fayettevilleroots 2016 day two

Read our review of day two Fayettevilleroots festival 2016


26 August 2016 Fayetteville Arkansas

A slow start after a social and late night prior.

By the time I arose, only the dogs were there to greet me (the cat was preoccupied).

I decided I would walk to the main festivities today – less than half an hour and I wanted to at least in part correct the huge sitting/moving imbalance due to much commuting of the past few days.  Plenty of hills as I strode towards the municipal library, via the extensive and impressive campus of the University of Arkansas.


Local community radio station KAUF was doing a live two-hour show featuring many of the performers here at the festival.  As last year, it was a perfect way to catch a truncated version of the festival, but in a more intimate setting.

The Peter Rowan Band was first up, with the same outfit as last night – Keith Little (banjo), Chris Henry (mandolin), Paul Knight (bass), Blaine Sprouse (fiddle) and Jamie Oldaker (percussion).  Today they were under the wry moniker The Awesome  Possums.  Three songs including the classic ‘Midnight Moonlight’ and a Chris Henry tune ‘Colorado Sweetheart’ were delightful and brought the packed room to its feet.  Jonathan Byrd reprised his easy ‘Natural Supernatural’ from last night’s event at Garner Farm.

The Birds of Chicago (Allison Russell and J.T. Nero) released the terrific ‘Real Midnight’ album earlier this year with Joe Henry at the production helm.  I was delighted to hear two songs from that collection today – the title track and ‘Remember Wild Horses’ with a beautifully layered five-piece ensemble.  The music is a classy blend of roots, blues and soul.

The Wild Reeds were just three today for this smaller stage and showcased two songs from their Best Wishes EP.  Amy Helm (and The Handsome Strangers) offered ‘Sky’s Falling’ and the soulful ‘Sing To Me’ from her new release Didn’t It Rain which were a delicious taste of her forthcoming full set tonight.  The session was closed by singer-songwriter (now based in Austin Texas) Raina Rose who was joined by partner Andrew Pressman on bass. A great and lively two hours on air were augmented with food, beer and tourist grabs including a brief chat with a former chef for Google, who joined the company providing sustenance for all fifty of its employees and left six years later when the payroll had over 10,000 workers!


Peter Rowan and ‘The Awesome Possums’


Birds of Chicago


Amy Helm

Leaving the auditorium, we were now aware of to the torrential rain falling.  I made a strategic decision to stay at the library and catch up on some writing and stay dry at the same time.  It had been a whirlwind start to my tour (note to self: allow for one day’s rest next year to catch up on sleep and get more organised before hitting the festival scene which is usually rather hectic).  In fact the first two acts on the main stage this afternoon I had already seen twice, so I decided to stay in the warm, dry and strong wi-fi environment.

As luck would have it, JT Nero from Birds of Chicago was around the cafe and we had a chat for thirty minutes or so about the album, record labels, touring, Joe Henry, songwriting and future recording plans.  I’ll be reviewing the album Real Midnight in coming weeks and adding some insights from JT himself at that time.

I finished my homework and, given the rain was well passed, headed up five blocks to the Main Stage at The Town Centre, for the end of the Jonathan Byrd set.

Amy Helm and The Handsome Strangers put out a smooth groove.  I’m not familiar with her recent album (surprisingly, her debut) but ‘Rescue Me’ from that release is a fine song.  She did a couple of covers as tributes – Mary Gauthier and Allen Toussaint.  A fine set overall from a performer whose background in roots music (father, Levon Helm of The Band) and musical integrity is unquestionable.

The Peter Rowan Band were tremendous again –  the chilling ‘Land of The Navajo’ showed Rowan’s voice to be in fine fettle and this extended version had everybody jamming in an incredible groove.  The set included some Ralph Stanley, punchy instrumentals and gospel infusions and finished with rapturous applause.

From delicacy to vibrancy.  The Old Crow Medicine Show cranked up proceedings and whipped the crowd into a frenzy from the get-go.  This was the first time I had seen the band without the impressive Willie Watson and they have not missed a beat.  OCMS has been an integral part of the revival of folk/old-time music, bringing a vitality with great theatre and highly attuned to the music traditions that preceded.  The set list included ‘Alabama High Test’, ‘Take ‘Em Away’, ‘Sweet Amarillo’ (from the latest album), ‘Back Home Again’ (John Denver), ‘Country Gal’, a frenetic ‘Tiger Rag’ followed by a rousing and emotional medley of ‘I Hear Them All’ and Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘This Land Is Your Land’.  The encores of Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit In The Sky’ and [Nat King Cole’s (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66] did not quite work as well for this listener, but it would be nit-picking to deny OCMS the triumph they deserved tonight, as they closed proceedings tremendously well.


Old Crow Medicine Show


Peter Rowan Band

Read our review of day two Fayettevilleroots festival 2016



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Author: Rob Dickens

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