Live Review: Charley Crockett in Asheville – 07/08/2018

The musical vagabond, Charley Crockett, took to the stage on Sunday evening in Asheville…

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a vagabond is someone “who wanders from place to place without a fixed home” and while Texas native Charley Crockett has done his share of traveling across both the United States and world, he may not fit into an exact definition. However, his soulful sound – a collaboration of blues and Texas country sang from a heartfelt location found deep inside of Crockett himself and flawlessly executed on stage while drawing from years of street performing, all combines to produce one of the most entertaining shows you will ever witness.

Many people today attempt to package music into neat little boxes for specification purposes and an ease of finding something one may find interesting. However, there is no containing an artist who decides to push the boundaries of his or her craft and with the availability of music expanding by the day – people are slowly finding that the only category which matters is simply, good music. Crockett, backed by his band, The Blue Drifters, doesn’t fit nicely into country, rock, roots or blues – Americana has recently become the catch-all for anything closely resembling these but where you will find both Crockett and The Blue Drifters firmly planted is within the category of good, quality music.

Taking the stage at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, shortly after 9:00pm and following North Carolina native Valorie Miller, Crockett and his band immediately hooked the crowd with ‘Ain’t Got No Time to Lose’ – the first of a marathon 28 song set that unfortunately passed by all too quickly.

Surrounded by an incredibly talented group of musicians making up The Blue Drifters, Crockett shines in the spotlight with a range of songs capable of taking any listener on an emotional roller coaster throughout any given performance. As concert goers it is often easy to forget that the artists who entertain us have often been on the road for many days, weeks or even months – they have good days and bad like any of us but still must go out in front of crowds and put on a show to make their living.

Having seen Charley Crockett multiple times, he is arguably having more fun on that stage than any other musician currently on tour. Seemingly always in a good mood, his stage presence and live show is something that should be witnessed by any music lover. The recently released album, “Lonesome As A Shadow”, recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillip’s Recording Service is an awesome collection of just a few songs once found bouncing around inside Crockett’s creative mind and set to record – but the live show is something else entirely providing an added level of appeal to Crockett and his music.

There is only one other North Carolina date currently on his tour calendar – Friday, November 9 – with The Turnpike Troubadours at The Fillmore in Charlotte. Make plans now, get tickets here and be in attendance, you’ll be glad you did.

FULL SETLIST 07/08/2018

Ain’t Got No Time to Lose
Look What You Done
Downtrodden Man
Lil’ Girl’s Name
Cold Hearted Woman
How Long Will I Last
I Ain’t Never
If Not the Fool
That’s How I Got To Memphis (Tom T. Hall)
What the Preacher Say
A Dime At A Time (Del Reeves)
The Sky’d Become Teardrops
I Am Not Afraid
Lonesome as a Shadow
I Wanna Cry
Help Me Georgia
7 Come 11 (Benny Goodman)
T-Bone Shuffle
Jamestown Ferry (Tanya Tucker)
Sad and Blue
The Race Is On (Don Rollins)
Ain’t Gotta Worry Child
Out of Bad Luck
Oh so Shaky
In the Night
Silver Dagger
Goin’ Back to Texas
Trinity River

Live Review: Bart Crow in Charlotte – 06/23/2018

Bart Crow landed in Charlotte over the past weekend for a fun Saturday night show…

Austin based singer and songwriter Bart Crow brought his band along for their very first trip to North Carolina last weekend. A brief run down the east coast from New York City, to Washington D.C. and eventually Charlotte, saw Crow and his crew invade Puckett’s Farm Equipment for another entertaining show.

Rising country artist Mickey Lamantia, who was named one of Rolling Stone top newcomers to know back in January, got the evening started with his songs mixed between a few crowd favorite covers.

Bart Crow entered next from the side door and jumped into his set which spanned his entire collection of albums from Finally… to The Parade and everything in between. A receptive crowd saw some take to a makeshift dance floor in front of the stage and many were singing right along.

