Written by Eddie Ferranti
May 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Image“Welcome home”. That was the simple phrase that you saw as you pulled into the Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, Texas for the staging of the 41st Kerrville Folk Fest.  The phrase captured and permeated throughout thee event in a down home “hippie” type setting that we dug.  This was life in the “slow” lane with a mellow feel in all corners of the ranch.  From the sweet Dalis Allen, who got HMR approved, all the way thru the parking attendants who steered us to sweet parking spots throughout, the experience was so freindly and fresh.

Experiencing the laid back chats with artists was so cool-like Colin Brooks telling me early on that the Kennedy Mainstage gigs are great, but the true backbone of KFF exists in the so called “campsets’ where music flows until the wee hours at the huge camping area.

From the killer opener act, bud Matt Harlan’s Tune “Too Much Goin’ On”, I got the sense that relief from corporate America’s stranglehold on our life would be eased, albeit for just a long weekend. The “dancing area” to the left of the main stage showed a lot to this reviewer, too.  Care free prancing abounded and nobody cared how you looked, but embraced your desire to jam to your own beat!  This event has been going on since 1972 for a reason-real music folks care. Upgrades thru donations for 2012 included new bathrooms for the ladies which was most appreciated by my sweet Rose!

Once the sun went down the hill country weather was very pleasant and comfortable. The sounds of “those loud screeching bugs” (whatever they are) played into the background like they were assisting the groups on stage.  Most strange, but interesting.  As far as a photographer’s view point the lighting was very good and the sound could not of been better!  Jacobs Audio out of Boulder, Colorado were nails in this regard.  Having small but powerful speakers placed 3/4’s of the way up the hill made for outstanding sound no matter where you were!  Being a media dude who covers a lot of gigs, these two factors were huge.  Speaking of sounds, how about some capsule whims, thoughts, and observations about some of the bands that we took in over 20 hours of coverage over the first three days………..


What a way to open this gig!   MH has been a fave of ours for years now since we caught him in Houston performing with the ‘Front Porch Society’. His latest CD is very strong with The Sentimentals called “Bow and Be Simple”. M,C. Hansen came over from Denmark to appear with Harlan along with Paterson Baird and sweet Rachel Jones.  Highlight tunes included “Darkest Shade of Gray”, “Way Down Allen Road” about the bad idea of building a wall between Mexico and USA, and “Rachel” about his sweet sidekick in life.  Baird was bad ass on mandolin throughout and Hansen plays a slick guitar.  MH attracts talent to play with him because HE has it period.  He’s developing a trademark with the sliding “John Lennon” sun glasses on his nose and you won’t find a nicer cat in the music biz!   Ride the wave and enjoy the ride with Mr. Harlan………


Easily the best “find” for HMR on this visit to KFF.  She was given an hour to perform and it was a great move that had us wanting more. Hunt displays a deep sexy bluesey voice that deliverd big time on songs  “It Feels So Right Today” (I know thats right!), “Not Your Trick Pony”, and “Making Up For Things I Never Do”.  Her fiddle prowess was off the charts throughout the gig and she blended in with everyone she played with nicely. Appropriate number was “When It Rains It Pours” where the lead guitar and piano jam sizzled. “Springtime” was a sweet ballad written by stand up bass player Christopher Way. ‘Boogie Woogie’ is an easy way to describe thee overall stage show that PH pulled off this evening. HMR meant to catch her in Memphis at the Folk Alliance, but made up for it here big time. Miss Hunt uttered a lyric that fit the whole KFF experience with “When life gets tough, send out your love and sing!”  Amen sister Hunt.  HMR is definitely following the trail this fiddle blazin’ lady is carving in the future……


We used to be heavy followers of Guy, but have fallen off his wagon over the years.  This was a chance to catch up with him and see what he had goin’ on since he still has a strong following evidenced by two shows a night everytime he plays Houston’s Mucky Duck.  Well when he walked out in bib overalls and began to wail loud and then louder it kind of made me go WTF quite frankly.  I remember the dude that used to tear up an electric guitar on tunes like “Calico Girl”, but now GF seems to be drifting more towards being “Trout Fishing in America” to me more than anything.  Not that that’s a bad thing, just not my cup of tea.  He can still blast out a mean ass harmonica with the best of them like on “This Land is Spoken For”, but overall cornball is his main game.  Sad really to me and a waste of talent.  Plus he STILL drags out a saw and plays it?!   That was fresh like 10 years ago dude.  God Bless him and everybody’s gotta do what brings home the bacon, but HMR is missing nothing with this cat these days I’m afraid…………


This performer had not played KFF in 23 years and had a rather cold stage presence to me. He rejected 3 requests with nary a reply, but hey he’s the boss on his stage.  He spouted out some quirky comments, but hit home observations about today’s world like :”Technology serves us plus makes us slaves daily”!   Or a developer cuts down 1,000 pine trees to build 100 homes and calls the subdivision “Thousand Pines”!  Interesting tongue in cheek to say the least.  His trio spilled out some un-expected spirited jams, especially Mark Williams on stand up bass………….


