By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 22nd annual Four Corners Folk Festival will be here before you know it, taking place right here in Pagosa Springs on Reservoir Hill Park Sept. 1, 2 and 3. The event will bring thousands of people from the Four Corners region and beyond to enjoy three days of live musical performers from internationally touring musicians.
This year’s lineup includes Los Lobos, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, The Wood Brothers, Sarah Jarosz, John Fullbright, The East Pointers, We Banjo 3, The Lil’ Smokies, Quiles and Cloud, The Accidentals, Ghost of Paul Revere, The Drunken Hearts and this week’s featured artists: the FY5 Band,Session Americana, and Freddy and Francine.
The FY5 Band
For decades now, Colorado has been a wellspring for American roots music, combining the traditional Appalachian old-time and honky-tonk strains of the East with the spirit of adventure and openness of the West. Colorado has served as a magnet for musicians looking to find themselves, and it’s become a place for musical kindred spirits to commune and create.
FY5 (formerly Finnders and Youngberg) represents this pioneering spirit, and with the band’s latest effort, “Eat the Moon,” we can hear a newfound maturity and purpose that comes with steady gigging, dedication and a renewed sense of purpose. Bluegrass harmonies, crisp as a mountain stream, meld with virtuosic picking and fiddling and the kind of honest acknowledgment of the tough realities of life that’s best found in traditional honky-tonk. With “Eat the Moon,” FY5 brings us a self-assured vision of American music, rooted in tradition, but pointing to new creative directions that make it vital and relevant in today’s modern world.
If you’re looking for the source of this music, there’s a deep vein of country music that reaches all the way back to Appalachia and underpins both bluegrass and honky-tonk. But it takes an uncommon vision and a powerful band to unite the two as FY5 has done. Much of this connection is built through Aaron Youngberg’s facility on both banjo and pedal steel, but also through the gritty vocals of lead singer Mike Finders. You can hear traces of both Jimmy Martin and Lefty Frizzell in his voice, but he has a unique and unaffected sound of his own that comes through on all the original songs. Female vocalist Erin Youngberg does more than hold her own on lead vocals, and when these two voices join together as a duet, one can’t help but compare them to classic country duets like George Jones and Melba Montgomery or Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. Combine these vocals with rapid-fire mandolin picking from Rich Zimmerman that, though clean and precise, still contains a gritty edge, and masterful fiddling from renowned violinist Ryan Drickey, and you’ve got the driving force of FY5.
On “Eat The Moon,” all these elements combine in a partnership that recalls a time before roots music became watered down or overly polished. FY5’s synergy of styles carries the traditions of what came before with the frontier elements of the West, giving their music a sense of freedom and adventure that sounds fresh to our ears. If you’re searching for the ensemble that will bridge the gap between the Smokies and the Rockies, between east and west, old and new, this is for you.
FY5 will kick off this year’s performances with a set on the main stage at 2 p.m. on Sept. 1.
Session Americana, from the great city of Boston, Mass., is a rock band in a tea cup, or possibly a folk band in a whiskey bottle.
This band/collective of talented musicians craft a musical experience unlike any other. On stage is a collapsible bar table wired with microphones, a vintage suitcase recast as a kick drum, an old Estey field organ, a pre-war parlor guitar, a mandocello and all of its smaller siblings, a harmonica case damaged by fire when Jack’s bar went up in flames and graffitied by Depeche Mode roadies, and an assortment of other instruments that get passed around in this freewheeling, modern hootenanny.
The anything-could-happen feel of a Session show depends on craft that’s not accidental or easily won; they bring a kind of ease and genuineness to this timeless music, sometimes presenting the latest batch of original songs, sometimes reaching back into depths of the American “song bag.”
Rolling Stone says it best: “It’s right there in the name for this ultra-gifted, rotating collective of singers and multi-instrumentalists. And sprawl is a good word when it comes to the Boston-based group’s raucous live shows, which were initially built around the community concept of traditional Irish seisiúns. The group, whose members have played with a variety of acts including Patty Griffin, Josh Ritter and the J. Geils Band, expertly blends vintage American roots music styles — from country to jazz to rock — in a rowdy but deft fashion.”
Don’t miss the Session Americana experience on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 12:30 p.m. on the festival main stage.
Freddy and Francine
Freddy and Francine is an Americana-soul duo comprised of Bianca Caruso and Lee Ferris. With voices reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison, their songs blend soul, rhythm and blues, folk, and Americana with a modern, yet timeless appeal to all ages.
“Ferris and Caruso have found their respective vocal soulmates, the kind of perfect harmonies that send a gripping shiver down the backbone of the listener,” says The Deli Magazine.
No Depression says, “Freddy and Francine currently top my list. There is definitely a palpable chemistry between these musicians, with their vocals blending like milk and honey.”
Freddy and Francine have released two EPs and three full length records since 2008. Their latest, “Gung Ho,” was produced by renowned producer Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird and Anais Mitchell) and featured members of Ryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright and Andrew Bird’s touring bands.
National audiences continue to be drawn to the duo as they “bring it all out on stage from a lullaby so sweet you’d swear a choir of angels were harmonizing just for you; to gut-busting, foot stomping tunes befitting a New Orleans gospel choir,” says the Flagstaff, Ariz., Daily Sun.
The duo appeared this year at the 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and have racked up past performances at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Sisters Folk Fest and Madison Square Park. They are undoubtedly a band on the rise.
The two will open the Sunday, Sept. 3, show with a main stage set at 11 a.m.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is produced by FolkWest, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is funded in part with a grant from Colorado Creative Industries.
Information on schedules, artists and tickets can be found online at www.folkwest.com or by calling 731-5582.
Artist bios and interviews courtesy of FY5, Session Americana and Freddy and Francine.