By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 20th annual Four Corners Folk Festival will take place Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4, 5 and 6, on Reservoir Hill in downtown Pagosa Springs.
The big anniversary promises equally big talent on the festival stage, with acts from Hot Rize (with Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers), Sara Watkins + Sarah Jarosz + Aoife O’Donovan, The Oh Hellos, Eddie From Ohio, The Black Lillies, Ruth Moody Band, Love Canon, the Jon Stickly Trio, SHEL, The Railsplitters, Anne and Pete Sibley, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards and this week’s featured artists: up and coming bands Ages and Ages, Patchy Sanders and The Novel Ideas.
Ages and Ages
Ages and Ages is more than a band. It’s a collective of like-minded souls that believe in the power of music to change the world and elevate the spirit. Their music is bright and uplifting, with lyrics, penned by bandleader Tim Perry, that deliver serious introspective messages full of insight and consideration for others.
“When we made this album, we wanted a word to describe how we felt and what we were going through as individuals and a band,” Perry said, “so we made one up. ‘Divisionary’ signifies a group whose vision of ‘right’ is upsetting to the existing power structure. It includes a philosophical, spiritual, and physical ‘breaking off’ from the status quo. It also references the individual inner conflicts that arise as you struggle to make the right choices in life. Visionaries don’t always create conflict, but they challenge the establishment with new ideas and with the threat of change. Where there is change, there is usually resistance, controversy, division.
“The songs on our first album, ‘Alright You Restless,’ described a group of people leaving a selfish, destructive society for a place safe from the madness. That was like starting a band, wanting to establish new rules and a language to put some distance between themselves and the noise outside. Those songs were optimistic, energetic and self-righteous because that’s how a group of people who broke off from society would feel. As the group faces the struggles of actually making their community work, reality sets in and things get more complicated. ‘Divisionary’ details the second phase of the journey.”
The title track, “Divisonary (Do The Right Thing),” is a secular, gospel-style song with inspirational harmonies, sanctified piano and smooth violin adding muscle to a simple refrain: “Do the right thing, do the right thing … don’t you know you’re not the only one suffering.” A stomping, exuberant bass drum pushes the giddy pop vocals of “I See More” as it reassures listeners that, “It’s all OK, I’ll be on your side.” The jaunty folk pop of “Big Idea” holds a flickering candle up to the darkness with intricate hand-clapping, gentle harmonies and the candid admission that, “All of my ins are on the outside. And I want you all to notice, cuz I have no will to hide.”
The harmonies and intricate instrumental interplay on “Divisionary” are carefully crafted, but never sound forced, with complex arrangements that are naturalistic, invigorating and free.
The clash between the band’s stirring folkadelic sounds and emotionally thorny subject matter makes for a bracing listen, “as if the internal conflict is happening in real time,” Perry said.
“Ultimately I think the band all feels hopeful and blessed,” Perry concluded. “These songs reflect that optimism, but they don’t do so lightly or try to dodge the struggles we’re dealing with individually and as a band. It was an exceptionally long, hard road this time around but in the end, we’re all really proud and excited to share this record.”
Ages and Ages will take the festival stage at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5.
The Novel Ideas
The Novel Ideas are a country folk quintet of friends from the great state of Massachusetts. Featuring the voices of three different songwriters, The Novel Ideas create a blend of pastoral, harmony-driven and plaintive Americana.
The group spent the past year playing shows in support of its debut album, “Home,” which was recorded in a barn in Jaffrey, N.H. In June 2014, the band released a 10-inch single, “Lost on the Road,” featuring two new songs and marking the band’s first effort as a five-piece.
They’ve shared the stage with acts such as Lord Huron, Caveman and Little Green Cars, and are currently touring nationally while working on their next record.
The Novel Ideas will make their western U.S. festival debut at the Four Corners Folk Festival on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 11:30 a.m.
Whittled down, the name Patchy Sanders becomes a mythical muse, an unknown source of inspiration and beauty. Based out of Ashland Ore., they are six: Danielle (banjo) and Jacqui Aubert (vocals), Dan Sherrill (guitar), Sara Wilbur (violin), Ian Van Ornum (mandolin) and Eric Jones (bass).
Working with eclectic themes from dreams, fairy tales, after-life, wildlands, etc., Patchy crafts stream-of-consciousness story music with an emphasis on melody and lyrics. These aren’t songs as much as they are musical emotional experiences which conjure other worldly journeys. By and large, the band’s music fits as well in an acoustic art house as it does in a farmhouse hootenanny hoe-down or main stage at a pop festival.
Touring behind its debut record, “Patchy Sanders and The Wild Peach Forest,” Patchy’s momentum has been building since its extensive northwest concert season in 2014. Notable festival appearances from that tour include the Kate Wolf Music Festival, Oregon Country Fair, The Britt, Beloved, Northwest String Summit, CA Worldfest and others. They’ve also played historic venues in the Bay Area, including the Great American Music Hall and The Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse.
Seeking to broaden modern folk’s traditionalist approach, Patchy has new material in the works for 2015. Fresh, original music bending towards avant-folk, with folk-orchestral arrangements blending diverse genres and musical styles — this is contemporary, independent, eclectic, eccentric, folk music that critics have been, with effort, trying to categorize.
Like many things which remain hard to classify, Patchy Sanders’ music comes from its mythical muse, their unknown source of inspiration, and from here it will continue to flourish.
You can catch this six-piece “folk orchestra” at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4.
Volunteering and tickets
FolkWest is currently scheduling volunteers for the upcoming event; if you’d like to find out more, visit www.folkwest.com and click on the “Volunteer” section under Four Corners Folk Festival.
Festival tickets and information are available on the website, www.folkwest.com. You can also search Google Play and the App Store for the free festival app, where you can listen to the Four Corners Folk Festival commercial-free station, watch videos from the performers, check schedules and much more.