Again, I have receipts, notes, stickers, phone photos and videos, and somehow they tell the Muddy Roots story. The stink from my luggage of mud, sweat, and moonshine was enough to keep airport security from thoroughly searching my bag after they found my stash of Gatorade in the side pocket.
This year was about extremes. There were extremely high points and extremely low points. For instance, I, and everyone else, still have not recovered from Possessed by Paul James’s cancellation. I can only shudder to think what must have happened to keep him from us. I send him my best wishes and good luck. That said, DAMN! Eeeeveryone was looking forward to his set. And my personal loss on not seeing Black Eyed Vermillion on stage 3, or anywhere on the grounds. I’ve had a fan crush on Gary Lindsey since he bled and screamed for me back in the AssJack days. Plus, I want to hear his version of the Tom Waits interview.
There were many high points as well. There were sets that melted my face off. James Leg. Scissormen. Dad Horse Experience. Husky Burnette. Lone Wolf. They all KILLED it. But the man who gave me my Muddy Roots religious experience was Dr. Ralph Stanley. Holy moly. Not a dry eye under that tent. I’ll get to all this in a few…
FRIDAY started out great. I met up with Lonesome Liz and Cousin Wildweed for breakfast. Cuz holds a special place in my heart. Many moons ago, I wrote a review for the movie “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”. Someone in the Hank III Cussin Boards said something negative about the film, and Cuz chimed right in and gave me props for my review and telling it like it is. Wow! All of a sudden I had street cred. From those days to now have been quite the musical journey, and I’ll always have Cuz to thank for the initial pat on my back. And the tale Lonesome Liz and Cuz have to tell about their pre-fest adventures is nothing short of a miracle.
The first artist I got to see was my pal, Lone Wolf OMB. He has been working his tail off all year and his set was on fire! He gave me a shout out and that just fueled my excitement and energy for the entire weekend. I danced like a madwoman in the front row. And the best part?! Don Maddox was there for his set. I shook his hand after, and because of Bruno’s shout out, he knew who I was. I can’t even explain how cool that was.
Right after Lone Wolf was Husky Burnette. Man that man has talent. A super cool chick with me up front asked for “Preacher Man” and Husky brought Dave Dowda on stage to open the song up and he whipped us up into such frenzy, the entire crowd exploded when Husky launched into the song. We danced and danced and danced!
Lonesome Liz, Cousin Wildweed, and I then tore off to J.B. Beverley’s set. Just knowing that I was going to hear his song “Disappear on Down the Line” put a lump in my throat. As usual, he did not disappoint. I wept.
I was then transported into a hurricane of dinner, schmoozing, and bopping around like a ping pong ball catching 5 minutes each of Don Maddox and Little Jimmy Dickens. I’m not sure if I have ADD already or maybe I develop a specific case of it for Muddy Roots, but it’s like I have ants in my pants and I don’t want to miss anything, so I try to catch a sliver of everything.
Then James Leg stopped me dead in my tracks. That man has a stage presence that is magnetic. The hair. The cigarette. The talent. You cannot take your eyes off him. With him was the magnificent Mark “Porkchop” Holder who just tore it up.
The next big highlight was Bob Wayne’s set. There are some artists that I have a warm fuzzy spot for in my heart. Bob Wayne is one of them. When he brought Brook from the Calamity Cubes onstage to sing the song they wrote at Muddy Roots last year, “I’ll Get There when I Get There” I was a human goosebump.
I tore off again to see James “Slim” Hand’s set on Stage 1. This man is country. He has genuine charm about him that is like a warm blanket. And then there’s his voice. And his writing. He’s had a hard time and has managed to take his pain and transform it into art. I’d been looking forward to his set for months and walked away on a country cloud.
Because of magnificent sound on Stage 1, I heard Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers set from our tent for a break and then tore up that little hill at 1:30 AM for Jayke Orvis’s set. He’s another one I have a special place in my heart for. I was lucky enough to meet him years ago, and one of my greatest joys in this genre has been watching his musical progression since then. And the only artist I love more than Jayke is Rachel Brooke. She sings my deepest, darkest soul. He brought her on stage to sing their duet “Hold Me Tight” from the .357 String Band’s cd “Fire & Hail”. Then sound was cut but Jayke wasn’t about to end his set. He and the band jumped off stage, and played right in the center of the crowd. Somehow I got onstage and was able to record it from above. Amazing.
SATURDAY morning I was a complete pain in the ass to my friends at the hotel. There was no way I was gonna miss the Scissormen set, so I became a broken record of “Let’s go NOW, howabout NOW, is NOW good for you?” Thanks to them for putting up with me and getting me there on time to see this. Oh my. I had such a girl-meets-boy-with-guitar experience with Ted Drozdowski during the set. His showmanship is perfect. He can read the crowd like a book and his cool guitar tricks were just the bestest.
