Robben Ford is one of the premier electric guitarists today drawing on tremendous songwriting, improvising, and vocal skills and creating music that is powerful and spellbinding. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Claus Ogerman, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield and many others.
Growing up in the 1960s, a teenaged Robben Ford spent countless hours listening to artists like Aretha and Otis, at the same time soaking in guitar blues from Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King. In his early 20s, Ford went on to join blues luminary Jimmy Witherspoon’s band. In 1974, the guitarist was discovered by saxophonist Tom Scott and the progressive fusion group L.A. Express. He then teamed up with Joni Mitchell to support her Court and Spark tour and play on two of her albums, 1974’s Miles of Isles and 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawn. In the years since, players as respected as Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton have marveled at his work, and he has appeared as a featured artist in Musician magazine's “100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century” issue.
Today, this remarkable guitarist has effortlessly traversed genres without compromising his exquisite, blues-based playing and singing. His live performances combine the best of blues, jazz, and rock all infused with the searching passion of a veteran artist.
“... a supreme blues stylist ...”
“Ford is certainly a master of his craft. You don't get to play with Miles Davis if you haven't got the chops.”
—Ian Mann, The JazzMann
“Smooth as silk, with a little bit of rattlesnake on the side. Just an incredibly gentle soul travelling from traditional straight up delta to crunchy with some ultra light floaty stuff too … I just love it when he makes that unexpected ‘left turn’ just when you are getting comfortable and think you know what is coming next.”
—BB King’s Blues Club, New York
“Over the course of his 40-plus year career, Robben Ford has survived within a niche that is just jazzy enough for the beboppers and yet still contains enough soulful string bending for the hardcore blues hounds ... Ford has found the right mix of vibe, tone, and material.”
—Jason Shadrick, Premier Guitar
Karl Denson has led a storied career as a multi-faceted recording and performing artist who first came to prominence as a member of Lenny Kravitz’ band. While developing a following overseas, he joined Fred Wesley’s band, touring and recording with him on multiple releases. This led to five straight ahead jazz albums by Denson on Minor Music, the last of which was released to rave reviews and featured Karl in a trio setting with Miles Davis alumni Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. In 1993, Denson joined DJ Greyboy in creating Greyboy Records and released the legendary acid jazz staple, Freestylin. Out of that collaboration, Denson formed The Greyboy Allstars, which became world renowned as the ultimate groove band, spreading their “West Coast Boogaloo” style worldwide.
Denson took this formula to the next level by putting more emphasis on vocals and adding some funk, R&B and hip hop elements. It turned out to be a winning combination, which set KDTU on the top of the heap in the touring world from 1999 through 2005, selling over 250,000 records to date. “My style is based in dance” shares Denson. “I love the idea of creating something that naturally makes people want to move.” KDTU has headlined and performed at US Festivals including Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, All Good Music Festival, Wakarusa Music Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival and many more. Global festival appearances include the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, North Sea Jazz festival in Holland, Moscow Jazz Festival in Russia, East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Australia and the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe has shared the stage with acts as diverse as Jack Johnson, D’Angelo, James Brown, Dave Matthews Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Allman Brothers, Keene and Maroon 5.
Denson’s latest release, Brother’s Keeper, continues his artistic evolution fusing sounds from Rock to Funk to Afrobeat. Meshell Ndegeocello (bass) and Marc Ford (guitar, Black Crowes, Ben Harper) are just some of the special guests on the album. Denson notes, “I’m not one to live in the past. I am very much a forward thinker. Brother’s Keeper is a continuation of my general worldview, which is that we should be loving each other, having fun and taking care of one another.” He concludes, “This record is the culmination of all my life’s work up until now.”
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line are a traveling Carnival of acoustic Americana. The high energy, Nashville-based quintet perform Struthers’ original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies, fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Struthers was catapulted into the spotlight when she lead her band to a blue ribbon at the prestigious 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition (previous winners include Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks) and now her group is touring heavily in support of their new release, Carnival. “When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” says Nora Jane Struthers. “That’s what I’m trying to do with this album—craft vignettes, and in some cases more developed narratives, about imaginary people’s lives.”
