By Jonathan Hunt | KSUT
Sixteen bands and musicians from a variety of genres highlight the 27 th annual Four Corners Folk Festival, which will return to Reservoir Hill Sept. 1-3.
Headliners include folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn, Bluegrass Hall of Famer Peter Rowan, award-winning indie-rocker Amythyst Kiah and hip-hop/bluegrass innovators Gangstagrass.
“We are excited to welcome back festivarians to Reservoir Hill for the Four Corners 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 Four Corners Folk Festival lineup reflects the music heard on the KSUT Music Blend by including artists in rock, Americana, country, bluegrass, folk, Native American and other genres.
“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 core artists like Bruce Cockburn and Peter Rowan alongside up-and-coming acts like Gangstagrass and The Sweet Lillies.
“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.”
Ed Kabotie is an acclaimed reggae and folk singer and multi- instrumentalist of Tewa and Hopi descent.
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.
Chatham County Line, Jim Lauderdale, Damn Tall Buildings, Songs from the Road Band, Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs, Cruz Contreras, Chain Station, Honey Dewdrops, Birds of Play and Liver Down the River complete the bill.
Cockburn is a Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist whose musical style ranges from folk to jazz to indie rock and lyrics cover a broad range of topics including human rights, environmental issues and the human condition. Among his best-known songs are “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” “Pacing the Cage” and “Last Night of the World.” He has been covered by artists such as Jerry Garcia, Jimmy Buffett and Barenaked Ladies.
Rowan is one of the most important figures in American roots music, having started as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1963 before forming such iconic groups as Earth Opera, Sea Train, Muleskinner, and Old and in the Way in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
In his 50-plus years of performing, he has weaved through bluegrass, folk, rock, reggae and other genres. He has penned such classics as “Panama Red,” “The Walls of Time,” “Dustbowl Children” and “The Free Mexican Air Force.”
Last fall Rowan was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.
Kiah is a singer/songwriter whose songs transcend indie rock, Americana and old-time music. In 2019 she teamed up with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell to form Our Native Daughters, an African-American women’s folk quartet that won a Grammy Award in 2020 for its recording of her tune “Black Myself.” She later re-recorded that song with award-winning electronica musician Moby.
Gangstagrass returns to Reservoir Hill for the second year in a row, having become a crowd favorite last fall for its 75-minute performance on the Dan Appenzeller Memorial Stage while a summer monsoon forced spectators under the big tent. Gangstagrass plays an unlikely musical pairing of hip-hop and bluegrass. Its message of positivity finds common ground between different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and political beliefs.
Chatham County Line is a longtime festival favorite in the bluegrass world that has recently focused on Americana and country music to spotlight the musical styles of award-winning songwriter Dave Wilson, mandolin/fiddle player John Teer and upright bassist/pedal steel player Greg Readling. They have appeared at such regional events as the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown and Rockygrass.
Jim Lauderdale’s music alternates between traditional country, bluegrass and Americana. Best known as a songwriter, his songs have been recorded by George Strait (who scored hits with nearly a dozen Lauderdale-written tunes), Blake Shelton and Elvis Costello. He released a pair of records with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, and collaborated on several albums with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. His backing band at the Four Corners Folk Festival is Songs from the Road Band, a jamgrass outfit led by former Steep Canyon Rangers bassist Charles Humphrey III. Songs from the Road Band will also perform its own main stage set.
Three Americana and bluegrass-flavored acts with strong female vocalists and musicians include the Brooklyn-based Damn Tall Buildings, Boulder’s The Sweet Lillies and Montana’s Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs. Cruz Contreras has performed on Reservoir Hill a half dozen times with his old outfits, The Black Lillies and Robinella and the CCstringband. The Black Lillies went on hiatus during the pandemic, allowing Contreras to focus on his solo career. His debut solo album, “Cosmico,” will be released later this year.
The Honey Dewdrops are a folk duo from Baltimore that formed in 2009 and have released a series of strong albums, including 2022’s “Light Behind Light.” Their sparse arrangements and haunting melodies draw comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Three Colorado bands popular in the Four Corners region round out the festival bill: Front Range bluegrass favorites Chain Station, Durango/Telluride Americana quartet Birds of Play and former Durango jam band Liver Down the River.
Festival amenities include a late-night stage, workshops, 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 Birds of Play (Saturday) and The Honey Dewdrops (Sunday) with complimentary beverages in the beer garden from 10 to 11 a.m.