The spirit of an open-hearted, old-fashioned family reunion is being summoned to life for this year's 51st edition of George Wein's Newport Folk Festival, which begins July 30 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino and continues July 31 and August 1 at Fort Adams State Park.
George Wein's New Festival Productions continues to build on the festival's historic past by featuring emerging young artists alongside some of folk music's most venerable names. This year's festival features Levon Helm's Ramble on the Road, John Prine, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket, The Swell Season, Andrew Bird, The Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Doc Watson & David Holt, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Calexico, Blitzen Trapper, Richie Havens, Sam Bush, The Low Anthem, Tim O'Brien, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Tao Seeger Band, A.A. Bondy, The Punch Brothers with Chris Thile, Dawes, Nneka, Horse Feathers, Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore, Sarah Jarosz, Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons, O'Death and Liz Longley. More artists will be announced at a later date.
Many of these musicians have performed and recorded together or crossed paths along the musical highway and they see this storied festival as being so steeped in cultural and historic importance that they liken it to "coming home" to the very roots of the folk-music tradition.
Wein has, since 1959, found Newport a scenic and hospitable venue for presenting the very best of this country's blues, roots, gospel, country, bluegrass, Cajun and traditional folk music. Last year's 50th anniversary edition paid tribute to the great performers who wrote the proud history of this festival, notably co-founder Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Arlo Guthrie and Mavis Staples.
"Newport is like a second home to me and I always look forward to the next visit," said Wein. "After celebrating the 50th anniversary with Pete and 17,000 fans, I can't wait to see the magic unfold over the three days."
"There is something so perfect about being in Newport near the water and that old stone fort – all gathered in to sing with family and friends – that keeps me wanting to come back year after year," said Yim Yames. "It's like the walls of the fort are arms, and I feel secure when I am near them, protected by the spirits there – past, present, and future. And, I like to hear our voices bouncing off those old stone walls as my eye drifts to the sailboats on the seashore and the people just smiling and taking it all in."
The 2010 edition builds upon the energy of the half-century celebration to include such legends as Doc Watson, whose infectious "picking" on the flattop guitar expanded the expressive possibilities for traditional country-and-bluegrass and John Prine, whose idiosyncratic, yet soulful compositions have been recorded by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash and George Strait. Writer-actor-comedian Steve Martin also shows his commitment to serious banjo picking at this year's festival where he'll appear with his Steep Canyon Rangers.
Andrew Bird, who's been engaging audiences throughout the country with his resourceful deployment of fiddling, picking and whistling makes his only 2010 U. S. festival appearance on the weekend bill. Another band, The Swell Season, puts forth a simmering, enrapturing spin on traditional Irish music with streaks of rock. It's led by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won the hearts of moviegoers – and a 2007 Academy Award for Original Song – for their acting and singing in the movie, "Once."
Singer Brandi Carlile, whose striking vocals and intimate compositions have won her plaudits and devotion from a growing number of fans, will appear at the festival as will the blazing-hot young singer Liz Longley. Rhode Island artists O'Death and The Low Anthem also will perform on one of the three stages at Fort Adams.