I stayed at Stage 1 for Valerie June. My goodness she is my favorite new find. Her voice is flawless. Her lyrics are heartfelt and aching. I swooned in her music awesomeness.
The bummer was I completely missed Pearls Mahone’s set. I saw her on the internets play the XSXSW show in Austin and she really blew me away. From what I hear from others, I missed an excellent performance here. Good news is I got to shake her hand for two seconds and I’ll be paying a lot more attention to her soon.
I marched to Stage 2 to see The Dad Horse Experience from Germany to help cleanse my soul. What a show. We’ve been fans of his since 2009 and it was wonderful to see him live finally. So many people were there! And we all knew the lyrics! Then he sang his version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and it was magical; just what I needed on so many levels. Thank you.
Then my buddy Kara Clark took the stage in her rock and roll goddess of awesomeness. Taking in the scene, I was sitting with my Lonesome Liz, in Tennessee, at a Kara Clark gig. It wasn’t a million degrees out, nor was it pouring (yet). It was one of those perfect Muddy Roots moments.
Aaaand back over to Stage 1 to see Last False Hope. My favoritest song by them is $2 Dollar Pints and they absolutely rocked it. Then Josh brought this beautiful little girl (and her parents?) on stage with them and she played washboard to a punk rock song! Coolest. Kid. Ever.
After a break, I was in on some BIG news. Blake, our podcasting God, proposed to his lady, Molly, right before the Calamity Cubes played. Somebody’s got video of it and it should hit facebook soon. She said YES! Holy bunches of sweetness.
I caught some of LC Ulmer’s set and the beginning of Robert Belfour. Here is the greatest story form Saving Country Music about it:
“If you want the best story from the 2012 Muddy Roots Festival, this one might be it. Word got out to the festival that 80-something blues legend Robert Belfour had been in a bad wreck on the highway and wouldn’t be able to perform. Right before another band took the stage as a replacement, he showed up. In a tow truck. With the tow truck driver carrying his guitar and amp. Now if that ain’t the blues, I’ll eat my hat. The tow truck driver stayed through the whole set and attended to the needs of Robert, and when he was done, chauffeured him off.”
Soda Gardocki is charm wrapped in charm wrapped in perfect musicianship. I looked forward to his set forever and he was just so good.
Before we were to go to Joe Huber, the rains came. It poured so hard that we discussed the tornado watch and what we would do about it. Alas, no tornado. I really regret missing his set.
Joshua Black Wilkins put on such a great set that I jotted his name down (then lost it) so I’d remember to buy his cd. His lyrics were haunting and broken hearted and beautiful.
Then Dr. Ralph Stanley came on stage with Nathan Stanley and Clinch Mountain Boys and the entire population of the festival was under that big tent and there was not a dry eye in the house. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I held hands with James Hunnicutt and a woman standing to my right. We were all full on crying and singing at the same time. And the best part? He and his band felt all of our love and they were just as blown away by it.
Then Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band closed out Stage 2 in one of the most rockin performances I’ve seen. They pulled the last bits of energy out of us like a bomb. Hay was flying, and boots sailed past my head. Rock and roll, baby.
Stage 1 closed out with Viva le Vox with Joe Buck. Serendipity. I first saw Joe Buck seven years ago at my very first country music experience on stage with Hank III. That night changed my life. That night is how and why I’m here with all of this amazing music today. I didn’t grow up with any of this (save my beloved Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits cassette in the 1980s).
For all the amazing bands I got to see, there are so many I missed. If there were ever a reason to splice yourself into a few people, Muddy Roots is it. And I got to see peoples! Soooo many peoples. It was like a utopian society. You can walk up to anyone, smile and say hello, and you’ve just made a real friend.
And the musical camaraderie was just amazing. The Canadians! We had a group of guys from Canada camp behind us and they sat in a circle and jammed and jammed and jammed. The lap steel player got the opportunity of a lifetime and played with Wayne The Train Hancock on stage. You could have knocked the guy over with a feather for the rest of the weekend.
And as always, a few suggestions… Trig said it in his review and I think it needs to be said again: clean up your own mess. The amount of carelessness people had about throwing their trash everywhere was embarrassing. Also, the Don’t Be A Dick rule needs to be beefed up. There were instances when the police had to come onto this private property to deal with those who don’t know how to act. I suggest that those who are the cause of law enforcement should be banned for life from the property. This is going to get bigger and bigger every year and we simply cannot have this. And my final gripe is the smokers. Whatever you smoke, please keep it away from the crowd. A friend of mine puked during the set of his favorite band because of too much smoke. And when they repeatedly ask you to stop smoking because there’s an elder on stage who can’t breathe when you smoke, stop fucking smoking.
Overall, my experience was magical. The biggest difference I noticed between this year and last year is the showmanship has risen magnificently. You can tell everyone toured all year and learned a bunch of stage tricks that just gets us crows whipped into frenzy.
Thank you each and every one. I love you all and I will see you next year. xoxo