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Musical Variety

Christine Balfa & Balfa Toujours
to light up festival on Friday

Festival lineup is filled with a
variety of musical acts

(May 2013) – The sounds of traditional Cajun music will be added to this year’s lineup for the RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival in Madison, Ind. Nationally known Cajun band Christine Balfa & Balfa Toujours will headline the Friday night session on May 17.

Christine Balfa

Photo provided

Christine Balfa (second from
left) is the daughter of
well-known Cajun
fiddler Dewey Balfa.

From the moment the band hits the stage at 9:30 p.m., it will be difficult for the audience to not be on its feet and having a good time, organizers say. Led by Christine Balfa, the band from southwest Louisiana plays traditional music that has been handed down in their family for generations. She is the daughter of well-known Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa. Having had the Balfa Brothers as mentors, it is the band’s goal to carry on the brothers’ legacy.
As stated on their Internet website, “Our aim is to keep the music alive and healthy; we do not try to preserve it as if it was a museum piece, but neither do we change it purely for the sake of modernization.”
This “is a world-class Cajun band,” said RiverRoots festival coordinator Greg Ziesemer. There will even be certified dance instructors that will teach attendees the Cajun Two-Step before Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours take the stage.
The RiverRoots festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday with Louisville resident and Madison native Andrea Davidson. Her sound crosses the line between Patty Griffin and Bill Withers, with her songs being passionate, honest and hopeful. She has played more than 1,000 shows, ranging from clubs to festivals to theaters.
A Kentucky singer-songwriter, she does not pen songs to merely fit into a particular genre. She was the winner of the Tipperary Song of Peace Final in Tipperary, Ireland, scoring a perfect 10 for her song “Natchez Trace.” Davidson performed the song while Scott Moore was featured on fiddle.
Davidson will be followed by Appalatin at 7:30 p.m. This band was a favorite from last year and returns by popular demand. Their new album, “Waterside,” was produced by critically acclaimed producer Duane Lundy.
The six members of Appalatin hail from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and even Kentucky. This band combines the sounds and styles of Latin music with Appalachian folk music, producing its own unique blend of music.

Danny Flanigan

Photo provided

Louisville musician Danny Flanigan is well known around his hometown and will perform at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at the RiverRoots Festival’s Second Stage.

