By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 24th annual Four Corners Folk Festival will take place over Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, on Reservoir Hill.
Once again, the event has put together a stellar lineup that includes The Earls of Leicester, Amy Helm, Molly Tuttle, The Mammals, The East Pointers, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Lindsay Lou, JigJam, Mile Twelve, Wild Rivers, The Arcadian Wild, Maybe April and this week’s featured artists: Darrell Scott and Billy Strings.
“I look like an insider because of everything I’ve done, but I always felt like an outsider,” Scott said. “And that’s important — to be an outsider.”
But he’s also a master.
Whether it’s rock, folk, country or blues, Scott — the four-time Grammy-nominated Nashville songwriter — has written hits for artists ranging from Brad Paisley and the Dixie Chicks to Del McCoury, Sam Bush and Keb’ Mo’, contributing songs to three of 2016’s best albums alone. It’s not surprising that Scott wrote nine of the 14 songs on his own new album, “Couchville Sessions,” and less surprising that he wrote three songs with the like-minded Americana artist Hayes Carll on Carll’s magnificent new disc, “Lovers and Leavers,” in addition to “1000 Things” from Sarah Jarosz’s award-winning “Build Me Up From Bones” album.
What’s more surprising is that Scott came off of a year and a half of touring in Robert Plant’s Band of Joy with a co-write on R&B star Anthony Hamilton’s new recording, “Save Me,” the opening track on “What I’m Feelin.” Over the past two years, Scott has produced, co-written and performed on three songs from Zac Brown’s latest project, “Heavy Is the Head,” in addition to producing Jonathan Edwards latest and Malcolm Holcombe’s 2017 release, “Pretty Little Troubles.” But these partnerships all make sense; although they hail from different genres, these artists are master craftsmen at fitting words to notes.
Witness Scott’s ability to make just about any instrument talk; listen to his vocals and songwriting to hear him contain every emotion between joy and pain within one verse in his singing and in his pen. Nowadays, he’s taking the outsider role even more seriously. After 23 years in Nashville, he spent the last year devoting himself to a self-sufficient lifestyle in the country while simultaneously putting together his best album in years.
A regular artist on FolkWest’s stages, we are thrilled to welcome Scott back with his band in 2019. Fans can catch his main stage set on Sept. 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Strings plays hard and he lives hard, picking so fast and intensely that he’s known to break multiple strings per song. He bases the songs he writes on the hard lives he grew up around in the abandoned rural communities of America. His most recent album, “Turmoil and Tinfoil,” taps into a deep vein of psychedelia in Americana, referencing everything from The Dead to Sturgill Simpson, but all underlaid by Strings’ undeniable virtuosity and his knowledge of the roots of American music. He’s one of the most beloved young bluegrass guitarists today within the bluegrass community, and his front porch in East Nashville is constantly filled up with Nashville’s best roots musicians just picking up a storm.
The tricky part of making “Turmoil and Tinfoil” was translating Strings’ incendiary live show into the studio. While deeply reverent of the roots of traditional bluegrass music, which his father shared with him as a boy, Strings learned his high-energy performing skills by playing fleet-fingered guitar solos in a heavy metal band in his native Michigan. Returning to his home state of Michigan, Strings enlisted acoustic roots wizard Glenn Brown (Greensky Bluegrass) as producer, and centered the music around his new band, featuring Jarrod Walker on mandolin with banjo prodigy Billy Failing and much-loved Nashville bassist Royal Masat.
Rich with special guests, “Turmoil and Tinfoil” shows off Strings’ East Nashville community of picking friends, among them Miss Tess, Molly Tuttle, John Mailander, Shad Cobb and Peter Madcat Ruth. Of special note is a virtuosic duet between Strings and bluegrass guitarist Bryan Sutton on “Salty Sheep” that shows the speed, precision and creative craftsmanship of bluegrass when it’s done right.
Poised to take bluegrass in bold new directions, singer/songwriter/guitarist Strings is quickly gaining attention for his live performances and imbuing his take on Americana with distinctive bursts of psychedelic virtuosity. While he has matured as a player, singer and songwriter in his own right, and re-embraced the music his father introduced him to, Strings has applied the intensity of heavy metal to bluegrass. The end results provide a fresh jolt to the genre.
Billy Strings will close with a headline set on at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m.
Volunteer applications are now available on the website and scheduling is underway, so potential volunteers are urged to apply as soon as possible. Work two four-hour shifts to 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.