A quick review of the National Folk Festival in Richmond.
The weather was great if a bit cold at night. And despite each musician playing multiple times, there were still a a lot of conflicting choices. It is a nice space they have for the festival, on the waterfront in downtown. There just isn't a lot around it excepting the Federal Reserve and other financial buildings.
Some of the interesting performers:
Many of us missed the Lost Bayou Ramblers when they were here, booked opposite Steve Riley playing for Free. They managed to blow the roof off all stages they played. I was surprised and thrilled to see these Richmond folk eating it up.
AltaiKAI is a mongolian throat singing group. It isn't quite the Tuvan stuff you may have heard before, the beat is very propulsive and surprisingly modern. They are at the Millennium Stage on Tuesday.
Some DC Area folk that went down: Chuck Brown killed. Little Bit of Blues (Warner Williams & Jay Somerour) sounded really strong.
Sonny Burgess is an old rockabilly guy. He was on Sun Records back in the day. He puts on a great show, but it is mostly covers. However they have the history, the bone-fides to carry it off. They're playing here a lot in the next couple days. They're doing a swing dance for Tom & Debra at the Clarendon Ballroom on Tuesday and on Wednesday they do a lunch time show at the Library of Congress and then the Millennium Stage at the KC.
There were some really cool dancers performing. The synergy that this sort of festival inspires happened at a workshop stage; the Hula Halau O'Lillnoe and the Mythili Prakash and the Dance of India Ensemble traded dances. They both were slack jawed at the similarities between their styles and the underlying religious tenants.
The Quebe Sisters have been getting a lot of play recently and they were all over the Folk Festival. While there is no denying the talent, they stir up disagreement between folks who normally have similar musical tastes. It reminds me of the debates about the band Cecelia. For some... ok me... they are just a little too cute, a bit over-polished and packaged.
The Lee Boys sounded great. They are part of the long yet recently exposed tradition of Sacred Steel music. They were at Floyd Fest pumping out tons of energy. They put on a workshop Saturday that had less energy, and more history. This morning I did get my churchin' and they got it going strong. They're at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage tomorrow (Monday).
Willie King played some really good blues. And I got some great Tex-Mex Polkas out of Santiago Jimenez, Jr..
And I finally got to see the Skatellites. These guys, like Chuck Brown, are pretty much responsible for developing their own genre. Ska became the foundation of Rocksteady and then Reggae. I'm not sure how many 'original' members there are, probably no more than half. But they sounded great. It was good to see the little kiddie ska dancers are going strong. I think ska could be the solution to the childhood overweight epidemic.
There is one more year of this National Folk Festival in Richmond, the hope is that these three years build the infrastructure to continue the festival on under a new name into the future.