Appalatin uses all acoustic instrumentation featuring classical and steel string guitars, traditional native wood flues and pan flues, harmonica, mandolin, charango (Andean ukulele), bass and a variety of percussion instruments such as congas, bongos, cajon, maracas, cow-bell and guiro.
“Our goal is to build upon what we already do,” said Ziesemer. “Appalatin was so well received last year that we brought them back this year.” The Friday night lineup will conclude with Christine Balfa & Balfa Toujours.
The music begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18, on the Main Stage with The Vespers. This is a band of siblings, made up of two sisters on lead vocals and two brothers.
Callie and Phoebe Cryar were raised in a musical family in Nashville, Tenn., singing background vocals on Music Row. They met Bruno and Taylor Jones at a campfire jam. The brothers were drawn to gritty southern rock and even soul music.
“We all grew up listening to a little bit of everything, but roots music didn’t come in until more recently,” said Bruno Jones. All members contribute to writing their original songs.
Taylor Jones said they were all very much affected from the May 2010 Nashville flood – so much so that “the flood eventually inspired us to quit our other day jobs, school and pursue music full time, on a leap of faith.”
The Vespers will be followed by Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem at 3 p.m. This New England-based quartet is known for musically reusing and recycling 150 years worth of American music. Arbo, who plays fiddle and guitar, grew up as a cellist and chorister in New York City, learning centuries of sacred music.
After taking up the fiddle, she fell for the rootsy sounds of old-time Cajun, honky-tonk and bluegrass music. In 1991, she co-founded Sala-mander Crossing and Daisy Mayhem in 2000. Arbo has toured and recorded with Joan Baez, John McCutcheon and others.
Percussionist Scott Kessel began playing drums as early as preschool and went on to study with jazz legend Ed Blackwell. This afforded him the experience to immerse himself in West African drumming and tour with groups playing reggae to honky-tonk to original rock.
John McCutcheon will perform at 5 p.m. He is regarded as a master of the hammered dulcimer and is also proficient on the guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, fiddle and jawharp. McCutcheon has produced more than 34 albums since the 1970s.
While in his 20s, McCutcheon traveled to Appalachia to learn from some of the legendary greats such as Roscoe Holcomb, I.D. Stamper and Tommy Hunter.
One of McCutcheon’s most successful songs was “Christmas in the Trenches,” which tells the story of the Christmas truce of 1914.
McCutcheon will be followed by American cellist Ben Sollee at 7 p.m. At age 30, Sollee has released his fourth album, “Half-Made Man,” which explores the idea of a man trying to figure himself out.
Although Sollee is best known for his for his cello playing, his music on this latest album contains a mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B elements. He first gained widespread notice with his 2008 debut album, “Learning to Bend.”
His music is an attention getter, with a lot of listeners devoted to his sound. Along with the cello, his music incorporates the banjo, guitar, mandolin and percussion. He was recently featured on the PBS series, “On Canvas,” recorded at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. The Carolina Chocolate Drops will round out the evening at 9 as the Saturday headliner on the Main Stage.
Performances will be taking place simultaneously on the Second Stage on Saturday beginning at 2:15 p.m. with Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers. This Cincinnati-based group has just released its debut album, “Wayward Daughter,” a collection of bluegrass, Americana and country tunes sung in their “mountain music style.”
Female acoustic artist Ma Crow is known as a Cincinnati icon, having a simple, clear delivery to her voice that tells a perfect story. The Lady Slippers is comprised of Trina Emig (banjo, mandolin), Margie Drees (fiddle, vocals) and Vicki Abbott (doghouse bass, vocals). The band formed in May 2011.
Ma Crows influences include such traditional artists as Gillian Welch, Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris, Flatt & Scruggs, the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers.
Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin will follow Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers on the Second Stage at 4:15 p.m. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Schmidt was named to the Chicago Tribune’s “50 Most Significant Songwriters” list within the last 50 years.
Schmidt is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics. He credits John Prine with teaching him about poetry and the melody of words. His work tackles the universal themes of love, loss and longing as he delivers songs with a quiet power.
Schmidt teams with Elkin, who is known for her soulful and dynamic vocals. Texas Music Magazine voted her as one of their Artists of the Year and labeled her one of the defining new voices in the world of Texas singer-songwriters.
Her first album, “Call It My Garden,” has just been release on Red House Records, the label that also produces Schmidt. She is an artist full of contrast and contradiction.
After a recent festival performance, a writer for Maverick Magazine reports that the power of her live performances is amazing. “I have never seen a performer so in love with the act of singing onstage. Elkin was simply a force of nature.”
Two hours later, Danny Flanigan of Louisville, Ky., and a Special Guest will perform at 6:15 p.m. Flanigan, a graduate of Berkley College of Music, was inspired musically by an older brother. He learned to play guitar at age 9 “to be cool like him.”
Music went on to become his identity. “It was a way for me to be me.”
In addition to his brothers, some of Flanigan’s earliest influences were John Denver, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon. So intertwined is he with music, that it has become an expression through song. It is his way of connecting with people and sharing in human experiences.
The last performance on the Second Stage will start at 8:15 p.m. featuring Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. These two talented performers met at a Songwriter’s Night in Nashville in 1992 and together, provide the complete entertainment package.
They are a recognizable fixture on the folk music trail. Meeting in 1992, they married in late 1993. They have produced eight CDs and own their own record label, Gearle Records. Earle is the sister of alterative country artist Steve Earle.
Stuart is a veteran artist of the folk-Americana music circuit. He grew up listening to the greats such as Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, John Fogerty and The Beatles.

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