Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: 11 Must-See Acts

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 13

There’s no denying the amount and quality of talent on the bill every year at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Act-for-act no other festival only event can touch it for some of the finest Americana and roots. Then there’s the breathtaking backdrop of Hellman Hollow in San Francisco’sGolden Gate Park. Oh, and it’s free.

This combination is both good and bad. The quality is high and music plentiful, but the free access brings in droves of folks, and they increase every year.

This 13th year of the free festival does it’s benefactor, the late, great Warren Hellman, proud. I imagine him sitting in heaven, his lanky legs hanging off a cloud, strumming with his banjo with the bands playing below.

With 6 stages many folks choose to pay a blanket at a single stage and stay put. Some, like me, travel through the ocean of humanity to catch key acts and serendipitous discoveries.

With 6 stages brimming with greatness you really can’t go wrong setting up a blanket with refreshments at a single stage. Some (like me) prefer wandering stage to stage through the ocean of humanity sampling the ample musical ware and happening upon serendipitous discoveries.. The full bill really is a bounty to satisfy any roots music vet or for greenhorns looking for an crash introductory course.

Here re some well-known and less well-known acts I’ve circled on my must-see list.

Friday:

The Felice Brothers: The grittier, and more literate, alternative to Mumford and The Lumineers. Sometimes woozy, oftentimes chaotic, their performances are always passionate and their songs of common desperation and love is reminiscent of The Boss. 2:10pm – Rooster Stage

First Aid Kit: I’m not typically a fan of winsome singers, I’m more of a belter fan. But this Swedish indie-folk duo has won me over Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, are winning over U.S. fans with their brand of breezy pop-Americana. 4:30pm – Rooster Stage.

Father John Misty: This ex-Fleet Fox first appeared on Bay Areas musical map after his exhilarating performance at last year’s Outside Lands. Roots stamped with psychedelic overtones and general weirdness. No telling where this could lead. 4:15pm – Arrow Stage

Bonnie Raitt: Is blues Americana? i have my opinion, bit there’s no denying the legendary talent of last year’s Grammys for Americana Album of the year. Expect catchy blues-rock with spicy guitar chops sprinkled. 5:45pm – Banjo Stage

Saturday:

Patty Griffin: This Austin, Texas treasure is touring behind her extraordinary “American Kid” and just before the proper release of her lost gem “Silver Bell.” Show up to hear cuts from these, and her extensive catalog. Also Buddy and “Percy” might show up. 4:05pm – Rooster Stage.

Robert Earl Keen: Many HSB faithful arrive just to see this Aggie put on one of the best truckless tailgate parties ever. Prepare to drink and sing at the top of your lungs. 5:30pm – Rooster Stage

Sturgill Simpson: Simpson is a reluctant contemporary agent of the Outlaw Country aesthetic. This is what makes him perfect for the role. Come hear him and his hot-brand band single-handedly put Music Row to shame. 6:05pm – Porch Stage

Sunday:

Shovels & Rope: The Charleston, South Carolina duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope won the song of the year for “Birmingham” and emerging artist of the year at the recent Americana Awards. Come to see why their brand of gritty soul , ramshackle performance and engaging stage banter make them a fan favorite. 11:00am – Arrow Stage

Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue: Like soul? Like Gospel? This is where you need to be. Ferris’
heavely vocals matched with the McCrary Sisters will assure a toe-tapping and booty shaking great time. 11:00am – Banjo Stage

Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott: A decade after their first collaboration these master craftsmen are back with their latest “Memories & Moments.” Come gather around children and sit at the feet of lends and take note at how it is done. – 3:05pm – Banjo Stage

Della Mae: Sure their a band of hotties. But what’s hotter is their chops. Come for a heavy does of strictly bluegrass hold the hardly.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival 12 Full Schedule / Picks / Spotify Playlist

The 12th year of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival shows the premier showcase for great (and FREE!) Americana and roots music is showing no signs of slowing down. This year might prove to be the best yet as old friends like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Ralph Stanley are joined by event newcomers like punk-turned-folkie Chuck Ragan, Texas sweethearts The Trishas and Americana darlings The Civil Wars, who pulled out of last year’s HSB.

Have fun, and remember to wear layers and stay hydrated out there (and upwind.)  Below find the schedule with my picks in bold.

