very special evening for her longtime fans.
The prehistory of Shakey Graves exists in two overstuffed folders. Inside them, artifacts document an immense era of anonymous DIY creativity, from 2007 through 2010 — the three years before Roll The Bones came out and changed his life.
There are stencils, lyrics, drawings, prototypes for concert posters, and even a zine. The latter, which Graves — aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia — wrote and illustrated, tells the tale of a once-courageous, now retired mouse who must journey to the moon to save his sweetheart. At the time, he envisioned the photocopied storybook as a potential vessel for releasing his music.
“There was a lot of conceptualizing going on — trying to figure out what I wanted stuff to look like, sound like, and be like,” Rose-Garcia recalls, shuffling through the physical files on his second-story deck in South Austin. “And, honestly, a lot of trying to keep myself from going crazy.”
In this lode of unreleased ephemera, CD-Rs are the most bountiful element. There are dozens of burned discs with widely varying track lists, loosely resembling what would become the Austin native’s 2011 breakout debut Roll the Bones. For Rose-Garcia, who’s long loved the incongruous art form of sequencing strange mixtapes for friends, his own record was subject to change every time he burned a disc for somebody. Consistency didn’t matter, he asserts, because there was no demand or expectations.
Thus Roll the Bones was by no means a Big Bang creation story, rather a years long process of metamorphosis where literally hundreds of tracks were winnowed down into ten. As the album took shape, he began manufacturing one-off editions of the CD, stapled to self-destruct in brown paper, with black and white photographs glued upon them, and an ink pen marking of the artist’s enduring logo: a skull struck by an arrow.
“I liked that if they were opened, you couldn’t close them again,” he smiles. “Sometimes I’d spray paint the CD so they looked good and people would stick them in their car stereo and it would fuse in and never come out. They’d tell me, ‘You’re lucky I like this record because it’s the last one I’ll ever be able to listen to in my car.’”
In the shadows self-doubt that surrounds any artists first record, Rose-Garcia had a fantasy: he releases Roll the Bones, only ten people hear it, it’s rediscovered a decade later by Numero Group, hailed as before-its-time, and finds an audience as a lost treasure. He still plays that scenario through his mind like an alternative reality.
Of course, that’s far from what actually materialized. Roll the Bones was released on the first day of 2011 without a lick of promotion advancing it. It was simply thrust into the world as a decapod of perplexingly memorable, narrative-wrapped songs with a mysterious cover and no information about the artist… only available on the relatively new platform of Bandcamp.
That year, an editor at Bandcamp made it a featured album for a month and from there it stayed in the website’s top selling folk albums evermore. The record has since seen well over 100,000 units sold — even while being available for free download. In the “Supported By” section of the Roll the Bones Bandcamp page, you can endlessly click “more” and squares of avatars will keep showing up until you grow tired and stop.
“If you discover something for yourself, it will always hold more water because it’s tied to memory and coincidence,” Rose-Garcia reasons as to why he never pushed Roll the Bones onto a wider marketplace. “It gives you a sense of ownership as a listener.”
Now fans can obtain Roll the Bones as their own physical artifact. Through Dualtone Records, Shakey Graves will release a Ten Year Special Edition double LP with a black and gold foil re-arting of the taxidermied cow head cover. Separate iterations, hitting record collections on April 2, offer the 180g vinyl in a black and gold combination or two marbled “galaxy gold” discs. The lovingly assembled packaging includes handwritten deep explanations of every song, offset with original photography.
Along with its deluxe vinyl emergence, Roll the Bones today becomes available through all digital service providers — Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, et all. For the last decade, the songs have lived exclusively on Bandcamp. This full-spectrum digital release arrives concurrent with Shakey Graves Day, which was minted on February 9, 2012 by Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Year one, Rose-Garcia spent what he calls his “alter ego’s birthday,” as an excuse to go play laser tag. Ever since, he’s used it as an occasion to stage intimate pop-up shows and open up the attics of his discography — making all of his albums, plus hundreds of unheard songs temporarily available for free.
“I’ve used Shakey Graves Day as a challenge to myself,” he assesses. “I make so many random songs throughout the year that I either forget about or I’m too nervous to put on an album and it becomes a clearinghouse for that. It surprises me when people tell me that something released that day is their favorite of my stuff. In a larger sense, it builds off what I initially did with Roll the Bones - which is give it away for free.”
Accompanying Roll the Bones anniversary pressing are 15 additional tracks comprising an Odds + Ends LP, which stands as an essential document of Grave’s early era. Highlights include the mandolin imbued “Chinatown,” which sounds like it could be dubbed off a 1930’s silver screen soundtrack, and “Saving Face” — a seminal version of what would become Roll the Bones title cut. The crown jewel, however, may be a the first ever proper recording of the trifling love song “Late July,” a version that’s drastically different than the live rendition that’s racked 14 million views on YouTube.
Prepping Roll the Bones thoughtful 2021 edition gave Rose-Garcia an opportunity to take a new look at the person.
