2011 was a huge year for the Newport Folk Festival. By playing fast and loose with the "folk" part of its name, the organizers put together a stellar lineup that joined artists both old and new in a giant celebration of music, and the payoff was that for the first time in the festivals HISTORY it SOLD OUT! So how do you follow up what many consider to be the best year in the festivals history?
GO BIGGER of course.
This year heavyweights like of My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes, Dawes, The Head and The Heart, Conor Oberst and JACKSON FREAKING BROWNE sit on top of the bill - not to mention WILCO if you want to throw in the fests expansion to include a Friday night show. But you already know this. Again this year, you bought up every last ticket to be had. You're already planning on seeing Punch Brothers, Tune-yards, and Charles Bradley. You've got your run of Deer Tick, Sharon Van Etten and Iron and Wine mapped out down to the minute. But that's just one side of the weekend.
In a large part it is the smaller bands that make this festival. Newcomers, oldcomers...it doesn't matter. These are artists that might float under the general publics radar, but its safe to say, nobody makes it to the Newport stage without good reason. With that in mind, here's a few of the "little guys" that we think are well worth your time checking out this weekend when you get the chance.
Last years Salt for Salt was one of the more criminally underrated releases, but you wouldn’t know it by the performance that this duo delivered 2011’s Newport Folk Festival. With a sound that lies somewhere between a darker vision of American, prog rock and METAL (yes you read that right), they stunned the crowd at the Alex and Ani tent in 2011. This year the group makes the well deserved move up to the main stage, so make sure you get there early, because our money is on David [Lamb] and MorganEve [Swain] to provide one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. No pressure guys.
Since the release of 2011’s American Nomad, this six piece from Nashville, TN has been touring nonstop, spreading their roots rock gospel far and wide. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Bruce Springsteen The Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons, the group delivers a high energy rock show that is not to be missed, and is a perfect way to kick off your Newport Folk Festival weekend.
This man probably needs no introduction, but for the five or six of you who don’t know the sweet sounds of Mr. Corndawg, prepare to be enlightened. In 2011, Corndawg released Down On The Bikini Line, a fun-loving collection of songs that owed as much to Waylon Jennings as it did to Shel Silverstein – but that wasn’t Jonny’s first rodeo. In fact, since 2001 he’s been traveling the world, workin’ with leather, running marathons and playing with some of the best and brightest musicians around. Deer Tick, J. Roddy Walston, Futurebirds, Wanda Jackson, David Allan Coe – he’s shared a stage with all of them. But it was last years performances with Middle Brother that brought Corndawg the recognition he deserved, and just like last year expect collaborations aplenty, as well as one killer set from Corndawg himself.
There are no words to accurately describe the energetic performance that this “street performer” from California brings to the stage. Part old-time Appalachia, part raw punk energy, Fairfield has opened for the likes of Fleet Foxes and Cass McCombs, and if there ever was an artist that simple had to be seen to be believed, and then Fairfield is it.
At 22 years of age, Robert Ellis has already been compared to the likes of Jackson Browne and George Jones. That’s pretty high praise, one listen to his debut album Photographs and you’ll see that it’s well deserved. With a voice that drips with a golden twang, Ellis honors the old traditions and makes up a few new ones as he goes along. Now if we could just find a way to get him and Jonny Corndawg together…hmmm
SLEEPY MAN BANJO BOYS
Kids! Playing Bluegrass! AND KILLING IT! Need we say more?
These brothers became a YouTube sensation by posting their bedroom practice videos and then raking in the acclaim and getting over 5.4 MILLION views over the course of the past year. But that’s not the amazing part. The amazing part is that this is no novelty act. These kids absolutely SHRED, and with the oldest sibling checking in at the ripe old age of 14, they’re just getting warmed up.