(Click on the artist names to visit their websites.There’s good stuff lurking under every link I put into this blog post.) I am thrilled to present you yet again with an outstanding artist showcase for 2017. A lot of the usual suspects were unable to attend this year, leaving me with a little more space to present some folks who haven’t played my showcases before. Though I will sorely miss Rachael Kilgour, Kate Copeland, The Sea The Sea, Connor Garvey, James Lee Stanley, and others; you won’t be disappointed with what I have in store for you.
Thursday night opens with Heather Mae and Low Lily, both audience favorites in last year’s Falcon Ridge/Grassy Hill Emerging Artist showcase. Sharon Goldman‘s new record KOL ISHA (A Woman’s Voice) is a brilliant, spiritual work with a modern feminist perspective. Gregg Greenway is best known as 1/3 of Brother Sun, but a very strong and accomplished solo performer as well. Bill Nash has partnered with me on the Big Orange Tarp in Colorado for nearly 20 years. A wonderful songwriter and instructor at the Planet Bluegrass Song School, he has inspired and taught countless songwriters to hone their craft. Nashville based Lisa Aschmann is the queen of my iPod, the most prolific songwriter I know. She has had hundreds of songs recorded by various artists in nearly every musical genre. Her book 1000 Songwriting Ideas has served as a handbook for countless songwriters. Lisa is doing a workshop at the conference on Friday morning called Getting Placed on how to get your songs used in movies and television, so I twisted her arm to come play for us. Don’t miss Lisa in a rare live performance. After that I feature Darden Smith, an artist I have followed for many years. I am thrilled to finally be able to showcase him. In addition to his fine body of work, Darden started the Songwriting with Soldiers Retreat. He still serves as Creative Director. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program. I met Chick Morgan last fall at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance. She is smart, sassy, and one of a kind. A former singer, I rarely book instrumental acts in my showcases, but I had to have the Mari Black Celtic Band. An incredible mulitgenre instrumentalist, Mari brings a unique sense of humor and charisma to the stage. An educator, She also does a great YouTube series for fiddlers.
On Friday night, I start with Annika Bennett, featured last year as a Falcon Ridge Most Wanted audience pick, New Zealand’s globetrotting Mel Parsons, and Joe Jencks, another 1/3 of Brother Sun and a well known activist songwriter who has done much for workers and human rights. Next comes my long time friend Jeff Black, simply one of the best songwriters you will ever hear. Jeff is ITR with Ben Bedford, a brilliant song painter with some of the most evocative lyrics I have ever heard and Billy Crockett from Wimberley, TX. Billy and his wife Dodee are the team behind the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and recording studio. It’s the best place I know to record your music and the standard by which all other Concert Window broadcasters are judged. Billy rose to stardom in a two decade long career in Contemporary Christian Music before broadening his listener base with a series of Classical and Songwriter recordings, the latest of which is entitled Rabbit Hole. Billy is a Renaissance Man. A world class player and songwriter. Do not miss him at FAI this year. At 12:30am, I feature George Wurzbach (best known for his work with Modern Man). George is putting the finishing touches on his first solo record in quite some time, Curious George, which will feature a couple of cowrites with songwriting legend Tom Paxton. I am super excited for this release. George’s last solo record was nominated for a grammy and generated a lot of covers by other artists. I expect this one to do even better. He is a long time favorite of mine and a founding member of the Big Orange Tarp house band. George is ITR with David Glaser, another member of the BOT band, a highly sought after sideman who plays anything with strings, and a fine songwriter in his own right with several solo albums to his credit. His most recent is entitled Caffiene and Nicotine. Rounding out that group is precocious high schooler Alyssa Dann, attending on a NERFA young artist scholarship. She is very new to this and knocked it out of the park for us in our NERFA showcase in November. We are thrilled to feature her again in her first FAI performance.
I couldn’t resist bringing Lisa Aschmann for one more round on Saturday Night. I think that it’s harder to find great songs at Folk Alliance than it is to find great performers. Lisa is a treasure trove. Lisa isn’t showcasing to book live gigs, but I am showcasing her in the hopes that performers who need stronger material for their next release might discover her music and let it propel their artist careers to the next level. She’s playing with long time favorite RJ Cowdery, who is a friend from Song School and an alum of Blue Rock. Great songs and a great performer, I hope everyone knows her by now. Rounding out that group is Oklahoma based Annie Oakley. Founded by teenage twins Sophia and Grace Babb, this group is taking the southwest by storm. Official showcasers this year, they are sure to generate a lot of buzz. Miss them at your peril. The next round features an encore performance by George Wurzbach, ITR with Caroline Cotter, who probably logged more miles touring this year than anyone I know. She’s a pro. I had initially set them up with The Sea The Sea, who I have been a huge fan of since they formed several years ago. They had to cancel and, at the 11th hour, my friend Vance Gilbert bailed me out and took the slot. Vance is one of an elite group of performers who are known and respected by virtually everyone in our community. A frequent festival headliner and radio favorite, he’s been on my showcase wishlist for many years. I typically don’t ask him because I’m not sure how many new fans I can reach for him. But he’s a bucket list artist for me and I could not be happier to feature him in this year’s showcase. My grand finale this year features my absolute favorite duo, Los Angeles based Freddy and Francine. Humans just don’t sing this well, and to have two of the best singers on the planet on stage together blows my mind every time I see them. Incredibly dynamic and charismatic, music doesn’t get to be more fun than this. If you haven’t heard them, run, don’t walk to room 552 to check them out. It’s hard to fill a round with artists who stand up in that company. So I asked back Billy Crockett (who stands up in any company) and Radislav Lorkovic. Rad doesn’t do a lot of solo touring. He’s busy year round on the road with fine artists like Ronny Cox, Susan Werner, Ellis Paul, Shawn Mullins, Greg Brown, Richard Shindell, Odetta and others. He’s also a long time member of the Falcon Ridge house band. He’s world class. Not actively pursuing a solo tour, this might be Rad’s only solo showcase this year.
And that’s my showcase for FAI 2017. I tried to work in Kirsten Maxwell, Freebo, Mai Bloomfield, Mouths of Babes, Jellyman’s Daughter, John Bunzli, Dave Gunning, and Dan Navarro. For a variety of reasons, I couldn’t get them into my rounds, but all are playing at the conference and well worthy for you to seek out and listen to them. I’d like to dedicate this year’s showcase to my long time friend and sometimes collaborator, the phenomenal Greg Trooper who we lost this year. He is simply irreplaceable. My heart still hurts every day.