 

 

Friday Oct 5 (10:00am – 7:00pm)

Star Stage
10:00am Poor Man’s Whiskey and Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Banjo Stage
12:00pm John Reilly and Friends (featuring Becky Stark and Tom Brosseau)
    1:15pm Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys
    2:40pm The Jerry Douglas Band
    4:15pm The Time Jumpers (Vince Gill, Dennis Crouch, Paul Franklin, Larry Franklin, Andy Reiss, Dawn Sears, Kenneth Sears, Joe Spivey, Jeff Taylor & Billy Thomas)
    5:45pm Elvis Costello Solo

Arrow Stage
12:00pm Chuck Ragan
1:00pm Pickwick
2:10pm Chris Carrabba
3:20pm Patterson Hood & the Downtown Rumblers
    4:45pm Jon Langford & His Sadies feat. Sally Timms
6:15pm Reignwölf

Rooster Stage
12:00pm Simone Felice
    1:00pm Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express
2:20pm Beachwood Sparks
3:25pm Ben Kweller
4:25pm Jenny Lewis
5:45pm Conor Oberst

Saturday Oct 6 (11:00am – 7:00pm)

Banjo Stage
11:00am World Famous Headliners (Big Al Anderson, Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughlin, Michael Rhodes & Greg Morrow)
12:10pm Alison Brown Quartet with Stuart Duncan
1:25pm Buddy Miller
2:45pm Tribute to the Founding Fathers: Warren Hellman, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson featuring Alison Brown, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton, with special guests Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris with Heidi Clare & Colleen Browne (from the Wronglers), Peter Rowan, Nick Lowe & more!
4:15pm The Chieftains
5:45pm Steve Earle & the Dukes (& Duchesses)

Rooster Stage
11:00am The Go to Hell Man Clan with Special Guests the Wronglers featuring Jimmie Dale Gilmore
12:00pm Lloyd Cole
1:10pm Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson
2:30pm The Lumineers
  3:50pm Patty Griffin
    5:30pm Robert Earl Keen

Star Stage
    11:00am Roger Knox and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
    12:30pm Dirty Three
    2:10pm Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones
3:45pm Cowboy Junkies
5:45pm Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Towers Of Gold Stage
11:40am Red Baraat
1:20pm Justin Townes Earle
3:00pm Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang
4:45pm The Head & the Heart

Arrow Stage
11:00am The Trishas
    12:05pm Reckless Kelly
1:30pm Bill Kirchen & The Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods
2:45pm Heartless Bastards
4:05pm Jerry Jeff Walker
    5:35pm The Flatlanders feat. Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock

Porch Stage
11:00am Joe Pug
12:10pm Sara Watkins
1:25pm Little Green Cars
2:40pm Allison Moorer
3:50pm Robyn Hitchcock
4:50pm Sierra Hull
6:05pm Seasick Steve

Sunday Oct 7 (11:00am – 7:00pm)
Banjo Stage
11:00am Dry Branch Fire Squad
12:05pm Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands
1:20pm Peter Rowan
2:45pm Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys
4:15pm Tim O’Brien Party of 7
5:45pm Emmylou Harris

Rooster Stage
11:00am Jim Lauderdale
    12:05pm Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin
1:10pm Jesse Winchester
2:20pm Glen Hansard
3:35pm Nick Lowe
4:50pm Todd Snider
6:10pm The Civil Wars

Star Stage
11:00am Giant Giant Sand
12:40pm The Knitters
2:15pm DOUG SAHM’S PHANTOM PLAYBOYS featuring: dave ALVIN, steve EARLE, delbert McCLINTON, boz SCAGGS, jimmie VAUGHAN… and whoever the cat drags in…
4:05pm The Del McCoury Band
6:00pm Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth featuring Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess

Towers of Gold Stage
12:00pm The Milk Carton Kids
1:30pm Soul Rebels
3:10pm Dwight Yoakam
5:00pm Patti Smith and her band

Arrow Stage
11:00am Lucero
12:05pm Moonalice
1:25pm Rubblebucket
2:45pm Son Volt
4:10pm Luther Dickinson & the Wandering
5:45pm ALO

Porch Stage
11:00am The New Orleans Bingo! Show
12:10pm Tiny Television
1:25pm The Barr Brothers
2:40pm Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys
3:55pm The White Buffalo
5:10pm Walter Salas-Humara
6:20pm Jonny Two Bags & Salvation Town

Twang Nation Podcast Episode 8 – Derek Hoke, Malcolm Holcolmb, My Darling Clementine, Waylon Jennings & Wanda Jackson

Here it is folks. Podcast  #8 is hot off the press and ready for your listening enjoyment.

This is my pre-Americana Conference and Festival episode and several performers featured – Derek Hoke, Darrell Scott , Amy Black and the legendary Wanda Jackson will be appearing at the event. Malcolm Holcolmb attended last year and I interviewed him at the event in 2009.

There’s also some great music from some notable newcomers. The golden area heartache from My Darling Clementine  and the twang pop from Trapper Schoepp & The Shades and Skyline Drive.

Then there’s the gritty soul from the sophomore effort by Dallas’ Somebody’s Darling.  Also on the list is an unreleased song by the late, great Waylon Jennings, reminding us all what greatness really sounds like.