“I hear someone who felt really trapped,” he reveals. “In a lot of ways it was a breakup record. My first serious relationship had fallen apart and I was wanting to break up with my life — run away, be transient, and figure out who I was in the world. I can hear myself blaming the girl and trying to support myself, like maybe it’s okay to be dirty and crazy and have blinders on. Then, at the end, everything’s zooming back in and I’m saying ‘I guess I just got hurt and I’m in a bit of pain and, you know, it’s going to be okay.’”
Claiming he’s “further confused” listeners with each release, Rose-Garcia believes this purge of early output will provide some needed framing for his discography. It’s his genesis story, before he had the studio time to make the shiny And the War Came or the full-band cohesion to make the painstakingly dense Can’t Wake Up. To him, it’s a scrappy effort, but the most intentional work he’s ever produced — and, a decade later, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s a record that sounds like my years of exploration and influence, funneled through my abilities at the time — and it all became something bigger,” he muses. “If you would’ve offered to me: ‘Let’s do exactly what you want, right now” Roll the Bones wouldn’t have come out like this… and I’m happy that’s the case. Total control is an unhealthy myth, it leaves out the emotional side of how all the accidents come together. This record’s a period of time smashed into a single product and, in my own heart, it’s a moral compass: to always get back to feeling like this about the songs I make.”
August 08 Aug 08
Lift your voice with the instructors from The Song School as we share a special Sunday morning opening set together. No spoken introductions; just one continuous musical piece with musical interludes and the collective voices of the 31st Annual Folks Festival.
Sacramento songwriter Tré Burt’s sophomore album, You, Yeah, You, is a narrated collection of songs featuring a cast of invented characters; heroes, villains, those destitute of salvation and those seeking it. This is Burt’s second release on Oh Boy Records, the label founded by the late John Prine who signed the songwriter in the fall of 2019. On You, Yeah, You, Burt teamed up with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, Nathaniel Rateliff) to create the album that reads like twelve rounds in a ring, summoning the will to fight the unknown rather than surrender to fear and fatigue. You, Yeah, You is a cohesive body of work that clearly illustrates the ever expanding space in which Tré Burt’s voice belongs.
Music stitches together a strong community around The Ghost of Paul Revere. The Maine trio — Max Davis (vocals, banjo), Sean McCarthy (vocals, bass), and Griffin Sherry (vocals, guitar] — examine life’s ebbs and flows through a distinct and dynamic distillation of folk, bluegrass, rock, and alternative. Since forming in 2011, the band has created a following that has propelled them from a local to a national level, tallying 15 million total independent streams to date. After releasing the EP North in 2012, their signature style progressed over the course of two full-length albums — Believe (2014) and Monarch (2017) — and a pair of EPs — Field Notes, Vol. 1 (2015) and Field Notes, Vol. 2 (2019). They garnered acclaim from Billboard, Boston Globe, AXS, No Depression, Relix, and The Boot, who appropriately dubbed them, “not quite bluegrass, not quite country, not quite rock ‘n’ roll, but kind of all three combined.” The band has performed alongside The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell, The Revivalists, Bela Fleck, and The Infamous Stringdusters, sold out countless headlining gigs, and appeared at major festivals nationwide: Newport Folk, Austin City Limits, Winter WonderGrass, BottleRock Napa, Shaky Knees, Okeechobee, and Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. The boys took home “Best in Maine” at the New England Music Awards twice, in 2015 and 2019. In 2019, their song, “Ballad Of The 20th Maine,” became the official State Ballad of Maine after being passed unanimously by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Maine’s Governor, Janet Mills.
In 2014, they began curating, booking, and hosting their very own festival, Ghostland. Rooted in a love for Maine’s music community, the festival has grown into one of the state’s largest festivals, drawing local and national talent to the annual Labor Day Weekend event. With more music and touring on the horizon, The Ghost of Paul Revere continue to expand this community.
With her spellbinding voice and time-bending sensibilities, Sierra Ferrell makes music that’s as fantastically vagabond as the artist herself. Growing up in small-town West Virginia, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist left home in her early 20s to journey across the country with a troupe of nomadic musicians, playing everywhere from truck stops to alleyways to freight-train boxcars speeding down the railroad tracks. After years of living in her van and busking on the streets of New Orleans and Seattle, she moved to Nashville and soon landed a deal with Rounder Records on the strength of her magnetic live show. Now, on her highly anticipated label debut Long Time Coming, Ferrell shares a dozen songs beautifully unbound by genre or era, instantly transporting her audience to an infinitely more enchanted world.
Co-produced by Stu Hibberd and 10-time Grammy Award-winner Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch), Long Time Coming embodies a delicate eclecticism fitting for a musician who utterly defies categorization. “I want my music to be like my mind is — all over the place,” says Ferrell, who recorded the album at Southern Ground and Minutia studios in Nashville. “I listen to everything from bluegrass to techno to goth metal, and it all inspires me in different ways that I try to incorporate into my songs and make people really feel something.” In sculpting the album’s chameleonic sound, Ferrell joined forces with a knockout lineup of guest musicians (including Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Chris Scruggs, Sarah Jarosz, Billy Strings, and Dennis Crouch), adding entirely new texture to each of her gracefully crafted and undeniably heartfelt songs.