A few songs into his set, Crow wished a couple in attendance a happy anniversary before dedicating Dandelion, the title track to his 2012 release, to the pair. A nice moment and connection between Crow and his fans from the stage.

The roughly 90 minute set allowed those in attendance to get a good feel for Crow the performer, backed by a solid band featuring lead and bass guitar, drums and a pedal steel. All combining for a sound fitting to his own style, not imitating but forging its own way into and through the music scene.

Crow himself was once a Rolling Stone artist to know over two years ago and it was nice to see the gratitude and appreciation both he and Lamantia showed for one another. Sharing the stage along each of the previous stops for this brief tour, both were complimentary of the other and appeared to have a good working relationship.

Previously playing Charlotte solo in March of 2014, the return of Bart Crow with his full band was a welcome site and one we hope doesn’t take another four years to see again.

Live Review: Outlaw Music Festival in Charlotte 2.0

The Outlaw Music Festival returned to Charlotte with a revamped lineup for a midweek show…

When Willie Nelson walked off the stage in Charlotte just a few weeks ago it left fans feeling a variety of mixed emotions. Some were angry, others disappointed and everyone confused about what exactly was taking place behind the scenes. Nelson had sauntered into view not once, but twice, picking up his guitar and then lowering it again without playing a single note. After a second departure, the show was officially cancelled.

Days later he announced a future return and about a week following the June 20 date became official. Initially it appeared Nelson would again be joined by Sturgill Simpson, who performed originally, but the concert was removed from his tour website just days after being published.

It was obvious Nelson would bring back one or two acts and eventually the pieces fell into place for what transpired to be an amazing lineup. Essentially, those with an original ticket got to see Mitchell Lee, The Wild Feathers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sturgill Simpson and each of the following, including Willie Nelson all under one bill – well worth making a return trip to Charlotte from about anywhere.

SArah shook and the disarmers

The Chapel Hill based Sarah Shook and the Disarmers returned from a tour of Denmark and Sweden just in time for the Outlaw Music Festival and it was a perfect match. Shook captivated an early arriving audience with a few songs off her latest album, Years, which was named one of the best from the first half of 2018 by Rolling Stone and Wide Open Country.

Sometimes the jump from local bars and other familiar venues to a nearly 20,000 seat stadium or amphitheater can be intimidating but Shook’s confidence and sound translated well to the festival crowd on hand. Many in attendance were even chanting for an encore performance following her set, the first of what would be an incredible evening of live music in the Queen City.

jamey johnson

Alabama native Jamey Johnson was next to take the stage and his stripped down set was especially entertaining. Johnson proved he needs only a guitar and his sonorous southern drawl in order to receive standing ovations from any crowd. Electing to never play from a set list, Johnson is free to perform whatever he pleases which included some covers and a few original hits.

The first to make reference of Willie missing his original show, Johnson jokingly commented that he had never known the great one to not perform when scheduled but that it was “still hot” – in reference to the heat and humidity blanketing Charlotte.

Many on hand would have also elected to have Johnson continue singing his songs, but the tight schedule didn’t allow for much wiggle room and his nearly hour long set passed quickly.

the avett brothers

The night’s next performers were a crowd favorite. Hailing from Concord, just a few miles northeast of PNC Music Pavilion, The Avett Brothers joked they could have walked. A draw for many in attendance, the group didn’t disappoint with many up tempo originals and a one special cover.

In tribute to Merle Haggard, the band was joined on stage by Mickey Raphael, playing harmonica, for a stirring rendition of ‘Mama Tried’ much to the crowd’s delight. Both Seth and Scott Avett took turns leading everyone along a musical journey during their 12-song set which featured hits from throughout the groups career.

From ‘Satan Pulls the Strings‘ (2016) to ‘At the Beach‘ (2004) it was evident the band knew their home audience well, making the most of their time to perform and showing a true appreciation for those in attendance.

Willie Nelson

Such a diverse and impressive lineup could only be followed by a few artists in history and Willie Nelson provided that opportunity. His brief entry and exit back in May was entertaining, even without striking a chord and on Wednesday, Nelson appeared both healthy and excited to make his return a memorable one.

