By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 24th annual Four Corners Folk Festival will be here before you know it, taking place over Labor Day weekend, Aug, 30-Sept. 1, on Reservoir Hill.
The stellar 2019 lineup includes The Earls of Leicester, Billy Strings, Amy Helm, Darrell Scott, Molly Tuttle, The Mammals, The East Pointers, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Mile Twelve, Wild Rivers, The Arcadian Wild, Maybe April and this week’s featured artists: JigJam or Lindsay Lou.
JigJam is a multi-award-winning quartet from the heart of the midlands in Ireland. Blending the best of traditional Irish music with bluegrass and Americana in a new genre which has been branded as “I-Grass” (Irish-influenced bluegrass), the band’s onstage energy, along with the members’ virtuosic musical abilities, has captivated audiences throughout the world.
Jamie McKeogh, Cathal Guinan and Daithi Melia all hail from Tullamore, County Offaly, with County Tipperary-born Gavin Strappe completing the quartet. All four members grew up immersed in Irish traditional music and culture, which is reflected by the band collectively achieving more than 20 All-Ireland titles at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann competitions. They have now developed their own unique style of music influenced by American Folk music whilst staying true to their Irish roots.
Described as “The best Irish group so far in bluegrass,” this sharply dressed outfit delivers an energy-fueled, foot-stomping live performance. All multi-instrumentalists, JigJam interchange between banjos, guitars, fiddles, mandolins and double bass onstage, creating an experience which is pleasing to both the eye and the ear.
JigJam has recorded two studio albums (“Oh Boy!” in 2014 and “Hello World” in 2016) to critical acclaim, as well as a live album (“Live in Tullamore” 2017). They have made a huge impact on the Irish American circuit, performing as a headline act at all the major festivals including the world-renowned Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Milwaukee Irish Fest, as well as touring various parts of the UK and Europe.
Festival-goers will have a chance to catch this high-energy Celtic ensemble on Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m.
Lou has been making soulful, poignant music for the last decade. An undeniable powerhouse, Lou’s remarkable gifts as a singer, songwriter, musician and performer demand the listener’s attention. Her singing floats over the masterful playing and deep groove of her band with both a fierce intensity and a tender intimacy.
Lou’s fourth album, “Southland” (released April 2018), is a transformative and heart-wrenching 10-song stunner. Lou’s voice — and its unique ability to create an expansive, almost physically tangible soundscape — carries each song on “Southland” forward, made even more recognizable and potent by bandmates Josh Rilko (mandolin, vocals) and PJ George (bass, vocals) and special guests.
The beauty with which the sounds on “Southland” slip into the ether is the product of an emotionally difficult time for Lou and her band — who, as musicians often do, entered the studio to “hash it out.” The process, demonstrated by the music on “Southland,” was sincere and stirring and introspective.
“Southland” kicks off with “Roll With Me,” an expansive anthem with Lou’s robust vocals on full display. “Go There Alone” was written during an “Immersion Composition Society” experiment that Lou does from time to time, and the sound fully developed with the band a little later on. The lazy, beautiful harmonies pull at your heartstrings in a way that feels like home, despite the lonely and bittersweet message.
And though songs like “The Voice” and “Southland” were spurred on by more abstract ideas and words, they transformed as collaborators started freestyling with their instruments and Lou simply sang what came to mind. Impressively enough, Lou plays electric bass, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar on the album’s title track. “Southland” is about the natural beauty of the South, which, to Lou, adds a sense of calm and connectedness to a region known too often for its divisiveness. Having recently left her home state of Michigan to put down roots in Nashville with the band, the influence of this change is felt throughout the themes and ideas expressed on “Southland.”
Born the daughter of a coal miner in middle Missouri, Lou’s family moved to Michigan shortly after she was born. She describes her family as close-knit and musical, their lives influenced heavily by her maternal grandmother’s radical ideals and zest for life. In fact, if you ask Lou, her grandmother — a woman who was once put in jail during the civil rights movement for teaching a lesson on the “f” word as a high school literature teacher — is one of her greatest influences to this day. Armed with her activist spirit, Lou’s grandmother set up a Christian commune in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for her growing family of 12, as well as some stragglers. There in a big farmhouse, Lou’s dad was their neighbor.
Raised with this sense of community, Lou recalls always being surrounded by music. So when the time came for her to join a band, for Lou, it felt like finding a home away from home. Her career, like her life, have been full of great moments of kismet. As a youth, Lou built her repertoire by practicing her vocals, and she picked up the guitar so she could play with her Uncle Stuckey, perhaps most musically influential on her of her mother’s siblings. The skills she honed during the days of learning to sing and play with her family led to a wide variety of musical opportunities: singing in choir in high school, attending an elite summer program at Interlochen on scholarship, and winning awards for her talents.
Today, touring nationally and internationally year-round, Lou and her band continue to collect a mass of friends and fans along the way. Notable U.S. festival plays include Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Merlefest, Stagecoach, Redwing, ROMP, GreyFox and a slew of others. Abroad, they have appeared at Scotland’s Shetland Island Folk Fest and the Celtic Connections tour, Australia’s National Folk Festival, and others. The Boot, who featured Lindsay Lou Band as a “Can’t Miss Act” at AmericanaFest 2018, says “… Lou brings introspection and masterful vocal work to her live show.”
In the words of famed bluegrass musician David Grier, who caught the Lindsay Lou Band at a recent festival, “Lindsay … sings the way you would want to if’n you could. Phrasing, tone, emotion, it’s all there. Effortless seemingly. Simply mesmerizing. Riveting! Don’t miss the musical force that is Lindsay Lou.”
Lou will play the festival main stage on Aug. 31 at 2 p.m.
Volunteer applications are now available on the website and scheduling will begin soon, so potential volunteers are urged to apply as soon as possible. Working two four-hour shifts earn complimentary three-day festival admission.
Tickets and additional information about the festival, including the main stage schedule and information on all of the artists, can be found online at www.folkwest.com.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is supported in part with matching funds from Colorado Creative Industries.