Article & Pictures by Tom Wickstrom
Harvest Music Festival on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas was an unbelievable music experience. I saw many new bands and met many new friends. While there I also had the opportunity to attend some press conferences and do three interviews.
The first press conference consisted of Samantha Fish & Donna the Buffalo. Out of Kansas City Missouri, Samantha Fish is the real deal. She plays & sings the blues like she’s been experiencing them for 30 years but yet is only 25 years old. She talked about her songwriting process and her upcoming European Tour. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of her in the future.
Donna The Buffalo was running a little late, but Jeb Puryear & Tara Nevins finally pulled up on their golf cart. They are one of my favorite artists. Celebrating 25 years as a band, they talked about their longevity in the business. Their music is American Roots with many different elements & genres infused together. They have a following fondly referred to as “The Herd”. Every year they put on 3 festivals of their own: Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival, the bi-annual Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival in North Carolina and the Virginia Keys Grassroots Festival in Miami, Florida.
Immediately following, all the members of Yonder Mountain String Band arrived for another press conference. Joining original members Ben Kaufmann, Dave Johnston & Adam Aijala were new additions Jacob Joliff & Allie Kral. Formerly from Cornmeal, fiddle player Allie Kral has injected extra energy into a band rejuvenated with the addition of her & the new mandolin player Jakob Joliff. Not that they ever lost the energy to begin with but it sure seems like everyone has a lot of fun playing together. They talk about the upcoming new CD release in the Spring and about how they’re trying to insure that both Jake & Allie become permanent members of the band. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
The round of press conferences started with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Rhiannon Giddens & Hubby Jenkins talked about their style of music which they referred to as “Black String Music”. Formed in 2005 at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC. Rhiannon talk about her involvement with a new super group and how they got involved with the New Basement Tapes, which took newly found lyrics from Bob Dylan and breathed new life into them. She also spoke about her new solo album coming out in February. They also shared their thought about engagement to ideals and how those ideals and what’s happening around them comes through in their music.
Following the Carolina Chocolate Drops, there was a group press conference consisted of members of the Magic Beans, Paper Bird, Dirtfoot & Split Lip Rayfield. I have been a big fan of Split Lip Rayfield (SLR) for years and have never seen them live. The funniest comment of the day came from Wayne Gottstine (SLR). When asked what outdoor activities they enjoyed, Wayne jokingly said he was looking forward to getting into a knife fight with Yonder Mountain String Band later that evening. At least I think he was joking. Dirtfoot, out of Shreveport, La talked about Harvest Festival’s Chompdown, which is a community breakfast that happens each year and Dirtfoot performs while the breakfast is happening. Although not familiar with the Magic Beans, Dirtfoot or Paper Bird musically, I did get a chance to catch their sets later that day and enjoyed all their performances. Both the Magic Beans & Dirtfoot sets were highlights from the festival.
The first interview I did was with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks. He arrived to the interview wearing a fake gray beard. Formed in 1985 in Minneapolis, Mn the Jayhawks have been touring to support the reissue of their back catalogue. They have been touring with the line-up of the band from the mid 1990’s. Their last studio album was 2011’s “Mockingbird Time”. I asked about new music and Gary said he was focusing on the reissues. He said he wasn’t really happy with that release and had no interest in putting out new material unless he thought is was really outstanding. The reissues were both on CD with bonus material as well as Vinyl releases.
My second interview was with Elephant Revival. Based out of Nederland, Colorado they consist of 5 members who are multi-instrumentalists and harmonize on vocals that provides a spirited multi-layered musical styling that brings their separate talents wholly together as one. They have been performing at many festivals and hope someday to play at the Newport Folk Festival, the Oregon County Fair & Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. They also spoke of their involvement in the community & how they are trying to be a positive influence with the ecological & community conscience issues that are changing in today’s world.
My Final interview was with Ryan Young, the fiddle player from Trampled By Turtles. They will be heading to Europe for a tour and then multiple shows back in the U.S. before the end of the year. My 1-on-1 interview is as follows:
Q. How long has the band been around?
A. 11years. I’ve been with them for the last 7 years.
Q. You play the fiddle. Is there any difference between the fiddle & a violin?
A. No. They are the same. It’s called a fiddle for bluegrass & flok music while it’s called the violin for classical music.
Q. I see you’re heading on tour to Europe. First time?
A. No. This will be our 4th tour. We’ve had great success over in Europe. Thanks to the internet where they can check us out ahead of time, we get a strng turnout at our shows there.
Q. Do you get much free time?
A. We haven’t had too much free time since our new record came out in July. When I do have down time, I record 2 bands at my house. In Europe there won’t be much free time at all. It’s basically drive to next town, set up, soundcheck, dinner, performance and then drive to next town.
Q. How about Asia? Live at Budokon?
A. We’d love to go there.
Q. Have you ever been asked to play “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”?
A. Many, many times. Too many to count. At least 7 (ha ha)
Q. When you’re not doing your own songs, who & what songs do you like to cover?
A. We do lots of cover songs. My favorite currently is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. We do songs by Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, The Pixies & many others.
Q. Favorite Dylan song?
A. Currently it’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”. Another favorite is an obscure Dylan tune from the mid 60’s called “If You Gotto Go, Go Now”.
Q. I saw you perform on the Letterman Show recently. What was that experience like?
A. It’s very crazy. Somewhat of a hassle dealing with make-up, rehearsals over & over and trying not to think about the millions of people that will watch your performance. Overall, it’s an awesome experience.