As a living legend, Nelson commands attention and was greeted with a thunderous ovation. He waved to the crowd, picked up Trigger (his guitar) and almost immediately struck the first notes of ‘Whiskey River‘ as he has done countless times before.

Always the first song of his set, Nelson continued putting out hit after hit with, ‘On the Road Again‘, ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys‘, ‘Crazy‘, ‘Still Not Dead‘ and ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.’ Nelson even highlighted new music with, ‘Something You Get Through’ off his latest album – Last Man Standing.

Engaging the crowd from his entry and never looking back, Willie made only one brief quip about feeling as though “he had been here before”, attempting to make light of his previous departure.

He more than made up for an early exit previously and Blackbird Presents did an astounding job of piecing together an excellent lineup. A midweek date wasn’t ideal but any time spent seeing someone of Nelson’s status live is well worth the opportunity.

LIVE REVIEW: Reckless Kelly across North Carolina

Back-to-back Reckless Kelly shows made for an amazing weekend here in North Carolina…

The Austin based Reckless Kelly has been turning out hits and entertaining crowds for over twenty years. They’ve traveled to North Carolina before and over time built a following across not only the United States but overseas as well.

With two stops this time around on their east coast tour, those who had been witness to their live performances were excited and ready but the newcomers were also fun to watch.

Beginning the Music In the Mill series of shows for 2018, Reckless Kelly kicked off an exciting lineup, jam packed with talent. Following the Trongone Band, who played in support on Friday night, Reckless Kelly took the stage and immediately began to dole out hit after hit.

An intimate atmosphere allowed for the audience to connect with the band from the start. At one point, in a memorable moment for drummer Jay Nazz, his father joined the band on stage taking lead away from Willy Braun and bringing the crowd along for a ride to ‘Kansas City,’ a cover with more than 300 versions and Friday night’s was special.

In good fun, Willy Braun followed with crowd favorite, ‘Seven Nights in Eire‘ to win back the fans who had supported Nazz’s father momentairily taking over. An encore of ‘Moment in the Sun‘ and ‘Passin’ Through‘ ended the first show in Hickory.

Saturday, a packed Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh greeted Reckless Kelly and North Carolina’s own Corey Hunt Band. Lined up down the street prior to doors opening, the show drew a crowd from across the state and both bands were ready.

‘Wild Heart Gypsy’ LIVE from @coreyhuntmusic at @lincoln919 #RedDirtNC

A post shared by Red Dirt NC (@reddirtnc) on

Hunt opened with about an hour-long set featuring some popular songs like ‘Song About Saturday Night‘, ‘Uwharrie River‘ and ‘Wild Heart Gypsy‘. Backed by a full band, Hart even added in some audience participation reminiscent of American Aquarium‘s, ‘I Hope He Breaks Your Heart‘ by B.J. Barham, who regularly rocks his hometown Lincoln Theatre stage.

When Reckless Kelly took over, everyone filled the pit but a full balcony and only limited standing room remained. The audience fed off the band and vice versa as Cody Braun led the audience in one before throwing it back to their roots. Celebrating a 20th anniversary of “Millican”, their first album, an amazing live version of ‘Hey Say May – Guacamole‘ filled the middle of the set.

After an 18-song set, the band exited but was almost immediately brought back by a crowd chant of, “Reck-less Kelly” bomp bomp bomp, numerous times over. The guys obliged and a three-song finale concluded their performance with ‘Ragged as the Road‘ and another ‘Moment in the Sun‘.

An amazing weekend of shows with one of the best bands in this particular genre of music who have been putting out quality songs and spreading their sound with relentless touring for over two decades.

As mentioned, Reckless Kelly is no stranger to North Carolina but we’re already looking forward to a return!

LIVE REVIEW: Tyler Childers in Asheville

The Orange Peel was sold out for Tyler Childers, as it should have been…

Tyler Childers proved why is one of the fastest rising stars in the music industry with an exceptional set on Thursday night in Asheville. Weeks prior to arriving, the Kentucky native had sold out shows across the state of North Carolina in Carrboro, Charlotte and the western town finale on a Thursday night.

