Southern Hospitality. [Photo by Mark Goodman]
What do you get if you take the Brooklyn hip factor out of the Newport Folk Festival and replace it with some global dance grooves? You get Rhythm & Roots, a gathering of kindred souls that has truly hit its stride. It has become an extraordinary celebration of traditional music (often with a modern twist) and is the premiere place to discover music, get enlightened (and dazzled at intimate workshops — and dance, dance, and dance some more.
Here are a handful of the acts we’re looking forward to checking out at the 17th annual event this weekend.
Ghent’s lap steel is slung around his neck and looks remarkably like a guitar, but that’s the end of his convention. With licks like Albert King and Ben Harper and vocals from the funky school of James Brown, Ghent’s southern soul is worth a close listen. (Sunday 3:45 pm)
Charles Bradley & the Extraordinaires
Speaking of JB, Bradley had a job impersonating him at NYC clubs before breaking out on his own. By now his rags-to-relative riches story is familiar, but no less riveting, and it comes to life when he sings as if his next meal depends on it. (Sunday 6 pm workshop + 7:45 pm performance)
OK, so stop me if you’ve heard this one before: North Carolina guitar player goes to NYC, gets a Fulbright scholarship to study local music in northeast Brazil; comes back and mashes it all up together. Matuto features seven talented musicians from here and there, and produces something that is at the very least spicy as hell, and quite possibly astounding. (Saturday 3 pm + Sunday noon)
Leftover Salmon with Bill Payne
They’re calling it “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass,” but with this kind of talent, plus the boogie fever generated by Little Feat’s Payne, they can call it whatever they want. It has the distinct possibility of bringing Saturday night’s festivities to a good, old-fashioned, jammin’, creole crescendo. (9:30 pm)
Now that we’re on the subject of Little Feat, you can hear some flecks of the Feat in this band, a roots-blues all-star combo featuring super-acclaimed blues guitarists Damon Fowler and JP Soars, plus Memphis pianist and Pinetop Perkins adulator Victor Wainwright. (Saturday 6:30 pm + Sunday 9:30 pm)
The burly but gentle dude from New Brunswick is red-frickin’ hot. He has a jillion plays on YouTube and his bags are packed for upwards of 250 dates for what is surely a banner year. He’s likable, sincere, gifted, and a songwriter on the rise. (Friday 8:45 pm + Saturday 2:30 pm)