Sprung from her self-described “country heart but a jazz mind,” Long Time Coming opens on the unearthly reverie of “The Sea,” a haunting and hypnotic tale of scorned love. Its bewitching arrangement is adorned with sublime details like Ferrell’s tender toy-piano melodies and Scruggs’s woozy steel-guitar work. In a striking sonic shift emblematic of the whole album, Ferrell then veers into the galloping beat and classic bluegrass storytelling of “Jeremiah,” a heavy-hearted but sweetly hopeful romp featuring Jarosz on banjo and octave mandolin. Another impossibly charming bluegrass gem, “Bells of Every Chapel” sustains that wistful mood as Ferrell muses on the exquisite pain of “loving someone unconditionally with all your heart, but they don’t receive your love the way you want them to.” Graced with Strings’s nimble acoustic-guitar work and the heavenly harmonies of O’Brien and Julie Lee, “Bells of Every Chapel” reaches its breathtaking crescendo as Ferrell belts out the song’s closing lyrics, effectively twisting that heartache into something strangely glorious.
One of the most enthralling moments on Long Time Coming, “Far Away Across the Sea” finds Ferrell serenading her tragically distant beloved, channeling the track’s ardent longing in wildly cascading guitar lines and the fiery trumpet work of Nadje Noordhuis. “Since I’m singing about the ocean in that song, I wanted it to have a calypso vibe — but then there’s also a bit of a tango feel to it, and some Spanish influence too,” Ferrell points out. Noting that she first became fascinated with island music while touring with blues singer/songwriter C.W. Stoneking, Ferrell also infuses an element of calypso into “Why’d Ya Do It” — a beguiling and bittersweet lament whose lyrics perform a sort of poetic love spell (“My love for you’s a deep blue ocean, baby/I just wanna swim inside”).
In her elegant blurring of musical boundaries, Ferrell brought her vast imagination to the reworking of two signature fan favorites, including “In Dreams” — a song previously glimpsed in a viral video that’s now amassed nearly four million views on YouTube. A bold departure from the rugged simplicity of that rendition, the album version of “In Dreams” unfolds with an unbridled splendor that wholly intensifies the impact of Ferrell’s outpouring. Meanwhile, in reimagining the self-reflective “Made Like That,” Ferrell introduces unexpected flourishes like loping percussion and luminous piano tones, ultimately building an even more immersive atmosphere around the song’s softly devastating confession. “When I wrote ‘Made Like That,’ I was thinking about where I am now compared to what my life was like in West Virginia,” she says. “It was hell for me to be stuck in a small town, but I got out and finally realized what the world had to offer. Now I’m here, and I’m so much healthier and happier.”
Despite its endless wandering into new sonic terrain, Long Time Coming is indelibly rooted in Ferrell’s ravishing vocal presence, revealing her extraordinary ability to draw enormous feeling from just one single note. A lifelong singer, she got her start performing covers in a local bar at the young age of seven. “There was this little dead-end bar nearby that my mom and I would go hang out at during the day, and I’d get up and sing Shania Twain songs,” she recalls. “There’d be hardly anyone in there, so I’d have free rein of the place.” Later on, while living in a trailer park, Ferrell had a chance encounter that would soon turn out to be life-changing. “I met all these homeless kids who were traveling all over the place and playing amazing old songs, and I wanted to be a part of that,” says Ferrell. “The music they were making was so honest, so pure. It seemed important to bring that kind of music back, and it’s been with me ever since.” Though her years of traveling proved immensely formative, Ferrell eventually settled in Nashville in her late 20s. Soon after her arrival, she began taking the stage at major festivals like The Avett Brothers at the Beach, AmericanaFest, and Out on The Weekend and touring with the likes of Parker Millsap and Charley Crockett, immediately captivating crowds with her joyful and spirited live set.
A consummate musician’s musician, Ferrell found an easy camaraderie with the many luminaries who accompanied her on Long Time Coming. To that end, her most cherished moments in the album’s production include the recording of the soul-stirring choir-like harmonies of “West Virginia Waltz,” as well as Rory Hoffman’s impromptu whistling on “Bells of Every Chapel.” (“Rory’s got one heck of a whistle on him,” she marvels). At the same time, the making of Long Time Coming fully affirmed her affinity for lifers like Strings. “Billy’s in it for the music, which is something we have in common,” she says. “We’re just gonna keep playing till we’re not on this Earth anymore.”
While the wayward sound of Long Time Coming is in many ways a perfect echo of Ferrell’s free-spirited nature, there’s also a much deeper intention at play: a desire to expand her listeners’ capacity for wonder, so that they might uncover some enchantment in their own lives. “A lot of us are taught to wake up, go to work, make money, eat, sleep, rinse, repeat,” says Ferrell. “It’s so easy to get caught up in that nine-to-five routine, and end up numb and dulled-down to everything. I want my music to help people break away from that — to get lost in their imagination, and start seeing how magical the world can be if you just pay attention.”