Be reminded, this wasn’t a Thursday, Friday and Saturday weekend run but a mini-tour through the Tarheel state that began on Sunday, before concluding with Wednesday and Thursday dates. Nonetheless, capacity crowds greeted Childers and his band at every stop.

For good reason too. While the backing of producer Sturgill Simpson on Childers latest album, Purgatory, helped the singer/songwriter gain national attention, his own unique storytelling capabilities coupled with being an amazing musician earned him due credit.

Childers is every bit as impressive in person. Connecting with his audience through songs which range from over indulgence, to past mistakes and triumphant returns – in essence, life. Childers even took his association one step further with a fan from his Charlotte date, justifying both his stories and songs on Twitter as attempts to “convey the human experience.”

Mission accomplished and the crowd on hand was grateful. The evening got going with local group, Town Mountain, who made the most of their set with a blue grass feel and amazing rendition of the classic Bruce Springsteen song, I’m on Fire.

Following, Childers took to the stage and from start to finish was extremely entertaining. Although he referenced maybe enjoying his set in Charlotte the night before a bit too much, the sound and voice were solid and Childers never missed a beat.

However, when it came time for the night to end, it did so rather abruptly. Childers band left him alone on stage with just a mic and guitar. There was no encore and he left following a final solo performance of Lady May which only left the crowd begging for more.

A North Carolina return for Childers in November is already sold out at Music In the Mill in Hickory. It’s a safe bet that anyone who got to experience any one of these three shows quickly gobbled up any available tickets for his return.

Live Review: Whiskey Myers in Asheville

Whiskey Myers transformed the I-40 corridor into east Texas over the weekend…

A sold out crowd awaited Whiskey Myers for their first of three stops across North Carolina last Thursday night in Asheville. At capacity, fans were in position even before Yellow Feather, playing in support and hailing from just down the road in Old Fort, took to the stage.

The Grey Eagle, which hosts both seated and standing room only performances, chose the latter for Whiskey Myers and it made for an up close and personal feel to the show. Yellow Feather, led by Hunter Begley with Casey Kristofferson and Charlie Willis got things off to a great start before the main event.

Taking the stage to the title track off their latest album, Mud, lead singer Cody Cannon and his band set a tone for the remainder of the evening. Even some of the slower, less rock-style songs of Whiskey Myers enveloped more of a southern rock feel in the North Carolina mountains.

Much of the crowd was fully prepared, singing along with Cannon word for word as he gave way to the audience on more than one occasion. The small room and close quarters created loud renditions of many songs but especially, ‘Bar, Guitar and a Honky-Tonk Crowd’ as The Grey Eagle, which hosts a variety of different music from all genres transformed into just that on Thursday night.

The tight performance from a band well traveled kept their energy all evening and seemingly offered similar live performances across the state. Whiskey Myers even expressed their own gratitude for the Carolina crowds that greeted them each night of the tour.

An authentic, high energy performance highlighted by signature songs which blur the lines across many genres but create their own unique sound – Whiskey Myers left the Asheville crowd and all of North Carolina entertained and anxiously awaiting their next run toward the east coast.

FULL SETLIST 05/31/2018

Mud
Early Morning Shakes
Bar, Guitar and a Honky Tonk Crowd
Broken Window Serenade
Lightening Bugs and Rain
Deep Down in the South
Headstone
Virginia
On the River
Frogman
Bill
How Far
Ballad of a Southern Man
Home
Stone
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones)

Live Review: Outlaw Music Festival in Charlotte

The Outlaw Music Festival stop in Charlotte included some surprising changes both prior and during the event…

Initially advertised as a Willie Nelson headlining festival featuring star power from top to bottom, the Outlaw Music Festival in Charlotte underwent quite a transformation prior to kickoff. Two artists, Brandi Carlile and Elvis Costello withdrew their names from the bill before the scheduled date leaving Blackbird Presents, the production company responsible for the event, with a few absent time slots to fill.

