Three different stages showcased a stacked lineup as Medicine Stone 2019 did not disappoint.
Year seven of Medicine Stone, originally created in collaboration with Jason Boland and the Turnpike Troubadours, was missing a key contributor at Diamondhead Resort in Tahlequah, Oklahoma this past weekend. After announcing an “indefinite hiatus” in May, fears of an event cancellation surfaced but those behind-the-scenes took steps to ensure a continued, high-quality, weekend of music.
The legendary Robert Earl Keen was tabbed to fill a headlining position and although there was no set from the Troubadours, their presence was felt throughout the festival grounds. Appearances by members of the band, sitting in with others or leading their own projects were witnessed, in addition to covers by many who were there performing and Turnpike songs could often be heard between sets.
Following, in no particular order, are the 10 best things we experienced at this year’s Medicine Stone.
RC and the Ambers
Affectionately referred to as the godfather of Medicine Stone by Doc Fell during his set on Saturday, RC Edwards, bassist for the Turnpike Troubadours, and his project, RC and the Ambers, kicked off the main stage lineup Thursday night. Singing their own original songs, in addition to a few covers, locals got to witness the rise of some of their own as Edwards, Amber Watson and Jordan Cox took the stage alongside Kyle Nix, the Turnpike Troubadours fiddle player. Watson’s angelic voice paired with the gritty Edwards and a harmonic Cox, combine to create a unique and very well received sound.
Rain greeted Osage County on the Gravel Bar stage Friday morning, but it didn’t slow anyone down. Fans piled into the area as Cox, who played with RC and the Ambers on day one, put his relatively new band on full display. Leading an entertaining and high-energy set, featuring hits ‘Like I Used To‘, ‘By and By‘, and ‘Wildfire‘ from their debut EP with a few new ones mixed in – it quickly became apparent this group is on a solid trajectory for success after forming just last summer.
Jacob Tovar is the epitome of old-school country music with a resonant voice, honkytonk style and twist all his own. Just as the sun broke through on Friday afternoon, Tovar also began heating up. Joined by pedal steel phenomenon Roger Ray (who featured his talents throughout the weekend by sitting in with multiple artists), and musical genius John Fullbright on keys, his hour-long set spanned the full spectrum of pacing from slow, easy listening, to getting up for a dance and eventually a full-on party. Tovar left fans wanting more as he continues to grow his audience in Oklahoma and beyond.
Making her Medicine Stone debut, singer-songwriter Courtney Patton was flanked by fellow songstresses, Jamie Lin Wilson and Kaitlin Butts, all while being backed by Ray and his magical pedal steel guitar. While the harmonies and soulful steel were amazing, it was Patton’s voice and lyrics that carried her 90-minute set. Spectators were greeted with a wave of emotions as Patton dedicated a song to Kylie Rae Harris, a fellow musician who was recently killed in a car accident, just as a perfectly timed gust of wind removed Patton’s hat prior to the chorus. She also covered one of Harris’ songs before taking requests from the crowd, which included ‘Fourteen Years‘, a song about Patton’s own sister who tragically passed away while she was in college. One of the best sets all weekend, Patton made quite the impression on those in attendance.
Max and Heather Stalling
Down at the River Stage, just outside the main venue, Max Stalling was telling his own musical tales while sharing an enjoyable set of his own. Alongside his wife, Heather Stalling, the two share more than a musical connection as her fiddle playing and harmonies add flair to each and every song. Finishing his set with an enthusiastic version of ‘Bass Run‘, Stalling took the time to thank Medicine Stone – as he too was making a first appearance – in addition to everyone who works behind-the-scenes to orchestrate such a large scale event. Especially thankful for the sound engineers, who Stalling referred to as the, “first ones in and last ones out”, both Stalling’s undoubtedly gained many new fans with their performance.
Dixie Chicks Tribute
Fans began piling up in front of the River Stage well before showtime in anticipation of this very special set. Performed only once before, Heather Stalling, Butts, Patton and Wilson joined forces paying tribute to the 13-time Grammy Award-winning Dixie Chicks and their library of hits. After countless classics, this quartet – who were accompanied by a drum kit and upright bass, dialed up the Merle Haggard classic, ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink‘ before paying tribute to the Turnpike Troubadours.
With the fans on their feet and crowding the stage, Butts belted the words to ‘Gin, Smoke and Lies‘ as enthusiastic fans sang along with her word-for-word while Wilson added harmonica before spiking it to the stage. Eventually, they returned to the task at hand with a Dixie Chicks finale as festival goers and fellow artists both looked on well aware they were witnessing a rare but beautiful experience.
Henryetta, Oklahoma native Chris Blevins is a rising star. Sharing his own personal songs about triumph and heartache, Blevins voice is a unique instrument in its own right. True performers are able to entertain acoustically or with a backing band and Blevins proved capable of the former with his Gravel Bar set. Granted only an hour on a jam packed lineup, Blevins shared his blended blues and folk styles before a haunting rendition of Jason Isbell’s ‘Cover Me Up‘.
If Carter Sampson, who was also part of the lineup – playing a wonderful set on Friday – is the ‘Queen of Oklahoma‘ then Kaitlin Butts is undoubtedly next in line to the throne. Popping up everywhere, Butts shared her talents and unique voice alongside multiple artists throughout the weekend. From singing with fiance’ and Flatland Cavalry front-man Cleto Cordero, Butts also joined Wade Bowen, American Aquarium, Courtney Patton and multiple others on top of her own Saturday afternoon set. One minute, Butts would be meandering through the crowd watching different performances only to be up on stage the next, enhancing someone else’s song. Her star is continually burning brighter and Medicine Stone 2019 served as a coming out party for this Oklahoma songstress.
Doc Fell and Company
Another artist making his Medicine Stone debut, Doc Fell and Co. drew one of the largest crowds to the Gravel Bar over the weekend. Sharing originals like ‘Peacemaker‘ and ‘Tears In Texas‘, Doc Fell and Co. also debuted some new material. ‘Boxes‘ especially has all the components to be another hit for the local Tahlequah general practicioner. Joined by Jordan Cox on accordian, who Fell described as the “swiss army knife of red dirt” and former Jason Boland and the Stragglers drummer, Brad Rice, the set delivered by Doc Fell and Co. capped with Amber Watson joining Fell on stage for his own version of ‘Beulah Land‘ – an upbeat take on the classic hymn with a personal twist.
William Clark Green
The lineup at Medicine Stone was stacked with legitimate talent and William Clark Green found himself sandwiched between North Carolina’s own American Aquarium and overall festival headliner, Jason Boland. A precarious position but Green answered the bell, dishing out arguably the most memorable main stage set of the entire festival. Before taking down Uncle Bekah in Beer Puppeteer and sitting below the Gravel Bar to enjoy Fullbright’s late-night set, Green was entertaining fans with his own rock-solid performance. Transitioning into an array of classics during a culminating performance of ‘She Likes the Beatles‘ and giving his bandmates an opportunity to shine in the spotlight, Green’s notable set was well worth the wait.
Overall, Medicine Stone proved capable of sustaining the absence from one of their pillars and should continue bringing people – who share a love for live, original music – from all across the country together well into the future.