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!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Hi campers, sorry there was such a lag in this review, but I refuse to make this blog "homework" and make it a chore. And I've been out having fun and getting distracted, but I'm back at it! And as always, most of the photos courtesy of my lovely wife Becky, with an occasional assist by me.

So our plan on Saturday morning was to get up early and attend a Joe Craven-led jamming workshop at the Stage Too secondary stage at 8:00 AM. It was really hard to get up and motivate. We showed up about a half hour late and watched for awhile but the participants had already broken into groups and we didn't want to be disruptive so we went back to camp and had breakfast. Sorry Joe, we were looking forward to it but will DEFINITELY be at your drum workshop at WorldFest. Here's a link to Joe's site again :


This shift in gears caused us to miss the other early morning music, a pattern we would repeat quite a bit this summer. We just CAN'T do it all! These two bands played the Hot Licks Stage at 8 AM and 9 AM respectively. So I can tell you nothing about the Redskunk Jipzee Swing Band but here's a link:


And The Basically Bluegrass Boys was a band made up of hosts and former hosts of the host station KCBX's bluegrass radio show, they have no band site but here's a link for the station :


Our musical morning really began at 10:00 AM with "Dawn Lambeth with the Reynolds Brothers Rhythm Rascals" at the Main Stage. Yes that mouthful is their name, though I gather it is a merger of two acts that don't always play together. Dawn Lambeth is a pianist/vocalist and here she was joined by the Rascals featuring Ralf and John Reynolds on washboard and guitars respectively. They did jazz standards from the late 20's and early 30's in a professional but somewhat-over-the-top manner. Dawn's singing was strong if a bit unremarkable and the others' musicianship was at all times great but the whole was undercut by Ralf and John's campy and ultimately annoying stage persona's and attempts at whimsy. While I'm all for not taking oneself TOO seriously, not taking oneself seriously at all is dangerous if you EVER want the audience to take you seriously. I freely admit their style was just not my thing and though their talent was very obvious I was a bit underwhelmed but you may feel differently. Their picture is second from bottom.
Here's a link for Dawn Lambeth:


and one for the Reynold Brothers Rhythm Rascals:


Next up on the Main Stage was an act I had been most looking forward to, Mamadou Diabate, a kora player from Mali. We have in recent years become big fans of kora music both in a traditional or more modern musical settings. In particular we are fans of Toumani Diabate, Mamadou's cousin and former teacher and renown kora master. The kora is a traditional African 21 string harp that uses a large gourd as a resonator. The bottom picture above is Mamadou and his kora. Mamadou Diabate is a member of the traditional Malian musical caste of griots, or jelis as the Manding tribe refers to them, with a musical history dating back to the 13 th century. The sound of the kora can be quite hypnotic and captivating and Mamadou's music travels between traditional and more modern melodies with equally mesmerizing results. We later got hear him again at Stage Too in an afternoon "workshop" that was really an up-close mini-concert. In the ultimate show of appreciation we bought a copy of his latest CD. Here is a link for Mamadou Diabate:


Next up on the Main Stage was Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys a Cajun act from New Orleans. This New Orleans connection would continue into evening. Unfortunately we chose this time to make lunch back at the campsite and we missed their whole set though we listened to all of it on the radio and really enjoyed it and wished we were there to see it. They played some rocking Cajun music with Amanda singing and playing fiddle and leading her own band at age 18. Later that night they played at the late night Hot Licks Stage dance and again we missed them. But they are really worth checking out. Unfortunately their website seems to have vanished but maybe it will reappear?:


So after lunch we went to Stage Too and heard workshop shows by Mamadou Diabate (already discussed) and a group called Los Pinguos, who later on would open up the Main Stage evening concert with a slightly larger lineup. I'll tackle both performances together here now. Los Pinguos are a group we have heard several times over the years. The core of the group all hail from Buenos Aires, Argentina and have been playing together in the LA area for the past eight years. They describe Buenos Aires as a melting pot and their music reflects this with varied Latin and Caribbean influences performed mainly acoustically but supplemented with full drums and horns on the Main Stage. At the workshop stage their percussion came mainly from a cajon, a box-shaped wooden Latin drum. The second from the top photo above is Los Pinguos at the workshop stage in this configuration. We first heard them performing as street musicians at the 3rd St Promenade in Santa Monica years back and they won the Ed McMahon hosted StarSearch clone called "The Next Big Star". This band really cooks with some spectacular acoustic guitar work and harmony singing all in Spanish. At the workshop someone commented on the beautiful poetry in the lyrics but my Spanish is too limited to pick much up myself. But music is a universal language and theirs really moved me, enough so that I also purchased their latest CD. Here's a link for Los Pinguos :


After the rocking bigger band set for Los Pinguos, the next act on the Main Stage was Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue who describe their music as Super-Funked New Orleans Jazz but are really much more a rock band than jazz. Trombone Shorty is the nom de guerre of Troy Andrews, a trombone and trumpet prodigy who was leading his own band at age six, was leading Lenny Kravitz's horn section at age 19 and now at the ripe old age of 23 is ripping up stages internationally. His band is just as talented and just as young as he is, with the old man of the group being 26 ( I have clothes older than that, literally!). Its not often you come across a band that is just as at home playing jazz standards like "St James Infirmary" as playing Led Zeppelin covers but this band rocks on a great variety of styles. And talk about high energy! Shorty and the band even led a New Orleans Mardi Gras-style conga line through the audience and the whole Main Stage festival area. And the audience was wild about them, garnering one of biggest reactions of the whole festival. Shorty wouldn't stay still for pictures, the best we could do was the upper-most photo. Check out Shorty's site:


Last act for the evening and continuing the New Orleans theme of the day was "the subdudes" and that's their spelling without capitals. This was another group I was anxious to hear, I'd heard about them but never really heard them before. And they were worth waiting to hear! A quintet of veterans of the New Orleans music scene gone semi-acoustic with some masterful tambourine replacing the drum kit, they have a unique but quintessentially Cajun rock sound that is at one turn folkie and introspective, at the next funky and dance-inducing. The mix of acoustic guitars, dobros and lap steels, accordion and tambourine rhythm, with great harmony vocals, at times reminded of some other New Orleans icons like Dr. John and The Meters and then would sound even a bit like Little Feat when Lowell George was still alive. This was a powerful, professional group with a unique sound firmly establishing themselves among those other Big Easy luminaries. The subdudes are in the center photo above. Here's their link:


A great finish to a great day of music, we went back to the camping area, I found some "old" friends from the Thursday Night Lineup to jam with and we called it a night relatively early.