Here is another performer HMR used to follow with a passion, but have trailed off on these days.  JL seems to be entrenched in being the next Bob Dylan in lieu of the jammin’ he used to do.  Evidence was BD’s tune “She Loves Just Like a Woman” done passionately and well.  His tale about snowing in Austin and covering Townes Van Zandt “Sitting Down By the Highway” were show stoppers for sure, especially when killer piano man Radoslav Lorkovic was allowed to cut loose. .  Don’t get me wrong though on what he brings to the table.  Lafave is carving a niche that has a great following and if closed eyed ballads float your boat he’s the man for you…………


This lil ball of spunk kicked in my buzz when she took the stage by storm and busted into “Prince of Love in New Orleans”!   Energy is putting it mildly when descibing what this lady displayed on stage. She was surrounded by excellent players, including the percussion master Mike Meadows and a fiddle dude who played a scratchy ass violin that rocked!  His name escapes me (he also appeared with Guy Forsyth) and that’s my bad. but he was a mean sumbitch.  “Slow Boat To China” brought out the sassy brassy in Lewis and she displayed a female Loius Armstrong kinda thing goin’ on , too!  Hell, Butch Morgan even joined in the fray and added some killer guitar chops that I would of welcomed a lot more over the whole KFF if I had my way.  ZL closed with yet another killer observation about life that the Kerrville experience gave me with “Always Be Yourself” !  Zoe Lewis is ON the HMR radar for sure………….


This Nashville based lady was on our “chase” list until we finally caught her at Folk Alliance in Memphis last February.  Definitely wanted another carck at her act and we were delighted to see bud Mike Meadows in tow on stage to add his “box” of percussion tricks!  “Your Sister Cried All the Way Home” broke out of the box to start a very moving set.  MH has a different stage style similar to what ya get when you see Malcolm Holcombe do his thing live.  Passionate face contortions make for ample good effect in her presentation.  Highlights included a moving tale about an 84 year old hobo, “Steamtrain”, “I Saw Your Reflection”, and the classic “Drag Queens in Limosines”!  Mike Meadows adds so much to every performer he plays with always. As I’ve been referring to throughout this review is yet another line about I life I took from KFF which was dead panned delivered by Gauthier: “Remember the second mouse always gets the cheese!”   Classic. “Mercy Now” was a tune that Boy George actually recorded of hers which included the great encore lyric of : “I love my church and country and they could use some mercy now…………”  God Bless MG and go see her when ya can……………


These young dudes hang their hat on the bluegrass side of the fence and do a very good job of it.  In fact they are down right nasty at it. Some burnin’ hot numbers that included fiddle mandolin jammin galore were “Bourbon and Whiskey” and killer “Glass Eye”.  I’d like to see these fellas add a little more lyrics to their act to attract me back for another listen.  If racin’ hot bluegrass is your bag, check these guys out for sure…………..


This Boston native now located in Virginia was definitely on our advance radar for KFF.  We had recently saw him at the Mucky Duck in Houston for the first time and came away captivated by his ‘gusto” if you will.  Stage charisma does not even begin to explain what he brings to the stage live!   Playing with his old bud from early days in Beantown, Don Conoscenti, the duo blended together masterfully.  Vibrantly delvered classics included “Nobody’s Watching”, “Take All the Sky You Need”, goose bump inducing Roy Orbison gem “Cryin'”, and raucous sing a long “Kick Out the Lights”!   Paul can shift gears and deliver every time like when he nailed “Walking After Midnight”.  “Things Change”, and new children’s album title cut “American Hero”.  This guy can get the joint jumpin for sure and I was a bit surprised he was slotted as an opener on a Saturday instead of not later.  As I caught up to him later he told me he felt the same, but KFF wanted an “eye opener” to get it going and he fit that to a tee!

Ellis Paul has 17 albums to date.  Enough said.  He’s a talented charismatic performer who leaves it all out there for his audience and then some……………


This Canadian came recommended by long time music bud Pete Cronquist to us and we enjoyed his down home feel.  Canadians always seem to deliver a good gig and this was no exception.  Fitting tune for him, “Take It Slow”, got it going and “Since You Asked” got this sometimes sedate environment back to cookin’ again. Classic lyrics of “House of Cards” and “Pack of Lies” delivered yet more KFF reality if you will. “Porter Down” and “13 Stations” ruled and JK has a good quick to the point story telling style that is funny, too. This cat was a sheet metal worker and an ice salesman before he chose the “lucrative” folk music world to make a living and we’re all better for it……………..


Rose and I have seen this Austin Hall of Famer for years now and always dig when we can catch her with a full band which is quite rare these days.  PP has added a left handed bad ass lady, Jen Leigh, on lead shreddin’ guitar and brought new life to the stable of Pike classics like “Jack Knife Girl” for sure!  Her steel playin’ ruled, too.   Patrice never is shy and reals blossoms in a big stage environment.  Man it felt good to ROCK finally here at KFF and I’d like to see a lot more of it quite frankly.  We’re longing for Double P to release some new material to get us pumped to ride her continuing wave pf popularity.  You’ll never meet a more heart on her sleeve individual and we love her dearly………….

So there ya go.  As I wind down my first ever take on the Kerrville experience I ‘d like to share some musings and such we gathered over three days…..T-shirts sightings that said it all:

– “Relish Today………..Ketchup Tomorrow!”

– “Music: Thee only addiction that is healthy, legal, and uplifting!”

Epics both of them. I was 18 when KFF started up and I’m damn proud they had us for their 41st B-day!  Rose & I entered the scene as “Kerrvirgins” and left as “Kerrverts”!  God Bless all the hard working volunteers who bust their humps for 18 days to embrace an experience that all true music lovers show try at least once.  Hotels are only 10 miles away and KFF offers plenty to do all day………….Together we’re making a difference and “Welcome Home”…………(www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org)

Peace and OUT………