Nora Jane Struthers steps forward with a distinctive sound and on-stage style—her personal collection of vintage dresses makes her one of the most visually striking of modern acoustic artists. But the moving, perceptive, and witty songs on Carnival represent a new quantum leap, born of hard work and deep creative reflection. “Over the past three years, as I’ve been touring and performing, I realized that primarily I’m a storyteller,” she says. “I’ve been working to hone my skills so I can do that better.” After listening to Carnival, no one will deny the keen edge of Struthers’ masterful new work. The album marks the recording debut of Struthers’ touring band, the Party Line (which takes its handle from one of the record’s songs, about the early days of rural telephone calls).
The gifted group of instrumentalists includes Struthers’ longtime collaborator P. J. George (upright bass, harmony vocals, pedal steel guitar, accordion and banjo), Joe Overton (clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals), Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle, three-finger banjo, baritone fiddle, mandolin) and Drew Lawhorn (drums). Old time music continues to reinvent itself in the able hands of young artists like Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line—this performance is not to be missed!
“Nora Jane Struthers is one of the most mesmerizing, haunting and hard-hitting projects I’ve ever heard. Her lyrics are simply spectacular and have achingly beautiful melodies to boot. This [Carnival] is one of my favorite all-time albums and certainly the most arresting music I’ve heard in a long time.”
–Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Breakdown
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds is an eight-piece powerhouse that puts a modern spin on classic soul. The band is led by Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow), whose astoundingly powerful voice and sly demeanor make for a spellbinding presence onstage. She is backed by the mighty force of The Dirty Birds, a flock of seven men who masterfully lay down thundering grooves and soaring melodies. While each of the Birds are capable of lighting up the stage with jaw dropping displays of musicianship, it’s clear they’re focused on delivering the band’s infectious music as a single entity. Simply put, the band’s live show is explosive.
2012 was a breakout year for the eight piece soul/rock powerhouse; they played more than 150 shows in 35 states, including scorching sets at festivals as Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam’s main stage, the Voodoo Experience, and the Clearwater Jazz Holiday with The Avett Brothers. We are excited that they are helping us launch the Seven Sisters Fest in funky style!
“They may be from Brooklyn, but the fiery brass- and gospel-infused funk emanating from Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds is rooted in Memphis soul. Their rhythmic wheelhouse combines big-city grit and down-home sweetness with a little bit of Americana twang.”
“What do you get when you cross Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner with Mick Jagger? … Sister Sparrow!
“…front woman Arleigh Kincheloe has one of the biggest voices in the soul-funk business. Prepare to be blown away.”
Gangstagrass goes back to the future with something called Rappalachia, an innovative blend of rap and bluegrass. The band’s “Jay-Z meets Ralph Stanley” sound breaks barriers and destroys genres with its eclectic mix of low down and down home beats. The Gangstagrass song “Long Hard Times To Come” is The Theme of the FX Series Justified and received an Emmy Nomination for outstanding original main title theme music.
Blending bluegrass and hip-hop seems like an unlikely recipe for success, but don’t tell that to Rench, the mastermind behind the mess. When he was going to grade school, recess was a time of breakdancing on cardboard to RUN-DMC. But at home, the records on the stereo were Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. That musical mash-up made a lasting impression. “If you pay attention to the charts, you get an idea that there is black music and white music, but a lot of people have Hank Williams and Jay-Z on their MP3 players,” Rench says. “When you get right down to it, the message of most bluegrass and hip hop songs is similar: ‘I’m a badass, so don’t mess with me’ and ‘I have the blues and life is hard.’”