I hope you all enjoy the great Americana and roots music featured in this and all the podcasts, and hope you seek out the musicians and buy their music, merch and , most importantly, take all your friends and see them live. Remember you can leave requests or feedback below or email me at baron(at)twangnation(dot)com. All you feedback , good and bad, is appreciated.

1. Derek Hoke – song: “Mean Mama” – Album: “Waiting All Night”  ( Electric Western Records / Thirty Tigers )
2. Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott – song: “Long Time Gone” – Album:  We’re Usually A Lot Better Than This  ( Full Light Records)
3. Amy Black – song: “Whiskey & Wine”  – Album:  One Time  (Self -Released)
4. Malcolm Holcomb – song: “Gone Away at Last” – Album: “Down the River”  ( Gypsyeyes Music)
5. Guy Forsyth – song: “Red Dirt” – Album: “The Freedom To Fail”  ( Blue Corn Music)
6. My Darling Clementine – song: “Departure Lounge” – Album: “How Do You Plead”  ( Drumfire Records)
7. Somebody’s Darling  song: “Back to the Bottle” – Album: Jank City Shackdown”  (Self -Released)
8. Trapper Schoepp & The Shades  song: “Tracks” – Album: “Run, Engine, Run”  ( SideOneDummy Records)
9.  Skyline Drive song: “Nothing Like You” – Album Topanga Canyon Ranch Motel” (Self -Released)
10. Waylon Jennings  song: Goin’ Down Rockin – Album: “Goin’ Down Rockin‘”  (Saguaro Road Records)
11.Wanda Jackson – song: “I’m Tore Down” – Album: “Unfinished Business” (Sugar Hill Records)

 

Interview: Malcolm Holcombe – Casting Out Demons

“Everybody get’s their own take on a song. They find something that they can tap their foot to or clench their fist to. Hopefully it’ll be somewhere in between.” Malcolm Holcombe

Malcolm-Holcombe_IT5jmyKe7Nwx_fullMalcolm Holcombe is like a myth. A backwoods character in a Southern Gothic novel with a voice filled with a grave-dirt rattle and telling tales of simpler, and harder, times. Times he knows about. Surviving brushes with Nasvhille Big Labels, addictions and demons – No less than Steve Earle once famously said of him “”Malcolm Holcombe is the best songwriter I ever threw out of my recording studio.” Strong praise from a man that knows a thing or two about demons.

On the stage he casts out demons away like a man possessed.  Eyes rolled back, head shakes, spinning tales in his graveled yelp, standing up, walking away from his chair in mid-song. Not missing a lick on his guitar.

Malcolm Holcombe isn’t for everybody. But if you love music with heart and soul. Music that’s been somewhere and seen a thing or two, then he might be just the man for you.

I sat down with Malcolm Holcombe on a rainy afternoon last month in Nashville.

Twang Nation: You were born in Weaverville, N.C., what were your musical influences growing up?

Malcolm Holcombe: A lot of different sources. My mama played a little French harp and she was very supportive. I litened to the Grand ‘Ol Opry on the radio, Flatt and Scruggs, and Stringbean (David “Stringbean” Akeman) was always one my favorites. Grandpa Jones. Bluegrass music. And then in the early 60’s when all the Rock ‘n Roll starting hittin’ some of that. Mother had a few records. The Nutcracker Suite and Tennessee Ernie Ford. I had an Uncle that was a Baptist Preacher that made records and we used to play those. Used to sing songs in church.

TN: Tell me a little bit about your High School band, the Hilltoppers.

MH: Oh yeah, we got out and played a Sadie Hawkins dance or two. We covered some new folk songs, Peter Paul and Mary and such, as well as old folk songs.

TN: You lived here in Nashville for a while and had a brush with the big label system.

MH: Yeah, I lived in Nashville for several years. I’m not sure what happened when I was with Geffen. My album (Hundred Lies) got shelved and a lot of folks got axed, people were just moved around the checker board you know? I think things are better now because they sure were in a pile of bullshit for about 8 years. So in my opinion they are looking up.

TN: Well, they certainly are for you. You’ve some out of some hard times come back with great work that has some pretty impressive critical and audience support.

MH: I don’t know about that. I’m just trying to be of service.

TN: I checked out the videos of you on fan made YouTube videos, and checked your Facebook and Myspace pages, and you’ve got a loyal fan base.

MH: Well, it flips me out. t’s a miracle. To have a pulse and be able to share a tale or two. It just goes to show that if you hang around the barber shop long enough you’re gonna get a haircut. I just hung on ’til I did.

TN:You tour Europe quite a bit don’t you?

MH: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to get over there. I met a woman over there, Joanna Serraris (promoter for Musemix) is working with a lot of Americana artists. Andrea Parodi (the late Sardinian Folk Singer) he was a great songwriter, very soulful and passionate. He helped me and used to tour manage and helped a lot of people.

TN: Do you have a strong following there?

