Well, the final night of the Folk Alliance thing was as bittersweet as it was last year. I could do this kind of thing every month!
Started off with my nightly wandering. I got to say hello to the Bassist for The Stray Birds and compliment him on their terrific set from the previous night. I also spoke to Sarah Frank, the lovely fiddle player from The Bombadils. I spotted Frank Hicks and Carl Butler from Knuckleheads and said hello.
I saw a couple of songs in the Westin hallway by a talented quartet from Grand Rapids, Michigan, called The Crane Wives. They handed me a CD for my applause after their songs. Not a bad deal.
I then watched three songs by a talented blue-eyed soul duo from Los Angeles, named Freddy and Francine on the skywalk. Francine truly has a voice that American Idol should know about. I don’t particularly like American Idol, but Francine has a tremendous voice!
Then, as I headed back across the skywalk to the Sheraton, I ran into Actor/musician Ronny Cox…Ronny friggin’ Cox! He of DELIVERANCE, TOTAL RECALL, ROBOCOP, and BEVERLY HILLS COP. I told him I enjoyed his showcase last year and he came off as pretty affable, albeit a bit tired.
Then on to my first set of the night, I saw Red Molly’s full 45 minute set and man, they were pretty great. They are an all-female Americana trio from that hotbed of Folk, Jersey City! They were lovely and the packed room loved them. Their dobro player, Abbie, was a joy to behold, and their vocalist Molly sang like an angel. Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” was flawless. Hope to see them back in KC soon.
Next up, I was going to see Jon Dee Graham and HE had cancelled! Not sure why. The next hour brought me one song from guitarist Andy McKee, who reminded me of guitarist Michael Hedges… a true master on an acoustic guitar. Then onto two songs from locals Betse & Clarke and two from a Canadian folkie named James Hill, whose ukelele-based songs left me a bit cold.
Next artist up, Austin’s Jeff Plankenhorn (with guitarist Eric Bettencourt) got to start early, so I got to see a full hour from this wonderful Texas songwriter. I had seen Jeff play guitar for Bob Schneider before (Whom Jeff kind of looks like) in the past and enjoyed every bit of his Rocking set. He played an electric guitar, dobro-style, and got some sweet sounds out of that guitar.
Minneapolis songwriter Ellis was next and the tomboyish young lady sang two really beautiful songs, one being “How Would It Be?” that nearly brought tears to my eyes. Nearly…but as I didn’t want to come down off of the high of Plankenhorn’s raucous set, I moved on to another room.
I caught three songs by a Boston Quintet called the Lonely Heartstring Band. It was so cool, throughout this music fair, to see so many younger people embracing actual musical instruments and organic music. Even if some looked like Punk Rockers (like the gorgeous, bright pink-haired Folkie who goes by the moniker, Little Brave), it was still cool to see Folk Music, in it’s many variations, taken on by a younger generation. Perhaps there IS hope!
Anyway, I did then step back in for the last three songs of Ellis’ set, which then took me back to the Mezzanine to the Art Gallery stage for 70 minutes of a Memphis duo called Deering and Down, who were a very pleasant surprise! Yet another artists had canceled their set on this stage, so Deering and Down were given 90 minutes, which I missed the first 20 of. It took a song or two to get my head around the alluring Lahna Deering, with her short skirt and sexy stockings, but once I did, I heard a truly fun Roots Rock duo that is really good. Guitarist Rev Neal Down (I couldn’t MAKE that up!) was such a tasty guitarist, yet played in a suble style that had someone come up to me and ask, “Is it just me, or is that guy awesome?” Yeah, he was. The riff for their song “Sugar” remains stuck in my head. I got to talk to the duo for about 15 minutes after their set and mentioned how perfect they would be at Knuckleheads here in KC, which they wrote down. I could see them with a rhythm section, and Lahna confirmed that they are working towards getting a backing band together. Cool folks, Deering and Down.
Finally, I caught three songs by locals The Elders. My dirty little secret is that I can’t STAND The Elders! I know they are a KC institution and all, but I’m just not a fan of their Riverdance Rock or perhaps I can’t seem to forgive Steve Phillips for not returning to The Rainmakers when they reunited a few years back. Let’s see, you can play with The Rainmakers or The Elders…seems like an easy call to me. But as they were the last band to play at the music fair (and the smaller room they played wasn’t even full) I figured I’d catch a song or two.
Anyway, by the second song, half the crowd started dancing a jig as I rolled my eyes, and just then, KC Star Music Critic, Tim Finn, walks in and does what he has done to me a half dozen times or so in as many years at a gig, he parks his six foot and change frame right…in…front…of…me. Seriously, dude?! As I took a few steps aside to see around this rude, hipster Frankenstein’s Monster, I felt compelled to take one of my freebie promo CDs and fling it at him, like a Chinese throwing star, to see if I could impale his gray pompadour. OK, Tim’s probably a decent guy, but Seriously, Dude?!
The last Elders song I saw was an acapella song that wasn’t half bad and I figured that this spiritual song would be a good place to check out of the 2015 Folk Alliance Music Fair, as it was 12:30 on a Sunday Morning at that point. Once again, I had a great time, but with the cancellations and a lineup that didn’t knock my socks off and let’s not forget all of those CROWDED showcases, I will surely register for next year, as to get access to everything.
Having said that, I am so grateful that the Folk Alliance will keep the fest here another three years and for those who haven’t checked it out yet, if you love music, you truly owe it to yourself to catch at least one night of the fair net year. It may change your life.