26th annual Four Corners Folk Festival set for Labor Day weekend

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By Chris Aaland | KSUT

Yonder Mountain String Band, Darrell Scott’s Electrifying Trio, Heartless Bastards and Dirtwire will headline the 26th annual Four Corners Folk Festival on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4. 

A variety of tickets are available at ksutpresents.org, including single-day, weekend, camping, patron and vehicle passes.

“We’re excited to welcome music fans back to Reservoir Hill,” said KSUT Executive Director Tami Graham. “The Four Corners Folk Festival is a cultural and social highlight for thousands of people across the region and we can’t wait to be sitting under the big tent with them.”

This year’s lineup includes a variety of artists in a range of genres reflective of the Music Blend, which airs from 9 a.m. until noon and 1-4 p.m. each weekday and noon to 3 p.m. each Saturday on KSUT’s Four Corners Public Radio signal.

The festival’s roots lie in acoustic styles like folk, bluegrass and Americana. Acts such as Yonder Mountain String Band, Darrell Scott, Amy Helm and Eliza Gilkyson, all of whom will perform on Reservoir Hill, have been core artists on The Music Blend for decades.

Most of the music heard on KSUT’s Four Corners signal falls into the Triple-A and Americana categories. Triple-A, an acronym for adult album alternative, is a radio format that traces its roots to both the classic album stations of the 1970s and alternative rock radio programming that developed in the ‘80s. Americana radio blends artists based in traditional American genres like folk, bluegrass, country, blues, jazz, R&B and early rock and roll, plus regional or ethnic styles such as Cajun, zydeco, Celtic and old-time Appalachian music.

KSUT’s Triple-A side is reflected in festival artists like Dirtwire, which blends electronica with indigenous music from around the world; gangstagrass, which fuses bluegrass with rap and hip/hop; Heartless Bastards, an indie rock band from Cincinnati; and War and Pierce, a contemporary R&B/soul duo from the West Coast comprised of punk-influenced folkie Sunny War and blues singer/songwriter Chris Pierce.

Americana acts appearing in Pagosa Springs include Yonder Mountain String Band, Darrell Scott’s Electrifying Trio, Amy Helm, Eliza Gilkyson and a half-dozen others.

Based on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe campus in Ignacio, KSUT is one of the nation’s oldest tribal radio stations and is committed to including Native American artists on its festival lineups. This year, William Prince, a member of the Peguis First Nation in Canada, will appear. Prince is a noted songwriter whose award-winning compositions include “Breathless,” “The Spark” and “Sing Me a Song.” Following the vision of festival founders Dan Appenzeller and Crista Munro, KSUT remains committed to booking artists from a variety of ethnicities, genders, ages and musical styles.

“The music industry has struggled with equity and inclusion since the advent of phonograph records and radio broadcasts,” said KSUT Development Director Chris Aaland, who secures the talent for the festival. “Yet the roots of America’s greatest musical innovations — rock, blues, jazz, R&B and even country and bluegrass — can be traced to African-Americans, Native Americans and immigrants from around the world. KSUT’s music programming and festival lineups are reflective of this diversity.”

Whether or not a group fits into a narrow definition of folk music is subjective. “Louis Armstrong once famously said, ‘All music is folk music … I never heard a horse sing a song,’” Aaland noted.

KSUT is also committed to introducing listeners to rising stars.

Take, for example, Cristina Vane, a young blues guitarist and songwriter who was born in Italy, raised in England and France, and educated at Princeton University in the United States. In the past two years, she’s released two albums, shot to the top of the Americana, alternative country and blues charts, toured the nation extensively, and even took time to learn new musical styles like old-time and bluegrass by jamming with local musicians like Durango’s Six Dollar String Band.

Vane will perform Friday afternoon and Saturday morning on Reservoir Hill.

Armchair Boogie is another newcomer. The quartet is a favorite in the Upper Midwest, where its fusion of bluegrass and rock has led to major festival appearances and opening slots for groups like Yonder Mountain String Band and The Infamous Stringdusters. Armchair Boogie will play Saturday night and Sunday morning. 

Other artists appearing at the festival include longtime festival favorites JigJam from Ireland; New England indie rocker Sarah Borges; the Asheville, N.C.-based alt-country group Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters; Piedmont bluesman Seth Walker (who also appeared in 2021); the folk duo The Honey Dewdrops, who are based in the Pacific Northwest; and local bluegrass favorites The Badly Bent.

In addition to performers on the Dan Appenzeller Memorial Stage, the festival also includes a Late Night Stage, a Children’s Tent, a Workshop Stage and a beer garden for attendees aged 21 and over. A variety of arts and crafts and food vendors will also be on site.

For a complete schedule, to purchase tickets or find out information about each performer, visit ksutpresents.org or email festivaldirector@ksut.org. Volunteer opportunities are still available.