Tuesday, August 4, 2009


And so we come to the last day of the Live Oak Festival and of course we started the day by sleeping in and missing the first few acts of the day. In the early morning on the Hot Licks Stage we missed Andrew Jackson and Duende. Andrew is a guitarist we have heard a couple of times before but only solo not with the band. He is a technically brilliant fingerstyle acoustic guitarist whose style defies classification because he draws on so many varied influences, thus he calls himself "The Guitar Chameleon". We were very sorry to miss his performance and would like to throttle whoever booked him for 8 AM. Here's a link to Andrew's website :


The next act we missed is another regretful occurrence. The Cache Valley Drifters have been playing bluegrass music around Central Calif. for decades and are among the areas most respected players. Please check out their sight and music:


The last act we missed was more by choice. We caught the group "Po' Girl" on the radio. They are a group centered around the singing/songwriting team Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira. What can I say? I didn't really care for this group. Both singers have quirky, affected singing styles, either of which alone would be OK, but together were a bit much. Add this to songs that left me underwhelmed and you get the picture. But you very well might love them so take the time to check out their site. I hate dissing any musicians :


Now, on to the music we loved. A real highlight of the festival came next. We had heard the Masanga Marimba Ensemble at last year's WorldFest and loved them and were thrilled to get another chance to see them, both on the Main Stage in the morning and later in a hands-on workshop at the Stage Too in the afternoon. The group consists of Ric Alviso, a World Music professor at CSU Northridge along with a bunch of his students and former students playing seven different marimbas of various sizes and voices along with percussion and some occasional sax or trumpet work. They were joined on the MainStage for a few songs by a group of dancers that made the whole act even more fun. The lower left picture above shows the band with the dancers. And fun is what this group is about, not only for the audience, but I don't think I've ever seen any band members having more obvious fun on stage! Their music is a mixture of African and Latin American styles and is at all times up-tempo and dance-inducing. At the afternoon workshop they had most of the audience rotate onto the stage and try out the marimbas for a few minutes. Entertaining, educational and cross-cultural, their shows, I'm sure, were many people's favorite memory of the festival. Check them out here :


Next on the Main Stage was The Jim Lauderdale Bluegrass Band. Jim is a well known singer/songwriter in the country/bluegrass/Americana genre. His songs have been recorded by many country artists like George Strait and the Dixie Chicks. He and his band played an engaging set of his songs which were quite enjoyable even though not my real thing. Millions out there love him so check out his site :


Our next move was to the Stage Too workshop where we saw the group "Girlyman", who we also saw later on the Main Stage. I will handle both performances at once to be concise and because it all has merged in my memory anyway. One of those groups that absolutely defy description, I have to rank Girlyman as one my surprises of the festival. The group consists of
Ty Greenstein, Doris Muramatsu and Nate Borofsky playing a range of instruments including acoustic guitar, electric baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin and djembe, with all three switching off on lead vocals and all doing harmony vocals. Like lots of the acts here, their music is hard to categorize but probably ultimately they are best described as a contemporary folk act. This is a group whose sum is more than the total of its parts. Their songs are pleasant if not terribly memorable and the musicianship is professional if not exactly compelling but their harmony vocals stand out as their strongest attribute and I found myself really liking them and yet still wondering why. I was particularly intrigued by Nate's baritone electric guitar playing. I have NEVER seen a baritone electric before and was knocked out by its ability to move between bass lines, chords and melody fills often sounding totally different in the course of a few bars of music. This instrument helped lend a fullness to the music while keeping a varied, interesting sound. I left their shows that weekend being glad I would soon see them again at the Kate Wolf Festival. The upper left photoo is Girlyman at the Stage Too workshop stage. Check out their site:


The act that next took the Main Stage suffers from the distinction of being my least favorite act of the weekend. The Anonymous 4 featuring Darol Anger and Scott Law center around a quartet of female vocalists doing Appalachian folk music at its most traditional. All have lovely voices and accompanists Darol Anger on fiddle and Scott Law on guitar are masters of their instruments but again this music is not my favorite stuff by a long shot and for the first time all weekend I was a bit bored. But you may love this stuff so here you go:.


Well, all good things must end and this festival saved one of its greatest acts for last in Rodney Crowell. This was an act I was eager to see , I have long been a fan of Rodney as a songwriter and as legendary leader of Emmy Lou Harris' Hot Band many years ago. I've heard great stuff about his live shows with his own band and wasn't disappointed at all. Rodney's songs walk that line between folk and country and rock and have earned him Grammys and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Accompanied by a second guitarist and stand up bass, Rodney did a set of his classics along with a couple new ones. And being Father's Day, it was particularly moving when he called his daughter, Chelsea, up to sing a couple of tunes with him. I gather it was one of few times they've performed on stage together. Highlights for me included his classic "Long Hard Road" and a new one "The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design". This was a remarkable end to a VERY fun weekend of music. Photo upper right is Rodney and band. Here's a link for Rodney:


So with the traditional Live Oak closing of Joe Dickerson doing "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes, the weekend was over except for clean up and packing the next morning. But we kept from being too sad, knowing that we had a few days vacation to enjoy and then the next weekend we would be at the Kate Wolf Festival for another three days of music. That festival will be the subject of my next review which will be up soon!

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