By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
June 8, 9 and 10 will mark the 13th annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival on Reservoir Hill.
As in years past, the three-day outdoor event will draw hundreds of music lovers from around Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Texas and beyond for rousing live performances from a stellar lineup.
This year’s performers include Tommy Emmanuel, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, The Way Down Wanderers, The Giving Tree Band, Bonnie and the Clydes, Coral Creek, Caitlyn Canty, The Arcadian Wild, Tallgrass, FY5, Thunder and Rain, and this week’s featured bands: Luke Bulla Trio, The Good Time Travelers and Sugar and the Mint.
Luke Bulla Trio
Luke Bulla has a long history of festival appearances, playing past Four Corners Folk Festivals with bands like Wisechild, The Jerry Douglas Band and the Darrell Scott Band. Last year, his trio gave a stunning performance at Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass and we’re thrilled for his encore performance this year.
Bulla has been singing and playing music most of his life. Touring with and singing in his family band from age four, Bulla took up the fiddle at age 7. Over the course of the next few years, he won the National Fiddle Contest (in Weiser, Idaho) six times in his respective age categories. His seventh win came in the Grand Champion division at age 16, making him the youngest to have earned the title at the time. Entering Nashville’s Grand Masters fiddle contest at age ten, Bulla distinguished himself by being the youngest person to have made the top 10.
The spring of 1999 found Bulla moving to Nashville to establish himself as a full-time musician. He spent his early years in Tennessee playing fiddle in Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder, which earned him his first Grammy Award. Following the Skaggs stint, he became a member of the John Cowan Band. More recently, Bulla has performed and/or recorded with a slew of talented musicians including Scott, Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton and Chris Thile, to name a few. Bulla was also a perennial instructor at Mark O’Connor’s fiddle camps while growing up.
With long-time friend Casey Driessen, Bulla founded the band Wisechild. The band toured briefly with John Mayer and Counting Crows. In addition to violin, Bulla plays guitar, mandolin, sings and writes songs. In the spring of ’09, Lyle Lovett asked Bulla to join his Large Band and Bulla now tours full time in all of Lovett’s configurations. Bulla also released a solo EP featuring Jerry Douglas, Bush, Fleck and Aoife O’Donovan, to name a few.
In 2015, Bulla co-founded a Bluegrass/Americana record label called Pure Music Nashville with music and business executive John L. Heithaus. Bulla’s most recent LP, “Who Loves You Better” was released by Pure Music Nashville in May of 2016. Recorded at Zac Brown’s awesome Southern Ground Nashville, the LP was produced by Grammy-winner Bryan Sutton. “Who Loves You Better” showcases vocal performances by Sharon and Cheryl White, Maura O’Connell, Lee Ann Womack and Sara Jarosz, complemented by a veritable A-list of Americana’s finest musicians including Douglas, Noam Pikelny, Bush, John Cowan, Sam Grisman, Sutton and many more.
Bulla will play the festival main stage at 4:30 p.m. on June 10, as well as a late night set at 9:30 p.m. on June 9 that shouldn’t be missed.
The Good Time Travelers
A high voice, smoky and soulful; a low voice, rich with bravado: Pete Kartsounes and Michael Kirkpatrick come together as The Good Time Travelers. United by a passion for performing, this songwriting and pickin’ duo presents original songs about “the journey.”
It’s a simple endeavor: a guitar, a mandolin and two microphones — traveling light, this band fills up your heart, but barely fills a Subaru. Both gentlemen have been leading bands around the West for some time and found each other at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado back in 2013.
At their first campground session, it became clear to all who witnessed the magic of these two troubadours that this was more than just another Town Park jam. Kartsounes and Kirkpatrick began co-writing in the summer of 2014, focusing on the alchemy of their unique voices and instrumental styles and have been on constant “tour” since. Their sound is rooted in bluegrass and folk music, but the sentiment is pure rock ‘n’ roll with vocal harmonies and a stage presence so big that they have been described as a “two-piece power-trio.” Their sophomore album, “Mountain Song,” is out this month.
You can catch The Good Time Travelers on the main stage at 12:15 p.m. on June 10.
Sugar and the Mint
Sugar and the Mint got their start as a band at The Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Ariz., in February 2011. Students were initially chosen by audition and formed as a youth cultural music conservatory group. In 2014, Sugar and the Mint parted ways with the Sharlot Hall Museum (after the program lost funding) and the band ventured out on its own, evolving into a professional and dynamic young musical group. They play a blend of new old-time, contemporary bluegrass and indie-folk music.
In June of 2017, Sugar and the Mint captured first place in the band contest at the 44th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, competing against 11 bands from across the nation.
Sugar and the Mint will open the festival’s main stage on June 8 at 4:30 p.m., with an encore set at 3 p.m. on June 10.
The festival offers people a chance to volunteer for two four-hour shifts in return for complimentary three-day admission. Volunteers must be at least 17 years old.
The festival is produced by FolkWest, a nonprofit company that is supported in part with matching funds from Colorado Creative Industries.
More information about volunteering, tickets, camping, schedules and more can be found online at www.folkwest.com or by calling 731-5582.