Just a few days prior to the show it was announced that start times had been delayed, presumably due to the shuffling of artists and bands which were scheduled to perform. Finally, it was announced that Mitchell Lee would get things started at 4:10pm, almost an hour and a half later than the originally published time to begin.

While the top of the bill changed, any event anchored by Old Crow Medicine Show, Sturgill Simpson and Willie Nelson wasn’t going to disappoint. After Lee, a band on the rise, The Wild Feathers, took to the stage and made the most of their opportunity – being a late addition to the ticket.

Old Crow Medicine Show

As 6:30pm rolled around, OCMS took over with an impressive and energetic set which raised the bar and took the event to an entirely different level. Their shear range of musical talent was spectacular as members switched from guitar, to drums, keys, fiddle, bass, and even an accordion – self described by Ketch Secor as a “squeeze box”.

The band was joined on stage by world renowned musician Mickey Raphael, best known for his harmonica playing alongside Willie Nelson, for a Nelson cover and then their own hit song, Wagon Wheel.

Sturgill Simpson

Next up was Sturgill Simpson and his commitment to letting the music speak for itself continues. There were no bright flashing lights, smoke machines or anything else on stage to distract from the musical experience about to take place.

Just Simpson, who stood side stage as opposed to front and center, and his band composed of drummer Miles Miller, bassist Chuck Bartels and Bobby Emmett on the keys.

A highlight of the evening was when Simpson addressed the audience with 20-plus minutes remaining in his set. He said it was enough time for three to four more songs or two really good ones. Immediately, it was decided on two really good ones and Simpson proceeded to play essentially non-stop to complete the set with a small break between songs and bits and pieces of a few others. His guitar skill on full display, it was a memorable moment that would soon be unfortunately overshadowed by what was about to happen.

Willie Nelson

Scheduled to take the stage at 9:40pm, Nelson entered just a few minutes late with his band. He walked toward Trigger (his famous guitar) and immediately picked up and put down his signature red, white and blue guitar strap. Following, he circled the stage and exited.

Initial thoughts were that something had not been set up properly or he had forgotten something backstage. However, as time passed the eery feeling something was wrong crept over the crowd. Eventually, Nelson would return to a huge ovation.

This time, he managed to pick up Trigger but replaced it on the stand before angrily removing his hat, tossing it to the crowd and exiting again. Time passed and as the 11:00pm curfew drew close, it was finally announced that the show had been cancelled with an official announcement of Nelson being “under the weather”.

The reactions of those both in attendance and on social media varied considerably. People demanded refunds (patrons were told to keep their tickets) and resorted to name-calling while others defended the legend.

Willie Nelson is 85 years old and we should be appreciative that he remains committed to touring and allowing new generations to experience his expertise. It was disappointing to not hear the first notes of Whiskey River or any other hits but his health is the ultimate concern and there is no shame in Nelson electing to not put himself into a dangerous situation.

Nelson performed his scheduled show on Sunday night in Washington D.C. at an indoor venue as the Charlotte weather could have definitely played a factor in the cancellation. Reports were Nelson was having a hard time catching his breath at the Raleigh show on Friday night and it was extremely humid on Saturday (Simpson commented on the humidity playing a factor in tuning his guitar all set).

While there will likely never be an exact reason given for the abrupt departure – speculation has ranged from being disappointed with the crowd, lineup and other factors – the good news is that Nelson was able to put on a show the following night and may return to make amends in Charlotte at some point in the future.

Live Review: Turnpike Troubadours in Asheville

The Turnpike Troubadours made the most of a brief North Carolina visit last week…

The relatively short time span from an announced show in Asheville to performance didn’t leave much room for promotion. Fortunately, the Turnpike Troubadours are one of the biggest and best bands currently in the red dirt scene, word traveled fast and a sold out crowd greeted them at Salvage Station in Asheville last Thursday night.

A small venue with a capacity of around 1,000 for their indoor performances, the unique facility provided both an indoor and outdoor stage. Better weather would have made for an entertaining performance on the outdoor stage with crowds along the French Broad River banks but with periods of rain, the cozy confines of an indoor facility were perfect.

