Written by Eddie Ferranti
Feb 23, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ImageA lot of warmth. Feelin’ of love in the air. No hassles what so ever. Smiling ’till your face hurts. Lots of hugs. Fun with a capital F. Any of that sound bad to you? Well it totally was the way it was for Rose and I as we made our virgin visit to Folk Alliance International in Memphis! This was one of the best musical experiences of my life since I attended the US Festival in 1983 in Bakersfield, Califfornia.

Coming in we were wondering how concentrated 20-40 minute sets by artists would play out. The answer is EVERY time an artist took the “stage” they gave it their ‘A’ game effort and top songs. As the marvelous Malcolm Holcombe stated thee obvious before his jam packed set: “I don’t have any time to talk shit so y’all will just have to use your imagination!”

Pure straight on music at its best in – your – face style everywhere. We were so locked in for three days that we did not realize that we had logged over 30 hours of coverage until we got back to H-Town! I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of it all from riding elevators and hearing tours being discussed and banjos being played, to having cool cats like Will Sexton asking you (often) if you wanted an ice cold Lone Star beer in the infamous ‘Wine & Nut Room’ (Elvis Presley Suite #1910!). Waiting to go to the potty in W&N Room and Dale Watson comes out to hear me say :”What it is?!” DW: “It is your turn my friend!” Classic moment # 8 million it seemed like.

The gift shop offered discounts to FAI badge wearers as well as museums and the like all over town. Sweet since the expresso shots worked well throughout thee event!

It is impossible to comment on all the music we took in, but HMR covered this event like a blanket and we’d like to bring back the heat underneath it the best we can in highlight form if you will………..

ROSIE FLORES (Austin,Tx.)
(www.rosieflores.com)

ImageWe’ve had this honky tonk rocker on our radar for a long time and it took a trip to Memphis to finally witness her killer guitar licks! Lady has a Bonnie Raitt feel with a rowdy jagged edge to it. Her latest CD “Girl of the Century” on Bloodshot Records is kickin’ it on Americana radio airplay and great reviews from NY & LA. No doubt she’s in HMR’s future plans more often being that she’s living in Austin.

THE DUNWELLS (Leeds,UK)
(www.thedunwells.com)

These guys were gettin’ a lot of buzz for their unique sound that blends the whole shootin’ match of Celtic, American folk, rock, blues, pop, soul, and the kitchen sink, too! The harmonies of the five dudes was impeccable and definitely worth a listen.

JIM BYRNES (Vancouver,BC)
(www.jamestbyrnes.com)

ImageThis cool cat was a classy blues dude who just made ya feel like you knew him all your life from the minute he said hello. He had a 7 piece outfit that included a harmony gospel trio that was smooth as silk. I had the pleasure of rubbin’ elbows with him at the bar and his views on life were down home neat! His anthem of “What Have I Done Today” stayed with me and his combo voice of sandpaper and honey is beyond enjoyable!

RITA HOSKING (Davis, CA.)
(www.ritahosking.com)

This was another sweet lady whom we had seen at AA earlier and when she’s accompanied by her band she becomes an excellent leader with her scorching lyrics about the working class. A fitting description of her act by Frank Gutch Jr.: “Her music is like a sledgehammer to my heart.” Amen bro.

THE SWEETNESS (Austin,Tx/Toronto,ON)
(www.wethesweetness.com)

ImageThis “anti-folk”band actually came together while meeting in Memphis at a previous FAI in 2011! A nasty good blend of three women and a drummer comprised of Aly Tadros, Douglas Jay Boyd, Chloe Charles, and double bassist Sam McLellan make for a bigger than the room can hold feel that has to be seen again for sure!

ROSIE BURGESS TRIO (Melbourne,Australia)
(www.rosieburgess.com)

This trio may have been my #1 find of the visit! Their unique brand of ‘folkroots rock’ mixed with a killer sense of humor was addicting to say the least. We caught these shoeless musicians 3 times and loved every gig more each time! They’ve crisscrossed the world playing for the last three years hitting some of the major music festivals and leaving behind adoring fans in their wake. Their smiling faces and catchy harmonies wil win you over, too!

CARRIE ELKIN (Austin,Tx.)
(www.carrieelkin.com)

ImageWe had the pleasure of seein’ this pepper pot lady at Almost House Concerts in Pasadena, Texas a few months before FAI and she got our attention. Well, seeing her with a full band AND with Sam Baker totally pushed her to another level with us. Her riotous foot stompin’ the stage style tends to get even the dead hoppin’! She’s part of the stable of Red House records and her infectious smile and personality will win you over at her live gigs!

STEVE DAWSON (Vancouver,BC)
(www.stevedawson.ca)

Caught this Canadian rocker with James Byrnes earlier, but when he was thee man he delivered an awesome punch. His effortless flowing electric guitar work was so mesmurizing that I had to move right up front to witness it closer! He has been a fixture north of the border over the last 10 years or so as one of the brightest and hardest working musicians the country has produced. Now that’s a compliment.

DAVID OLNEY w/SERGIO WEBB & DANIEL SEYMOUR (Nashville,TN.)
( www.davidolney.com)

ImageWe have had the pleasure of seeing Olney & Webb many times over the last 6 years or so, but never with crackerjack stand up bass guru Seymour in tow. Off the wall is ‘maybe’ close to describing DO’s approach to life lyrics and there is no denying thee over the top intensity he and Webb bring to live performances! Dude is a non-stop touring machine both here and abroad and delivers a home run at every gig he plays. David broadcasts his “Fireside Chat” video shorts featuring the story-behind-a-song style. Catch him if you can!

