Posted on Friday, June 3, 2011

Jammin’ at the Americana Music Festival

Tony award winning Red Clay Ramblers headlined the Americana Music Festival.

Heading off to the Americana Music Festival this past Memorial Day Weekend, I had no idea what to expect. The event was in its first year, so I had nothing to go on. But, as a long-time music lover (and avid festival-goer) I was excited to check out some new bands and looking forward to spending a gorgeous summer day on Bald Head Island.

As soon as I arrived on the island, I knew I was in for a good time. Everything was bustling -  folks were zipping up to the ferry landing in their golf carts to greet friends, families were flying by on their bikes, and the marina was full of some pretty sweet boats. Pretty much, everyone who was anyone was on BHI that weekend!

When I got to the tent pavilion, singer and songwriter Catesby Jones had just taken the stage, and though the crowd was still growing when I got there, he had them all grooving in their seats. I was thoroughly impressed by his guitar skills and twangy country voice. Turns out, Catesby’s got an impressive country music pedigree, having written songs for many serious Nashville singers including Travis Tritt. He co-wrote Tritt’s hit song “Country Club,” which he performed during his set.

Next up was Susan Savia, who delivered a solid set of Americana favorites. Her clear, sweCatesby Jones at the Sail Shop, awaiting the Songwriters Workshop. Who better to learn fromt voice and harmonica (I’m a fool for some harmonica) were a welcome addition to the festival. She sang a touching song inspired by Kirsten Holmstedt’s book Band of Sisters, which profiles female veterans and tells their stories.

It was such a clear, blue-skied kind of day that I wandered out behind the pavilion to see if anyone was taking advantage of what I believe was perfect standup paddleboarding weather. Turns out, there were quite a few people who were on my wavelength. I sat and watched some kids master the paddleboard in no time.

I headed back to the tent just in time to catch Big Al Hall and John Fonvielle, who not only sounded great but who were rocking a very cool light-up banjo. I didn’t get a photo of it because I was too busy having fun, but I did snap one of them with their guitars. Jeanne Jolly was next, and she surprised me with her country/folky/jazzy voice (she’s not easy to pin down, which was what made her so interesting and fun to watch) and energetic stage presence.

By now the crowd was really warmed up and by the time the Red Clay Ramblers took the stage, they were ready to dance. The Ramblers, a talented group I hadn’t seen before but have wanted to see for a while, gave us a set of great music that showed their range. They sang old time songs, folk tunes, dixeland-jazz inspired songs (that reminded me of those cartoon of Droopy Dog and Pee Wee Runt’s All-Flea Dixeland Band – you can watch the cartoon&Susan Savia, with guitar and harmonica.bsp;here, skip to 3:20 to get to the flea band), and gospel tunes. At times they had the crowd rocking and swaying, then for the next song they had the crowd leaning in close, hanging on every word.

All in all, the Americana Music Festival was a hit and I enjoyed every minute of it, from watching a handful of kids dancing carefree in the grass beside the tent to seeing some fantastic musicians. I enjoyed the 15 minute break I took after Big Al Hall and John Fonvielle’s set to take one of the paddleboards out for a quick spin on the marsh. And I really enjoyed dashing around the harbor on one of Riverside Adventure Company’s electric bikes between Jeanne Jolly and the Red Clay Ramblers (and stay tuned, a day on the electric bike is definitely going to be an upcoming adventure).