Rising star Jaime Wyatt, who sings alongside Shooter Jennings on his new album in ‘Fast Horses and Good Hideouts’ got things going with her honky tonk style songs off her latest record Felony Blues.

Following, Evan Felker and his band took to the stage with ‘The Housefire’ and for nearly two hours rarely showed signs of slowing down. An upbeat set list with only brief interludes to share a story about former member and friend John Fullbright, in addition to band introductions were the only breaks in the action until time for an encore.

From his initial countdown to get things started, Felker looked like a revived and refreshed band leader. Our seventh Turnpike Troubadours show in the past seven years and it was the most fun we’ve seen him have on stage. High on life? Sober? You’d have to ask him but the performance was on point all night long.

High energy, solid performances all the way around and even nearly 1,000 miles from home playing to a packed house with the majority singing along. Felker did mention their latest album, A Long Way From Your Heart, was partially recorded in the North Carolina mountains of Asheville presumably at the historic Echo Mountain Studios.

Potentially their best album to date, which is saying something considering the band hasn’t put out a bad song in nearly a decade, many of the favorites were featured throughout the set with a sprinkling of older songs mixed in between.

Felker turned over the stage to bass player R.C. Edwards to take a short break and his song ‘Drunk, High and Loud’ went over extremely well before the full band was back together for ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ (Beatles) and ‘Long Hot Summer Day’ (John Hartford).

The encore was a perfect two song finale showcasing the talents of everyone in the band and how well their combined efforts come across on stage. Like a well oiled machine, the Turnpike Troubadours executed a flawless performance on a tight stage putting together one of the best live shows we have witnessed this year.

FULL SETLIST 05/17/2018

The Housefire
Every Girl
7 & 7
Doreen
1968
Morgan Street
Shreveport
The Bird Hunters
Whole Damn Town
Kansas City Southern
Good Lord Lorrie
Wrecked
The Winding Stair Mountain Blues
Pay No Rent
Pipe Bomb Dream
Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles)
Drunk, High and Loud (R.C. Edwards)
Long Hot Summer Day (John Hartford)

ENCORE

A Tornado Warning
Something To Hold On To

Live Review: Aaron Watson in Charlotte

The Queen City got a taste of West Texas with Aaron Watson on Saturday night…

These Old Boots Have Roots was a fitting opener for Aaron Watson as he took the stage at Coyote Joe’s on Saturday night. The upbeat anthem not only makes a promise of being committed in a relationship but also to remember where you come from. Watson has remained true to those words over his 17-year career, forging a path in his own way while bringing numerous fans along for the ride.

Not only did Watson make it a point to continuously highlight the mothers in attendance on Mother’s Day Eve but he also took the time to listen as fans shouted requests, making his best efforts to connect with the crowd and entertain with his music.

At one point Watson even pulled his own phone from his pocket attempting to take a selfie with the audience but eventually passed off the responsibility to his drummer for a better shot. The roughly 90-minute set started off fast but slowed in the middle as Watson shared the story behind July in Cheyenne which concluded with the Lane Frost signature wave.

A bride-to-be celebrating with her friends was invited on stage by Watson and assisted with the band for a brief moment before a unique introduction of each band member and a rollicking finish.

After disclosing there would be no traditional encore, in appreciation for the fans who Watson believes shouldn’t be left to beg for music after having purchased a ticket, the set continued.

As Watson highlighted every member of his band, Orphans of the Brazos, they were each granted a couple of minutes to showcase their own individual talents. From playing the popular Uptown Funk on bass to epic drum and guitar solos, the brief intermission filled with continued music fit nicely into the set.

As the first few notes of Outta Style rang out across the Coyote Joe’s dance floor there was a sense of closure to the evening and everyone in attendance knew this was it. The crowd sang along as the set came full circle before Watson leaped from the stage, shaking hands and passing out guitar picks to fans who were in the first few rows.

It was evident that Watson cares about his fans and their appreciation for his music from the set alone, but an even deeper understanding of this fact became apparent following the show.