MARY GAUTHIER (Nashville,TN.)
(www.marygauthier.com)

Yet another lady HMR has heard lots about and tried to track down finally happened at FAI. It was worth the wait and she performed with killer fiddle player, Jonell Mosser (Nashville, TN.), who actually stole the show at times. MG’s deep down funkabilly sound filled the room and hand clappin’ was the norm. Lady has pumped out 7 albums to date and her last 4 records have been named in the top three records of the year by the NY Times, the LA Times, and among others the Boston Globe. Sweet.

MO’ MOJO (Akron,OH)
(www.momojomusic.com)

ImageStepping into a showcase by accident we stumbled onto this high energy Zydeco ‘partay’ anchored by 2 females fronting a harmonizing blend of accordian, fiddle, killer electric guitar, rubboard, sax, trumpet, bass, and drums. Can you say YIKES?! And the killer part is they hail from my native NE Ohio in Akron of all locales for this Cajun soul sheet they put out! Very enduring sound that played well in a large room as well as the bedroom gig we caught.

ANYTHING IN THE WINE & NUT ROOM (Austin,TX.)
(www.willsexton.com)

If there was a room where I could of NEVER left the whole time and come away entertained, it would of been Will Sexton’s Wine & Nut Room! Hearing great things about it from Randy Weeks before hand, Rose & I were treated royally everytime we stepped in this place. It was never empty and it almost always had spellbinding music goin’ on! The spooky pink and purple decor complete with big ass bull horns lended to the mystique that IS thee Austin music scene. Highlights in no particular order:

CROOKED BROTHERS (Winnipeg,MB)
(www.crookedbrothers.com)

ImageAnother band of Canadians that got it together and delivered a powerful punch. They reminded me a lot of Austin’s own DEADMAN, but with a more boistrous soulful delivery. They mixed it up incredibly in such an awesome way considering it was only over a 30 minute time span. Their music can get ya dancin’ big time or cryin’ the next. Very interesting sound.

JENNY REYNOLDS

Super sweet lady from Boston area who hangs in Austin these days over last 9 years. Smooth silky voice with thought provoking lyrics about blue collar life. A duet with Betty Soo at 2pm in the afternoon was killer. She’ll be sought after by HMR without a doubt. She’s working with ‘Scrappy’ Jud Newcomb (who was on her last CD) and that’s damn good company!

CHARLIE FAYE

ImageSeein’ this resident house greeter, good lookin’ mama of dah room hostess who seemed to be in and around at all times, was so enjoyable. Always upbeat and sweet as can be. And nuthin’ was sweeter than seeing her front all star line-ups like Andre “Emotional Eyebrows” Moran on scorchin’ guitar, his sweet voiced wife Noelle Hampton on vocals plus Betty Soo, Mike “Something percussion always” Meadows, Will “I’m the man” Sexton on bass, and Bill Kirchen on guitar and it ROCKED.

JOHN FULLBRIGHT

LOVE this off center dude from Oklahoma. We’ve had the pleasure of catching him in H-Town at least 3 times (sometimes with the likes of fellow budding star Matt Harlan), and he’s special. In fact, Will Sexton’s response to Fullbright when JF asked how much time he had left to play:”You can play as long as you want on whatever you want!” Cat killed it on guitar & emotionally rivetting keys! Fullbright is way out there and I like joining him there myself. Classic comeback to me when I told him he was gravitating to very fine musicians: “Yeah, I’m like a musical barnacle……….”

WILL SEXTON

ImageOf course WS has been mentioned many times in this review, but have to take my hat off to his overall stamina and behind the scenes handling through out FAI. Guy amazed me from constantly being a sound engineer, bartender, greeter of the room, and especially a sit in the seats or on the floor, ADORING fan! His set in a showcase saw him so at ease and good lookin’! He totally stays in the background too much for my selfish taste, but that’s what makes Sexton what he is. By all means look for this guy in your musical plans!

NOELLE HAMPTON & ANDRE MORAN

These 2 were right in step with Mr.Sexton and Charlie Faye in keeping the machine that was the ‘Wine & Nut’ room purrin’. Delivering a tune that I brought home in my head was “Firecracker”! Saw it twice and it smoked. Love these guys and will be happy to track them down again and again!

In closing on this marathon review, I have to at least shout out SUPER Honorable Mentions to the likes of Eliza Gilkyson, Malcolm Holcombe, Matt Harlan (with the Sentimentals), Jesse Torrisi, Mary Sack, Tisha Simeral, Box Car Lillies, Oh Susanna, Milk Carton Kids, Betty Soo, Otis Gibbs, The Black Lillies, Sofia Talvik, and The Waymores!!

Maybe thee best advise I can leave with y’all about attending FAI came from Sergio Webb. As I was chattin’ with him and his wife in a hallway I asked him :”How the hell do you survive this?!” He said with that wry slanted grin of his: “KEEP movin’!” This event was like a musical orgasm that never quit and THAT’s my parting comment………….. God Bless FAI and we’re looking into Toronto in 2013 already!