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Kudos to Newport Folk Festival

Jeffrey Remz  |  August 3, 2010

The Newport Folk Festival provided one superb day of entertainment Sunday. There's a lot to commend about the venerable festival, which isn't exactly folk any more.

Matter of fact, on the third and final day of the festival, there really wasn't anyone who would be considered folk. Tao Rodriguez Seeger may have a direct line to folk music - his grandfather is Pete Seeger - but he doesn't play straight folk music.

Times may have changed, but the quality of the music hasn't fortunately because it was quite high and downright exhilarating at times.

The Avett Brothers stood out on the main stage with their brand of raucous roots music in a sound that has veered away from country over time. Nevertheless brothers Avett and fellow band members know a thing or two about stoking their sound and getting the crowd going as well.

One of the beauties of the Newport fest is being able to easily hit the other two stages to see a bunch of acts who may be of quality, but don't necessarily have a big name. That meant the chance to check out Pokey LaFarge and the South City three from St. Louis. The quartet is a throwback to a different generation, decked out in - among other things - a bowler hat and two-tone shoes. The sound is a bit jazzy, a bit bluesy and all good. One of the best known acts on the side stages, the Punch Bros. were far more engaging live than on their two CDs. Chris Thile is the lead singer and cuts a good presence.

When I said that folk isn't so much part of the equation any more, there is no doubt that's true. Not when you have soul revivalist Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the Swell Season and newcomers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros aboard. All were big time highlights and perhaps different sides of roots music, which is what Newport seems to be about in recent years. Sharpe in particular was captivating, drawing a huge crowd on a side stage and displaying a lot of personality.

Saturday's line-up in fact leaned more towards the country and bluegrass end with folks like Sam Bush, Doc Watson and headliner John Prine.

Like many genres of music these days, the lines increasingly seem are blurred out there. The Newport Folk Festival apparently decided awhile back that if they didn't expand what the line-up, the fans may not come in sufficient numbers.

This year's attendance was about 500 more than last year, reaching about 17,000 for the weekend. Whatever your taste, there was something for everybody and a chance to check out old and new and stretch out musically.

If you have comments, please email me at countryst@gmail.com.

:: Posted at 11:08 PM by Jeffrey Remz ::
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