After a short break fans lined a few walls of Coyote Joe’s near the merchandise table where Watson would soon reappear. For nearly as long as the Texas native had entertained with his music, Watson stood taking pictures with fans, shaking hands, and extending his own appreciation for them being in attendance.

Watson may not consider himself a star but he is indeed a bright one and someone taking the time to act in such a manor says a lot about their commitment to music, entertainment and understanding that it is the fans who aid in their successes – much like many of the other musicians inside the Red Dirt and Texas Country scene.

FULL SETLIST 05/12/2018

These Old Boots Have Roots
Freight Train
Real Good Time
Raise Your Bottle
That’s Why God Loves Cowboys
Take You Home Tonight
That Look
July in Cheyenne
Wildfire
Getaway Truck
Run Wild Horses
Reckless
Fence Post
Vaquero
Amarillo By Morning
Barbed Wire Halo
Outta Style

Live Review: MerleFest 2018, Friday

One of the largest music festivals in the world, MerleFest, recently took place here in North Carolina…

MerleFest 2018 began on a rainy Thursday evening but Friday’s weather could not have been more perfect. A more festival feeling took over the grounds of Wilkes Community College as attendees filled their seats early in the day and were set up for the long haul. Performances taking place across 11 different stages at various times throughout the day helped to break up the crowd while the valley in front of the Watson Stage remained near capacity.

Artists were in and out of their various appearances as fans were entertained and individuals had more than a fair share of opportunities to see and hear whatever they wanted. Throughout the day, a few of the sets stood out above the rest as we made our way through what would unfortunately be our final day of the festival.

Brandy Clark

The Washington native singer/songwriter took to the Watson Stage on Friday afternoon a bit behind schedule but well worth the wait. Clark got the attention of everyone with her story telling capabilities and detailed lyrics behind many of her songs from her most recent album, “Big Day in a Small Town.”

Never one to mince words, Clark wowed those on hand with hits like, “Girl Next Door“, the title track “Big Day in a Small Town” and “Daughter” – a revenge song of which Clark is particularly proud. Looking around during her set, there were many on hand who were familiar with her work but it is also a safe assumption that Clark gained many new fans by putting together a well rehearsed set and connecting to the audience via her small town stories to which many on hand could relate.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer with Sam Gleaves

Earlier in the afternoon, the duo of Fink and Marxer with special guest Sam Gleaves entertained the main stage crowd from the front porch of the Cabin Stage. One of our favorite pre-festival interviews, Fink and Marxer are prevelant members in the folk music community having won multiple GRAMMY Awards while creating original music for fans of all ages.

Rosie and the Riveters

Making their North Carolina and MerleFest debut, Rosie and the Riveters brought their unapologetic approach to many of today’s controversial issues through song to the crowd – also from the Cabin Stage. The female trio recently released their second album, “Ms. Behave” and included the title track into their unfortunately brief 25-minute set.

Jamey Johnson

Country music icon Jamey Johnson concluded the main stage lineup to end night two of MerleFest. Johnson beckons the memory of many past entertainers who can captivate an audience with simply a guitar and his voice. There is no need for flashing lights, background tracks, computerized sounds or anything not man made live when Johnson is on stage.

The simplicity of his set, where Johnson shines as he doesn’t work from a list but instead plays anything he pleases, is anything but … while his entertainment value reaches peak perfection. Earlier in the afternoon, Johnson shared his thoughts on a number of subjects via an interview with many of the media members on hand.

When asked about his favorite writer, Johnson said, “Nobody turns a phrase like [Kris] Kristofferson.” The Texas legend who had graced the Watson Stage just one night prior. It was an epic ending to the second day of MerleFest here in North Carolina.

The weekend continued as many more artists and entertainers graced numerous stages throughout the complex over Saturday and Sunday. The MerleFest experience is unique in a variety of ways and should definitely be attended, regardless of the lineup – which is annually too good to pass up.

Taking place over the last weekend of April every year, go ahead and prepare for the thirty-second installment set to occur next year.