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Rhode Island summer music scene does it again

July 21, 2014

The hottest music ticket once again this summer in Rhode Island? The fact the entire event was once again sold out by April before the lineup was even completely announced is a litmus test to hot the Newport Folk Festival has become. By popular demand, gone are the days when the festival would begin with a small Friday night show at the Newport Casino. Last year they bumped it way up with a full day of Friday music at Fort Adams State Park, home of the Saturday and Sunday festivities. A full three days of music, not to mention various evening after-shows, has led to, by Newport standards, a whopper of a weekend of music. This week’s Ear Bliss offers an insider’s guide to the Saturday performers who include late addition Jack White of White Stripes fame, newly reunited Nickel Creek, Pokey LaFarge, screen star ace John C. Reilly & Friends, Kurt Vile & The Violaters, ultimate local heroes Deer Tick, Shovels & Rope, Lucius, Puss n Boots, Willie Watson, Aoife O’Donovan, The Milk Carton Kids, J. Roddy Walston And The Business, Shakey Graves, The Oh Hellos, Benjamin Booker, Houndmouth, Shovels and Rope, and The Haden Triplets. Let’s dig in.

Artist: Lucius
From: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Latest album: “Wildewoman” (2013, Mom + Pop Records)
Description: Infectious and syncopated rhythms kicked out by front women Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig on a split drum kit, punctuated by their sisterly harmonies, equals pure hip shaking fun.
Tidbit: Wolfe and Laessig met while attending the Berklee College of Music and began the formation of what would be come Lucius.

Artist: Willie Watson
From: Nashville, Tenn.
Latest album: “Folk Singer, Vol 1” (2014, Acony Records)
Description: A former member of the band Old Crow Medicine Show, the singer/songwriter/guitarist Watson gets back to the basics on this old timey-leaning solo affair.
Tidbit: Label-wise, Watson has the right stuff what with being signed to Acony Records of which the front folks are Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Band: Shovels & Rope
From: Charleston, S.C.
Latest album: “O’ Be Joyful” (2012, Dualtone Record)
Description: Scrappy duo whose music whose old school sturm and twang finds that sweet spot between Americana and the garage.
Tidbit: Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are more than just a duo, they are a married couple. The band’s follow-up release called Swimmin’ Time is due out in August. It’s a good one.

Band: Shakey Graves
From: Austin, Texas
Latest album: “Roll the Bones” (2012, self-released)
Description: One-man band Graves performs live with nothing but a guitar and a handmade kick-drum built out of an old suitcase. Hardcore folk with a rock & roll and blues underpinning best describes his sound.
Tidbit: Recently featured on the cover of Austin Monthly Magazine, the Mayor of that Texas city officially proclaimed this past Feb. 9 as “Shakey Graves Day” in Austin.

Band: Benjamin Booker
From: New Orleans, La.
Latest album: “Benjamin Booker” (debut album due out Aug. 19 on ATO Records)
Description: The singer/songwriter’s music has been described as “a well-mixed musical cocktail of punk, folk, and New Orleans blues”.
Tidbit: Booker cites his influences as The Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson, and glam rocker T. Rex.

Band: The Haden Triplets
From: New York, N.Y.
Latest album: “The Haden Triplets” (2014, Third Man Records)
Description: Folk and Americana music featuring mesmerizing close sibling harmonies.
Tidbit: Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden are the daughters of legendary jazz double-bassist Charlie Haden. The trio’s self-titled debut album was produced by the legendary Ry Cooder.

Band: Houndmouth
From: New Albany, Ind.
Latest album: “From the Hills Below the City” (2013, Rough Trade Records)
Description: Raucous roots music with overtones from gospel to rock.
Tidbit: The band’s name originated from a nighttime recording session at one of the members’ house, choosing the evening to remove the sounds of sirens and car honks. When they played the tracks back, they could hear the neighbor’s dogs barking in the background. Front man Shane Cody said it wasn’t going to work because the recordings contained too much houndmouth.

Band: J. Roddy Wlaston & The Business
From: Baltimore, Md.
Latest album: “Essential Tremors” (2013, ATO Records)
Description: Foot stomping rock ‘n’ roll boogie with the piano pounding of Walston and guitar work of Billy Gordon at the core of its sound.
Tidbit: The band formed in 2002 in Walston’s hometown of Cleveland, Tenn. Early in its career the band traveled the country in a church van they had purchased from a congregation in Walston’s hometown and re-christened The Diaper and which was profiled in a New York Times piece in 2010.

Band: Pokey LaFarge
From: St. Louis, Md.
Latest album: “Pokey LaFarge” (2013, Third Man Records)
Description: From roaring stomps to hot swing to early jazz to ragtime blues, LaFarge and his band play antique-sounding tunes with authenticity to spare.
Tidbit: LaFarge got his start on the road playing mandolin for Virginia string band The Hackensaw Boys during a 2006 tour. As the story goes, LaFarge acquired the nickname “Pokey” thanks to his mother who will scold him to hurry places as a child.

A big time summer show happens in Peace Dale on Sunday evening at the Music at Lily Pads (27 North Road). It’s a sterling mother-daughter affair with Suzzy Roche of (Thee!) Roches’ fame hanging tight on stage with talented daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche. Frankly speaking on the attending front, this one is a no brainer. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. and the tunes begin at 7 p.m.

Staying in South County, Jon Campbell brings his songs of the sea and coast to the Courthouse Center for the Arts (3481 Kingstown Road) in West Kingston on Saturday night. Music begins at 8 p.m.

Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.


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