Sunday April 18
Sunday opened into another beautiful day, and the music started early with Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm. This seven-piece ensemble writes original musical scores for sacred Hebrew poems, featuring Pettee on mandolin, Mark Simonsen on percussion, and Taz Halloween on vocals. The Campbell Brothers took a gospel turn for their Sunday morning set, sounding like an entirely different band than the jammed-out onslaught of the night before. As Ben Suchy's blues drifted through the afternoon, the old-time traditionalism of Bubba Hots slipped across the radar, featuring Jeb and Jordan Puryear on guitars. Sim Redmond Band took another turn as Snake Oil Medicine Show geared up across the compound. Lead singer Caroline Pond erupted in a furious fiddle display, jumping from early-70s style prog-rock flourishes straight into hillbilly jamgrass and back again without missing a beat. They even ran through a Jamaican medley featuring a couple of Overtakers songs, along with Peter Tosh's classic "Stepping Razor."
Keith Secola & Wild Band of Indians showcased their Native Americana, while Zydeco Experiment welcomed Preston Frank for the final zydeco zestfest of the weekend. Local mandolin legend Tony Williamson played a set before, and then sat in with, Big Fat Gap to fill the afternoon with bluegrass bonding. They later played "Bolin Creek" and a refashioned upbeat bluegrass version of the Band's "Shape I'm In." Meanwhile, Mamadou Diabate was communing with his spiritual string compatriots from across the acres of grass and sun. The Sunday night headliner was Patty Loveless, whose honky-tonk country rock and episodic ballads have made her a star across the world. Leaning more towards bluegrass lately, her set perfectly capped off the evening, leaving only the final set by Donna the Buffalo to wrap things up.
Opening with the enthusiastic happiness of "These are Better Days," Donna launched into an unusual set filled with special guests and surprises. After "Sailing" they welcomed Horseflies banjo player and multi-instrumentalist Richie Stearns onstage to play keyboards on "America." Later in the set, Preston Frank emerged to add his talents to "Wild Ass Zydeco" and "Maymel." Keith Secola joined in for "Livin' on Love and Gasoline," while John Specker stomped and hollered his way through Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and "Alligator Man," which also included Preston Frank. "Everyday" went into "NDN Karz," featuring Secola's vocals and the guitar of Charles Bond, who stuck around for "One Drop of Rain" and the debut performance of Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune."
Tara Nevins of Donna the Buffalo
The set finally eased down with the appropriately named "Rockin' in the Weary Land" and the encore "There Must Be," with lyrics bidding goodbye to the crowd. "How could it be that you must leave to live in a world without me?/And how could it be that I must say goodbye and fade in your memory?/And how can I stand to let you leave?/There must be a way home from here/There must be something we share." Perhaps more than any others, these words convey the true emotion behind the GrassRoots Festival. There must be something we share--with each other, with those less fortunate, with those who couldn't be here and those left behind. The organizers of the festival worked for a year to create a space where life could be celebrated and memories could be made. They couldn't have done a better job.
Words by: Paul Kerr
Images by: Todd E. Gaul
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