The 17th annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 on Reservoir Hill right here in Pagosa Springs.
The festival has developed a national reputation due to its stunning site overlooking the San Juan Mountains, the amazing talent of its musicians and the friendliness and value of the event. Some 300 volunteers and a small core staff work hard to welcome festival-goers from around the Southwest region and beyond. This year’s lineup offers an array of Americana, folk, bluegrass, newgrass and folk-rock music from Railroad Earth, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, The Wood Brothers, Sara Watkins, Loudon Wainwright III, Sarah Siskind, Elephant Revival, Caravan of Thieves, Anne and Pete Sibley, You Me and Apollo, Mike + Ruthy, The Milk Carton Kids, Rose’s Pawn Shop and this week’s featured artists The Well Pennies and Darrell Scott.
Veteran festival performer Darrell Scott was baptized in country music — the old country music of cheating, drinking, working, longing- pre-Garth, pre-video, pre-urban-cowboy country music — the voice of working people, people of the land. Darrell’s own people came from Kentucky: poor tobacco farmers and Harlan County coal miners, descendants of Scots and Irish who brought their music with them. Darrell’s latest album, Long Ride Home, is country music how he remembers it from his childhood, with some of the players that made the very music that was both lifting and breaking his heart as a kid. Darrell finds that, while the country music industry has changed, country and working people have not changed so much; they still love real country music when they hear it.
Darrell is a fixture at FolkWest festivals, headlining Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass in 2010 and appearing numerous times in the Four Corners Folk Festival lineup with his own band, with Tim O’Brien and as part of the Sam Bush Band the first time Sam played that festival back in 2001. It has long been clear to us that Darrell Scott is one of the most prolific and talented songwriters of modern Americana and alt-country music, and judging by the volume of awards he has amassed during his career, it is clear to those in the music industry as well. Here are just a few highlights: Independent Music Award Best Country Album of 2011 — “A Crooked Road;” 2011 Grammy Nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance — “Willow Creek;” International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Nomination – 2010 Recorded Event of the Year — “Bleeding for a Little Peace of Mind” with Blue Highway; American Songwriter Top 25 Songs from the last 25 Years, No. 6, “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” (2009); Americana Award for 2007 Song of the Year — “Hank William’s Ghost;” Independent Music Award for 2005 Album of the Year - “Theatre of the Unheard;” Grammy Nomination for Best Country Song 2003 — “Long Time Gone” (recorded by the Dixie Chicks); Rolling Stone Magazine 2003 Critics Top Albums — “Theatre of the Unheard;” IBMA Song of the Year Nominee — 2002, 2003; ASCAP’s 2002 Songwriter of the Year; Grammy Nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance 2001 — “The Second Mouse” (with Tim O’Brien); NSAI 2001 Songwriter of the Year.
While no one performs Darrell’s songs as well as Darrell, other artists have recorded them over the years with highly successful outcomes, among them the Dixie Chicks, Keb’ Mo’, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Jonell Mosser, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Sara Evans, Suzy Bogguss, Patty Loveless, Darryl Worley and Trace Adkins.
Fresh off a stint touring as part of Robert Plant’s (yes, The Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin) Band of Joy, Darrell and his band will perform on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 5:30 p.m., opening for Railroad Earth.
For the past several years, FolkWest has solicited online submissions of electronic press kids to select the Four Corners Folk Festival’s Emerging Artist. Past choices include the Black Lillies, MilkDrive and KJ Denhert. This year’s artist, selected from more than 150 submissions, is The Well Pennies.
The Well Pennies are an indie folk/pop duo consisting of husband and wife team, Bryan and Sarah Vanderpool. With a sound that blends ’60s folk, ’70s pop and a little Americana, The Well Pennies strive for a vibe that is new and old at the same time; taking influence from Feist, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, and Nickel Creek.
Though raised in two different parts of the country and on different kinds of music, Bryan and Sarah’s paths eventually crossed while working on solo careers in the Boston folk music scene. Their collaboration first started after frequently sitting in on each other’s gigs, helping with harmonies and extra instrumentation. It didn’t take long for the two to attempt writing songs together and from there a partnership developed. The duo then began playing throughout Boston and New York City at popular venues like Club Passim, Lizard Lounge, The Living Room and Rockwood Music Hall. Seeking more opportunities for publishing, the couple moved to Los Angeles in 2009 where they currently reside.
Bryan (guitars, banjo, percussion, vocals) grew up in Massachusetts spending the majority of his childhood obsessed with music. He began studying jazz percussion at the age of 9, continuing on through high school involved in jazz ensembles and leading the drum line in marching band. At 17, he taught himself guitar and quickly developed his own unique rhythmic picking style —a combination of traditional folk picking and frailing clawhammer.
Sarah (pianos, accordion, vocals) spent her childhood in Des Moines, Iowa listening to doo-wop records and ’70s rock. Classically trained in piano from age 13, she began writing music and performing locally in her teens while also traveling throughout the country in chamber choirs and vocal ensembles. Being a multi-instrumentalist, she learned guitar and has also been known to break out an accordion during shows.
The Well Pennies recorded their first project “The Well Pennies” (EP) with producer Michael Woodrum (Joss Stone, BC Jean) which was released in January 2012. The six-song collection is an upbeat, rootsy, pop mix full of catchy melodies, beautiful harmonies and a toe-tapping groove. The Well Pennies explain that their goal was “to write songs that inspire something — however simple — to smile, to love, to get out and experience life.” The Well Pennies will perform on Friday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. on the festival’s Main Stage.
Tickets to this year’s festival may be purchased by phone at (877) 472-4672 or online at www.folkwest.com. Complete festival information, including Main Stage, Late Night, Workshop and Kids Tent schedules, is also available at that website. Children 12 and under receive free admission when accompanied by an adult and can enjoy a selection of free activities and entertainment in the Kids Tent throughout the weekend.