Perhaps the two bands that are generating the most excitement for returning fans to this year’s 14th annual Four Corners Folk Festival are The Bills and Eddie From Ohio.
Both bands have a rich history playing the Four Corners Folk Festival, with EFO boasting five past appearances (the last in 2004) and The Bills showing up three times in previous lineups, with 2005 being their last show here. Both bands possess an incredible ability to endear themselves to an audience with witty on-stage banter, engaging and energetic stage presence and highly entertaining songs. So it’s no surprise that the Four Corners audience is anxiously awaiting the return of these two beloved bands to the Pagosa stage on Reservoir Hill this fall.
The festival will take place Sept. 4-6, over Labor Day Weekend. The musical lineup features 14 outstanding national and international performers: Tim O’Brien, Sara Watkins (formerly of Nickel Creek), the subdudes, Darrell Scott, the Greencards, The Infamous Stringdusters, Anne & Pete Sibley, The Quebe Sisters, Russ Barenberg Trio, the Wiyos, Mark Atkinson Trio and Shannon Whitworth. Tickets are available locally at Moonlight Books downtown and at ReSport in the Pagosa Lakes City Market shopping center or can be purchased online at www.folkwest.com and by phone, (877) 472-4672. Children 12 and under receive free festival admission.
Too energetic to be labeled just “folk,” and not angry enough to be pegged “alternative,” Eddie from Ohio continues to defy description with their unique blend of vocals and acoustic instrumentation. A bedrock foundation of hand and stick percussion and a textural flavoring of guitar/bass/harmonica support the four-part harmonies and lyrically-driven original music. While this combination has drawn comparisons like the Grateful Dead meets Peter, Paul and Mary, or like Jewel fronts the Bare Naked Ladies, EFO fuses a multitude of musical influences to create their own trademark sound. Performing Songwriter magazine writes, “The manic strumminess recalls Ani DiFranco or Dave Matthews, but there’s also a deep undercurrent of high, lonesome mountain harmony that should appeal to fans of Alison Krauss and Union Station.”
With this trademark sound, EFO has: produced nine CDs independently (selling upwards of 150,000 copies to date), toured from Florida to Washington State, cultivated massive postal and email lists, received air play from hundreds of radio stations worldwide, been invited to play the main stage at many prestigious, appeared on syndicated radio programs Mountain Stage, West Coast Live and World Cafe, and were awarded “Best Contemporary Folk Group” by the Washington Area Music Association six times since 1997.
Not bad for a Virginia-based band that began in 1991 playing covers in neighborhood bars when three James Madison University graduates (Robbie Schaefer, Eddie Hartness and Michael Clem) teamed up with Virginia Tech alumnae Julie Murphy (now Murphy Wells). After a popular seven-year Tuesday night residency at Bad Habits Grille in Arlington, Va., EFO graduated from town taverns to renowned listening rooms and concert series throughout the country, where their tight harmonies and humorous lyrics, set against an eclectic array of musical forms, can be featured to best advantage.
The band continues to perform but on a more limited basis since September 2005 when vocalist Wells was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, after an intense year of chemotherapy, Wells is on the road to recovery and remains active in cancer cure fund-raising. In 2006, bassist/guitarist Clem released his first solo CD (produced by Hartness), and guitarist Schaefer has found quite a calling in children’s music, having produced a successful CD and hosting a nightly satellite radio show on XMKids, as well as putting out a new solo CD in December 2008, “Strange & Lovely World.” Percussionist Hartness continues to keep the beat for a number of local acts and stays active in the world of audio engineering.
When the four reconvene onstage in Pagosa on Sunday, Sept. 6, it will be a performance to remember.
From the beautiful West Coast of Canada comes The Bills — an extraordinary quintet, renowned among folk music fans of all ages for its instrumental virtuosity, lush vocal arrangements, exuberant live performances, evocative songwriting, and refreshingly innovative interpretations of traditional tunes from around the globe.
In 2004, with the release of their stunning third CD, “Let Em Run,” The Bills secured their place as one of the most inventive and talented acts on the North American and Western European folk music scene. “Let Em Run” has generated enormous praise from critics and fans alike, and was nominated for the 2005 Canadian JUNO award for Roots/Traditional Album of the Year.
Drawing musical inspiration from a broad range of North American traditions, a melange of European stylings, rhythms of Latin America, and melodies of the wandering Romany peoples, The Bills have forged a musical style all their own that transcends musical boundaries and defies simple categorization. With three main writers in the band, The Bills have developed a glorious and growing repertoire of songs that speak of their own part of the world.
Since forming in 1996, The Bills have toured theatres and festivals from Copenhagen to California, thrilling audiences with their breathtaking musical explorations and their natural onstage humor and charm. Whether entertaining an intimate theatre audience or a festival crowd of 10,000, these five gifted multi-instrumentalists are masters at bridging the gulf between stage and audience to create a completely unique and exciting musical experience. The Bills will perform at the Four Corners Folk Festival on Sunday, Sept. 6.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is supported by a grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Colorado General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Additional festival information can be found online at www.folkwest.com.