Monthly Archives: September 2011

Lowell Folk Festival 2011

The Lowell Folk Festival was held once again in Lowell, MA on July 30, 31. We ended up going on Sunday and met J and Jennifer there. There is always, always, always something interesting going on and new music to discover. Past groups I first heard at Lowell were the likes of Hot Club of Cowtown, Sierra Hull, Kekele, John Doyle and Liz Carroll, La Vent du Nord, James Hand, and a few I’ve forgotten (which is why I write these things down!)

This year there were a few groups I had already heard of that I wanted to see. It’s always hard to plan the schedule…I did hear a bunch of the groups on Saturday on WGBH radio, so some I was okay with missing.

First up was the fiddle traditions workshop with Michael Cleveland (bluegrass), the Quebe Sisters (Texas Swing), and guys from La Vent Du Nord (quebecois) and Dervish (celtic). This was really interesting because they went around and took turns playing songs in their own style. They also played together on a few common tunes that cut across the traditions.

Here’s the list I wrote down:

  • Yellow Rose Waltz
  • Sally Goodin
  • Fisher’s Hornpipe
  • Yearning
  • Flatbush Waltz
  • Sweet Georgia Brown
  • St. Anne’s Reel (and we were at St Anne’s Church!)

You could tell the Quebe Sisters were not too comfortable playing outside their carefully arranged songs for 3 fiddles in harmony. They really could not jump in a jam – or they were too intimidated to do so. They were good at what they did, however! It was fun to hear everyone together in this setting.

After that, we went to Boardinghouse Park for the Birmingham Sunlight, a gospel group, who were sensational. Very engaging group.

Next up on the same stage was Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. They played some hot bluegrass, including his signature tunes – Orange Blossom Special (“a guitar player killer”) and Jerusalem Ridge by Bill Monroe (J and I are tackling that one next…). He did that one as a duet with the mandolin player. I’d seen him do it like that at the Joe Val Festival earlier in the year – very exciting and fast.

As you can see, we were right up close, which is usually not possible at Boardinghouse Park. Maybe it was because we usually go on Saturday but this time was on Sunday = less people there = more space for us! Yay!

This band is really tight and I immediately went home to pick up their new album, called “Fired Up!” but pronounced “Fahrd up” of course. The guitar player does most of the singing and is a fine singer, indeed. They also seemed very humble and genuine, even thanking their festival handler and playing a song dedicated to her. Sounds like they treat the artists right at this one.

After this set, we wandered over to the dance tent to check out the zydeco, but no one was really into dancing anyway, so we moved on to Eddie Pennington (and his son). I’d seen him before at Lowell and since I’ve been known to do a little finger-pickin’ this appealed to me. (Plus, it turns out his guitar is a rare Henderson!) He seemed to be tired to me and kinda mailing it in. Just my impression…that was at the small Market Stage, then we moved on to the Kennedy Plaza for some Quebecois!

Le Vent du Nord was next. I saw them last year and really enjoyed it. It’s a fun group, and they were even on the opening of Prairie Home Companion last weekend!! JFK Plaza is an awful place, similar to Boston City Hall Plaza, only smaller. All concrete and sun! Anyway, lots of people were dancing and they were joined at the end by the Irish band Dervish for some numbers, which was fun. And yes, it was hot, too, at the end of a long weekend of music.

Until next year at Lowell….
Yours truly,