The fourth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival returns to Reservoir Hill June 4 and 5, with the traditional Free Friday kickoff concert on Friday, June 3 beginning at 4 p.m. in Town Park.
On the lineup this year are 12 phenomenal bands: Eddie From Ohio, Solas, Crooked Still, Joy Kills Sorrow, MilkDrive, Warren Hood and the Goods, The Grant Farm, Rockin’ Acoustic Circus, Spring Creek, Finnders and Youngberg and this week’s featured bands, The Dixie Bee-Liners and Town Mountain.
In 2008, The Dixie Bee-Liners quickly garnered praise for their ground-breaking album “Ripe,” which dazzled critics and fans alike and earned the band four No. 1’s on the bluegrass charts. Later that year, The Bee-Liners were named Roots Music Association’s Bluegrass Artist of the Year, plucked from among such luminaries as Alison Krauss and Merle Haggard, who also shared the nomination.
Building on the tremendous success of their debut CD, The Bee-Liners are blazing a bold new trail with the latest release, “Susanville” — a concept album that takes listeners on a musical road trip along America’s highways and byways. The band’s second full-length work, “Susanville” peers into the cars and trucks in America’s cities and towns, bringing to life 19 breathtaking musical moments along America’s interstates and byways. The band employs its signature blend of hooks and harmonies, exploring themes such as escape, adventure, memory, and regret.
Known equally for her golden pipes and lead foot, the Bee-Liners’ dulcet-throated lead singer Brandi Hart is a native of the Bluegrass State. She grew up singing and playing music in Southern Baptist church choirs, where she got her start at the tender age of 2. Her thoughtfully penned originals cover a surprisingly broad range, from hard-driving bluesy scorchers to ancient-toned instrumentals. A prolific songwriter, Brandi is currently at work on three distinct bluegrass concept albums. She was featured in the official ASCAP/IBMA Songwriters’ Showcase at World of Bluegrass 2006 in Nashville. She plays rhythm guitar, Nashville guitar, fiddle, and mountain dulcimer and has been known to moonlight in theater, dance, and voiceover acting.
Bluegrass veteran Buddy Woodward was a founding member of seminal ’90s alt-country whiz kids The Ghost Rockets, and NYC honkytonkers Buddy Woodward and The Nitro Express and was a featured performer on Greg Garing’s Alphabet City Opry. Throughout much of 2005 and 2006, Buddy appeared in the Barter Theater’s smash hit play, “Man of Constant Sorrow: The Story of the Stanley Brothers,” playing the roles of George Shuffler, Pee-Wee Lambert, Bill Monroe, and a Primitive Baptist preacher. He also moonlights as a voiceover actor for cartoons, including Pokemon, Boogie Pop Phantom, and The Ping Pong Club. A gifted songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Buddy plays the mandolin, guitar, banjo, bass, and drums, as well as handling production chores for the band.
Sav Sankaran is a crackerjack vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Originally from Altoona, Pa., Sav now makes his home in Asheville, N.C. His soaring vocals and rock-solid downbeat on the bass are an ovation-inspiring highlight of DBL performances. On the fiddle and vocals is the lovely Sara Needham. A graduate of East Tennessee State University, where she studied with the legendary Clarence “Tater” Tate and performed with ETSU’s beloved Pride Band, Sara’s warm, earthy touch on the fiddle and alluring vocals bring an intriguing edge to the DBL sound. In the banjo chair is Zachary Mongan. Zach currently attends ETSU with a Public Performance scholarship awarded by the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music program. In 2008, he was awarded the Grey Fox Bill Vernon Scholarship, which is given annually to talented and motivated students who are involved in bluegrass music. Fittingly for The Dixie Bee-Liners, his playing style is an engaging blend of traditional and contemporary influences.
Together, these accomplished musicians contribute dynamic improvisational styles and add jaw-dropping grit, humor, and emotion to The Dixie Bee-Liners’ live performances.
You can catch DBL on the Folk ‘N Bluegrass main stage on Sunday, June 5, at 3 p.m.
Imagine the band that occupies the common ground between traditional bluegrass, outlaw country, and pure old time mountain music. A group that harnesses the frantic energy of the modern punk string band, yet still remains respectfully rooted in the tradition of Bill Monroe. Imagine a band with one foot proudly planted in the path of traditional bluegrass, and one foot stepping out into the unknown forefront of American string music.
This is Town Mountain, the exciting new sound from Asheville, N.C. Born out of the all night jam sessions and fertile picking scene of western North Carolina, Town Mountain has emerged as one of the premiere young American bluegrass bands. Great original, tight vocal harmonies, a charismatic stage presence, and instrumental expertise place this group in the upper tier of contemporary acoustic bands. But, in the end, despite these qualities, it’s always the undeniable, irresistible energy of a live Town Mountain show that truly sets this group apart.
This unique energy has had Town Mountain winning over audiences in theatres, clubs, house concerts, and festivals across the country for almost three years now, from Oregon to Maine to California and back home to Carolina. It all started in 2005, when the guys decided to take their homegrown sound on its first national tour. That summer was spent swaggering across the country, sharing their music in smoky bars and hometown honkytonks nightly. The tour ended with a bang in Colorado, where Town Mountain joined the ranks of Steep Canyon Rangers, Chatham County Line and Yonder Mountain String Band by winning the prestigious Rockygrass Band Competition. The tour and the win kicked the Town Mountain experience into high gear, establishing the group as a force among American string bands, and as a live show that is not to be missed.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that gives Town Mountain its unique, contagious energy. It could be the visual performance that accompanies their great music. The guys bob and weave around each other, to and from the microphones, in order to facilitate their surprisingly sophisticated vocal and instrumental arrangements. The result is a natural choreography, an exciting visual performance that makes the band almost as fun to watch as it is to listen to.
Almost. Town Mountain is monumentally fun to listen to. This is the hard-driving, no nonsense, slammin’ bluegrass that makes you whoop and holler and stomp your feet. Yet it’s mixed with just enough slow country crooning to keep it balanced. Just enough outlaw swagger to give it a honkytonk edge. Just enough contemporary, alt-whatever elements to make it equally appealing to non-bluegrass fans — and it’s mostly original music.
Robert Greer, Jesse Langlais, and Phil Barker have all proven themselves to be prominent American songwriters worth keeping an eye on. Town Mountain will provide music lovers to come out and enjoy a group that is standing firmly on the shoulders of Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams, yet still manages to bring a unique, irresistibly infectious energy that rivals that of any modern rock and roll band. You can catch their set on Sunday, June 5, at 1:30 p.m.
To purchase tickets, or for additional information, visit www.folkwest.com or call (877) 472-4672. Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported by a grant from Colorado Creative Industries, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.