MH: I don’t know, if anybody shows up I’m thankful.

TN: Europeans seem to me to be open the rich history of American music that I think you best represent. More than whatever is on pop radio.

MH:Well I’ve been fortunate to have folks here and over there that have been appreciative, I can’t say that one part of the world is more so than the other. I’m just glade to be of service doing my job. It’s easy to get complacent. We’re pretty spoiled in America, but we are only 200-plus-change years old. There are peope playing music here that opens doors to the roots music of America and England, Ireland and Germany. Education and open mindedness is the key. I’m hopeful. These are hard old times and I’m just lucky to be of service, to have a job, to have a purpose.

TN: Onstage you play like you have a purpose.

MH: Well you want folks onstage to deliver. If you’re going to raise corn you gotta get your hands on the plow.

TN: You seem to really be in another place onstage.

MH: And scared to the dickins! (Laughs) Still scares me to get up there. But I’m glade when I do it. You’re from Dallas right?

TN: Yeah.

MH: You ever heard of the All Good Cafe?

TN: Yeah. That’s a great place to see a show and get a beer.

MH: That’s were I saw this guy once there named Slim Ritchie, he plays in Texas a lot. I think he lives down there. He reminded me of Django Reinhardt, Man he was smooth. Made it look easy. I saw this one l little lady around San Antonio that was gifted and talented and was about knee-high to a grasshopper, but she could belt it out, Bianca DeLeon. She’s a fine talent but no bigger than a minute.

TN: I’ll check her out. Now on your new album, For The Mission Baby, you are working with producer Ray Kennedy again (he also produced Holcombe”s last release 2008’s Gamblin’ House.)

MH: Yeah, I’ve been talking to Ray for a long time and I thought it would be a rewarding experince to work on a project with Ray. And thanks to this little fledgling lebel in Asheville, NC (Echo Mountain Records) we were able to make a deal. They brought Ray on board and let me call the shots and have the creative control and I appreciate that. It’s very rare in this business to make a record like this, with great musicians, without people breathing down your neck to make a hit. Man, make a hit- I don’t even know what that is. It’s beyond my understanding, that’s not my purpose

TN: For a typically live solo act you have some great help on this record.

MH: Aw it’s wonderful, we had more fun! I saw Tim O’Brien (bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, harmony vocal) last night and he was right in the pocket at this PBS Song of America taping we did last night. a lot of good people, David Roe on bass, he was on Gamblin’ House and Wager, I wanted to work with him again. Jared Tyler from Tulsa (dobro, lapsteel, harmony vocal), he’s got it in his blood and his skin the way that music pours. And Lynn Williams on percussion, Lynn’s been with Delbert McClinton for years. Ray’s wife Siobhan (Maher) and Mary (Gauthier) on backing vocals. It’s a lot of history and scary stuff ya know (laughs). But we played as a band and after one or two takes we were done. Very organic.

TN; This seems like a more upbeat album than Gamblin’ House. Is it because of the fun in the studio?

MH: Well, everybody get’s their own take on a song. They find something that they can tap their foot to or clench their fist to. Hopefully it’ll be somewhere in between. We did have a wonderful two or three days cutting it with thise folks. I have some wonderful memories. Hopefully people will feel that like you do and it’ll ease the burdens of the passing of time.

TN:Your finger picking style, playing the bass, rhythm, lead, percussion along with your vocals, reminds me a lot of style of Lightnin’ Hopkins.

MH: Well, that’s kind of you to say so. It’s just me trying to hone down desperation, trying to hone down frustration. We’re are all products of our raising, our environment. Like you and Dallas. Where are you now?

TN: Right now I live in San Francisco.

MH: Man, I love California. It’s really pretty. The most red tailed hawks I’ve ever seen. In Santa Ynez, North of Santa Barbara there’s a place, uh, Tales from the Tavern. It’s run by Ron Colone. He’s got a series that gets folks to spin a tale and pick a tune. Ron’s a sweet man and a promoter and he has this wonderful series of people that come pick and sing. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s played there. Have you been?

TN: No, but it’s now on my list.

MH: Well you need to do. It’s not that far from San Francisco. Sweet people, nice as they can be.

TN: You opened for Merle Haggard. Did you get to meet the man?

MH: Very briefly. There  was one show that I was at and his first song was Silver wings and I just about melted into the floor.

TN: Who else have you played with that impressed you?

MH: I got to play with John Hammond, he’s a sweetheart. Richard Thompson, he’s such a gentleman. He’s a real picker and writes those great songs. I remember The Fairport Convention, they had great harmony. And Shelby Lynn,  she’s a wonderful songer and performer. A lot of people have been good to me thank the Lord.

(starts to rain hard)

TN: Looks like it’s coming down hard. I’ll wrap up so we can get out of here.

MH:Yep, we better get before we all get water logged.

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