16th annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass this weekend


By Jonathan Hunt | KSUT 

Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass returns for its 16th year Friday through Sunday on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs. Sixteen acts in the bluegrass, folk, rhythm and blues, and Native American genres will perform over the course of the weekend, including several that have received multiple International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards.

“We are excited to welcome back festivarians to Reservoir Hill for our June bluegrass and folk festival,” said KSUT Executive Director Tami Graham. “The lineup reflects both the festival’s long history and the quality of our diverse on-air programming that our listeners appreciate.”

While still maintaining deep acoustic music traditions, the 2023 Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass lineup reflects the music heard on the KSUT Music Blend by including rock, R&B and Native American artists in addition to folk and bluegrass.

“Part of KSUT’s mission is music discovery,” said KSUT Development Director and Music Director Chris Aaland, who serves as the talent buyer for the festival. “Our lineup includes old favorites like Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley and FY5 alongside up-and-coming artists like Caleb Caudle and Full Cord.

“We are also proud of our roots as one of the nation’s oldest tribal radio stations, and we’re committed to presenting award-winning Indigenous performers in a variety of genres.”

Sihasin, an acclaimed Diné duo with punk rock roots that appeared at last summer’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, incorporates traditional Diné healing and hoop dancing into their rhythm-heavy drums-and-bass music.

Single-day, weekend and patron passes are on sale at www.ksutpresents.org, as are camping passes and a very limited quantity of vehicle passes.

Headliners for the festival include Ickes and Hensley, Sister Sadie, Becky Buller and the Larry Keel Experience.

Ickes is a 15-time IBMA Dobro Player of the Year from the Bay Area who co-founded the highly influential bluegrass group Blue Highway and is one of Nashville’s most sought-after session players. Hensley has been called “Nashville’s hottest young player” by Acoustic Guitar magazine. The duo has released four albums that weave bluegrass, country, blues, and rock and roll. Their latest album, “Living in a Song,” charts highly in national bluegrass, Americana and alternative country music polls.

The five women of Sister Sadie won three straight IBMA Vocal Group of the Year awards from 2019 to 2021 — no small feat in a genre that has been dominated by male pickers and singers since bluegrass was created in 1946. Led by original members Deanie Richardson (fiddle) and Gena Britt (banjo and vocals), Sister Sadie has played the Grand Ole Opry, been featured in an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and continues to rack up awards, both as a group and individually.

Becky Buller is a 10-time IBMA award recipient for her fiddle playing, singing and songwriting. In addition to her own award-winning albums, her songs have won Grammys for the Infamous Stringdusters and the Travelin’ McCourys. When not touring with the Becky Buller Band, she serves as a board member on the IBMA Foundation and is heavily involved in music education.

The Larry Keel Experience is led by its namesake, Larry Keel, who is widely regarded as one of the most expressive flat picking guitarists in the world. He frequently collaborates with such musical innovators as Tyler Childers, Billy Strings, Al DiMeola, Keller Williams, Sam Bush and the late Tony Rice. Keel has appeared on more than 20 albums, 12 of which he produced. Alongside his wife, bassist Jenny Keel, and longtime mandolin player Jared Pool, the Experience is one of the most popular and influential bands on the jam-grass circuit.

Other artists who will appear at Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass include Fireside Collective, Henhouse Prowlers, Stillhouse Junkies, Armchair Boogie, Full Cord, Phoebe Hunt, Leon Timbo, Sihasin, Caleb Caudle, FY5, The Bonnie and Taylor Sims Band (formerly known as Bonnie and The Clydes) and the Stone-Hall Trio.

Festival amenities include a late-night stage, workshops, a children’s tent, food and crafts vendors, campground picks and a beer garden. As has become tradition, Saturday and Sunday mornings will kick off with Bubbles and Bluegrass, which pairs acoustic performances by FY5 (Saturday) and Bonnie and Taylor Sims (Sunday) with complimentary beverages in the beer garden from 10 to 11 a.m.

Preceding the festival is the Jam Camp and Junior Jam Camp, held Monday through Wednesday on Reservoir Hill with professional instructors including members of FY5, the Bonnie and Taylor Sims Band, Alissa Wolf of Stillhouse Junkies, Matt Flinner and others. Information on the Jam Camp and Junior Jam Camp can be found at www.ksutpresents.org.