MerleFest 2016 is fast approaching with gates opening for the four-day roots festival homecoming on Thursday, April 28. The lineup has been finalized - except for surprise guests who’ll come to jam - and the mobile app is ready for download. To help you plan your schedule here’s a dozen or so recently added headliners to add to your list. For a run-down of more don’t-miss acts, check out this AXS article on MerleFest’s initial lineup.
Mike Farris and The Roseland Rhythm Review features the original songwriting of Farris, winner of the Americana Music Award for New/Emerging Artist in 2008 following his inspirational album, Salvation in Lights. Since then he has played many festivals and opened for top acts across many genres. His 2015 release, Shine for All the People, received the Grammy for Best Roots Gospel Album.
The Old Crow Medicine Show was featured on 2011’s historic Railroad Revival Tour, documented in the film “Big Easy Express,” winner of the Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video in 2013. Old Crow’s recording Remedy won a Grammy Award Best Folk Album of 2014. The group’s single, "Wagon Wheel," went Platinum in 2013.
John Oates is famous for his role in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group Hall & Oates, one of the most successful duos in rock music history with ten #1 singles and more than 20 hits in the Top 40. Oates has also pursued a successful solo career releasing a number of albums including Phunk Shui, 1000 Miles of Life, Mississippi Mile and a live album The Bluesville Sessions. His most recent project, a 3-disc set titled A Good Road to Follow, features collaborations with artists in several genres, and honors the guitarist’s early influences, Doc Watson on acoustic and Mississippi John Hurt on electric.
The red-headed Sam Bush, a MerleFest fan favorite, is considered one of founding fathers of the newgrass style. His mandolin playing is unmatched, and has already gained him a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association plus numerous awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Bush has three Grammy awards, so far, winning Best Country Performance for his collaboration on Emmylou Harris & the Nash Ramblers in 1992; Best Pop Instrumental Performance with Béla Fleck & The Flecktones on The Sinister Minister in 1996; and Album of the Year for the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack along with many other artists.
Acclaimed Americana singer Nicki Bluhm will take on lead singer duties for the annual Hillside Album Hour performance presented by The Waybacks. Every year the San Francisco based band selects a classic album to cover during the Saturday afternoon Album Hour on the Hillside Stage, one of MerleFest’s most popular events. The name of the selected album is kept secret until the first chord sounds on stage. A roster of all-star guests join the Waybacks each year to recreate the album in its entirety, with one artist invited to be the “voice” of the album. This year, California songstress Nicki Bluhm will fill this role. Bluhm, who recently released her new album, Loved Wild Lost, became widely known when her "Van Sessions" videos of cover songs performed in a tour van while driving between gigs went viral in 2012. The big hit of the series was her band’s cover of the Hall & Oates song “I Can't Go For That (No Can Do).” Last year’s “Wayback” Hillside album was the Bruce Springsteen classic Born in the USA. Wonder what 2016 will bring?
Jason Isbell, a singer/songwriter who calls Alabama home, was the big winner at the 2014 Americana Music Awards. His fourth studio album Southeastern won Album of the Year, Isbell was named Artist of the Year, and a song from the album, "Cover Me Up," was named Song of the Year. His newest album, Something More Than Free, continues his record-setting run, debuting with simultaneous #1 rankings in Billboard's Rock, Country and Folk charts. Isbell went on to win the Grammy for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song for the track “24 Frames” this year. This guy is hot!
Tommy Emmanuel, finger-picking guitarist from Australia, is a one-man band known for playing three different parts simultaneously, a virtuosity he calls fingerstyle. As a young man, Emmanuel revered Chet Atkins and his style and eventually met and played with his guitar hero. The two teamed up in 1997 for the album The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World, the last Atkins' album before he died. Tommy’s abilities have gained him a variety of recognition from the Order of Australia, an honor bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II, to honorary Kentucky Colonel, bestowed by the governor of the Bluegrass State, as well as two Grammy nominations.
Brandi Carlile, a rising star on the Americana scene, makes her first visit to MerleFest. Her album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, was nominated for a Grammy this year and was one of the year’s top Americana albums on the radio. Brandi gained national recognition when she sang the Carter Family’s “Keep on the Sunny Side” with the Avett Brothers on one of David Letterman’s final “Tonight Show” broadcasts.
Multi-instrumentalist Tim O'Brien needs no introduction to Americana and bluegrass fans thanks to his high profile performances in Grammy winning groups Hot Rize (which he founded in 1978) and The Earls of Leicester. He’s had a successful solo career as well, releasing 20 albums of his own over the years, including 2005’s Fiddlers Green which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Recently he’s gotten back to his solo work, releasing Pompadour, a blend of Appalachian roots, bluegrass, funk and rock-n-roll, in 2015.
Playing Multiple Days
Several of MerleFest’s most prominent names will be playing multiple days of the Festival. Folk legend Peter Rowan will appear on stage every day at MerleFest. Grammy winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale will be playing every day as well. Both artists are noted for their frequent collaborations with many of the other bands appearing at MerleFest and can be counted on to create exciting combinations on stage and one-of-a-kind performances that fans call MerleFest Moments. For a run-down on some of these that show up every year, see this AXS article.
The MerleFest mobile app is available free for both iPhone and Android. For more new faces at MerleFest see this AXS article. More information and ticket options can be found on the MerleFest website.