While the future is unwritten, it’s certain that Gangstagrass will go down in history as the pioneers that brought country and hip hop together and helped desegregate America’s music charts. “Right now, people treat rural and urban American music like they are matter and anti-matter,” Rench concludes. “I’m hoping a good dose of Gangstagrass will get people past the blue-state/red-state thing and make them comfortable with purple. I want to provide the soundtrack for a wave of cultural miscegenation that will let us all party together at last.” Come party with Gangstagrass at Friday night’s Bluegrass Ball!
Just for Campers!
Friday Night Campfire Concert
In the Central California town of Hanford, a group of longtime friends realized a common passion. Bringing a background of rock, reggae, indie, hip pop and metal to the acoustic world of melodic harmony, Poor Man’s Poison has been leaving a timeless impression within every step along their musical journey.
Aside from being incredible songwriters and musicians, the members of Poor Man’s Poison are true performers. Their live performance is just like their sound: distinctive, captivating and leaves you wanting to hear some more. The band recently performed at The Sundance Film Festival, MTV Awards ECO Pre-Party, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, where they were honored to play for our US Troops, and last year, they were the winners of the 2012 Texaco Country Showdown National Final.
Enjoying every minute of playing music together has allowed a style all their own to become a way of life, one that will truly stand the test of time. This band has been rocking crowd after crowd with a great appreciation for the growing support they have acquired along the way. We are excited to introduce Poor Man’s Poison to the Seven Sisters Fest!
“They play acoustic music on traditional bluegrass instruments but this is far from traditional sounding. You get all kinds of influences from folk to reggae in their style. Think of perhaps Jack Johnson having grown up in Appalachia instead of Hawaii … There is a sweet, laid-back vibe … Tight harmonies and great playing infuse the songs with such a good feeling."
—Chris Schmid, The Discriminating Music Aficionado
The Honey Island Swamp is a real place. It resides near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. The Honey Island Swamp Band (HISB) is the real deal, a jambalaya of soul, country, R&B and blues all mixed in to a steaming stew.
Honey Island Swamp Band’s music has been described as Bayou Americana, with timeless songs highlighted by searing guitar, sure-handed mandolin, 4-part vocal harmonies all anchored by the powerful groove of a Louisiana stomp rhythm section. Add in a pinch of Hammond B3 organ and you get a sound drawing from a variety of influences in the world of roots music, including Lowell George & Little Feat, The Band, Taj Mahal, Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Reed, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Earl King and Dr. John.
HISB has got that southern strut, and infectious mix of country-inflected rock and New Orleans funky blues that makes Honey Island Swamp Band’s music something really quite special.
“Somewhere, there exists a dark, smoky bar with a jukebox that spins George Jones, Gram Parsons, Delbert McClinton, and Little Feat. And if that fantasy honky tonk lights your Marlboro, you need to know about the Honey Island Swamp Band.”
—Broward, Palm Beach New Times
“Vintage country meets Gulf Coast boogie woogie blues.”
City Folk will ALSO be playing at the
Saturday Night Campfire Concert, just for campers!
Keith Greeninger, Kimball Hurd and Roger Feuer are City Folk. “Folk” in the traditional sense that it is music of and for the people with topical lyrics delivered with a contemporary urban edge. Their meticulous three-part harmonies are beautifully underscored by richly textured acoustic instrumentation. The subtext of their music is Passion, Integrity, Respect and Gratitude and a “hands and voices-on” approach to making this world a healthier, happier and better place for all its inhabitants. City Folk is a positive experience and a positively uplifting one.
“WOW…these guys can REALLY sing!!!”
—David Crosby (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
“Shimmering, awe-inspiring music that has captivated audiences with engaging rhythms and enchanting three-part harmonies … most comparable to the “super group’ Crosby, Stills and Nash. City folk is a gem of a band ... NOT TO BE MISSED!”
—Santa Cruz Goodtimes
“I never had a better time at a music festival! Never! … Far and away favorite for me was City Folk … Their harmonies and passion for their music was unmatched … their joy infectious…”
—Gregory Kitchel, 2009 American River Folk Festival