By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 14th annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass returns to Reservoir Hill in downtown Pagosa Springs June 7-9.
This year’s lineup features performers in the folk, bluegrass and Americana music genres, including legendary bluegrass supergroup The Del McCoury Band and the 2019 Best Bluegrass Album Grammy winner, The Travelin’ McCourys.
Also on the lineup are Sierra Hull, Sam Reider and the Human Hands, Dead Horses, Circus No. 9, Old Salt Union, FY5, Fireside Collective, Halden Wofford and the Hi*Beams, Bonnie and the Clydes, Sugar and the Mint and this week’s featured group: the Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor Band.
Americana duo Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor have earned national recognition as co-lead singers and primary songwriters of the O’Connor Band, a bluegrass group they co-founded along with O’Connor’s father, seven-time CMA Award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor. They wrote the majority of the band’s debut album, “Coming Home,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Bluegrass Albums Chart and won a Grammy Award in 2017.
Both independently and as part of the O’Connor Band, Lee and Forrest O’Connor have collaborated with Paul Simon, Zac Brown, Kenny Loggins, Clint Black, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski and many others. Their music has accumulated more than half a million streams on Spotify, and they have performed at the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium and Fenway Park, as well as some of the most prominent festivals and performing arts centers around the country.
Lee and Forrest O’Connor were introduced in 2014 by Nashville-based arranger Kris Wilkinson (Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, Brandi Carlile), who believed their powerful, expressive vocals and writing sensibilities would align. Forrest O’Connor, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard and former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion, shared a love of ‘60s classic rock, ‘70s folk rock, ‘90s country, bluegrass and modern pop music with Lee, a Belmont graduate and violinist who frequently backed up stars ranging from John Legend and Kelly Clarkson to Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood at the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows.
They soon began performing together as a duo, and their first EP, “The Demonstration,” reached No. 13 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart with no label or promotion campaign. After performing for three years with the O’Connor Band, they’re excited to focus again on their duo project with the help of a backing band featuring two-time national mandolin champion Isaac Eicher, Grammy Award-winning bassist (and doctor of music) Geoff Saunders and country vocalist Mallory Eagle.
The Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor Band will perform on the festival main stage on June 7 at 7 p.m. and again on June 9 at 3 p.m.
We’re currently looking for our last few volunteers to round out the schedule. Work two four-hour shifts to earn complimentary three-day festival admission. It’s a great way to meet people and have fun. Information about tickets, volunteering, festival schedules and performers can be found at www.folkwest.com/folknbluegrass. Tickets can also be ordered by phone at (877) 472-4672.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part with matching funds from Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.