Newport Folk Festival Day 3

There are three stages at Newport: a tiny one called the Waterfront Stage, the perfect-sized Harbor Stage (where we webcast and broadcast from on Saturday, and the huge Fort Stage. We webcast from the Fort Stage on Sunday.

I liked the Harbor Stage — it felt intimate but not tiny — but the Fort Stage, with its Jumbotron screens, is festival-sized. The boats parked in the harbor should have been able to see Jimmy Buffett's pink patterned pants just fine.

Willy Mason was singing by 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and though I love a good musical saw and the sweetness of his musical family, I never connected with his songs. I'm not sure it was the right stage for him.

Bring back the Young@Heart Chorus for next year's Sunday-morning wake up.

One of the dangers of an afternoon festival is getting beaten down by the hot sun. Consequently, while Brandi Carlile singing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" had everyone up and smiling, some of Calexico's slower numbers may have been better suited to a summer sunset.

What makes a festival great is witnessing something you wouldn't catch at a club concert. Hearing Jim James sing the Dylan song "Going to Acapulco" (from the Basement Tapes) with Calexico and seeing Gillian Welch play along with Levon Helm's big band were a few of my highlights.

Hearing a few new songs can be a good thing at a festival, but you don't want too many. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings played three new songs, and that seemed just right. It's been five years since they last released a new record.

I'd never heard Brandi Carlisle and fell for her the moment I heard her voice. Well, at least I fell for her voice; the band seemed talented enough; but the music didn't have enough twists, turns and mystery to hold my interest. I need to go and listen to her music. Brandi Carlile fans, please weigh in and suggest a few tunes I should hear.

Gillian Welch dropped by the NPR tent, and my co-hosting partner — WFUV's Rita Houston — struck up a casual conversation that covered everything from making that new album to wearing that vintage dress.

Levon Helm ended our broadcast day. I've seen Helm in his prime as a drummer and singer with The Band, and I have to say that this was a bigger treat. He's survived throat cancer, and I think it's fair to say that he had a lot of help and continues to get a lot of love from his friends and family. That was plain to see on stage, with his daughter Amy singing and Larry Campbell on guitar and fiddle and his big warm band. Helm's smiles on the Jumbotron warmed my heart, and his singing was damn fine. This band played an appealing mix of Southern porch jazz; its trumpets should have stuck around for next weekend's Newport Jazz Festival. (We're webcasting from there, as well.)

By the end of the day, before Jimmy Buffett's set (which we didn't webcast), I wandered over to the tent I was so fond of on Saturday. There were The Avett Brothers, tearing it up, with Scott Avett stomping on a bass drum while playing a thrashing banjo; his face was fiery red, and the the music matched his intensity. We must do something with these guys live sometime — sorry it wasn't at Newport. Scott, Seth... you game?



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Bob! I can't believe you had never heard of Brandi Carlile! I think her voice and songs are one-of-a-kind!!
I'd suggest "Have You Ever", "What Can I Say" or Late Morning Lullaby for her folksier stuff and "My Song", "The Story" or "Throw It All Away" for a little heavier stuff..
Listen to the lyrics and fall in love with the music. I think she's one of the most underrated true artists out there...let us know what you think!

Sent by mario | 4:51 PM | 8-4-2008

RE: Brandi Carlile

For some reason, I really like on the last chorus of "The Story" when her voice kind of cracks. "Shadow on the Wall" might be my favorite, though.

Sent by Nick | 10:16 PM | 8-4-2008

Dear Bob,
I would love to see The Avett Brothers do a live performances podcast. Scott, Seth, Bob, and Joe are fantastic live. None of their studio recordings, although wonderful, can match the feeling of a live Avett set. Thanks!

Sent by Jessica R. | 10:36 PM | 8-4-2008

The Avett Brothers are wonderful! I found them on accident one day while itunes browsing. You should most certainly do something with them soon.

Sent by kayleigh | 9:25 AM | 8-5-2008

also "Turpentine" and "Closer to You" - she really is an incredible talent.

Sent by bess | 11:24 AM | 8-5-2008

the avett brothers is my favorite band. i have been following them since seeing them at merlefest years and years ago. we came from virginia to newport to see them. they never disappoint.

Sent by nancy leslie | 4:44 PM | 8-5-2008

Agree with the other comments: Love the Avetts - lucky to see them at the Great Blue Heron music fest for the past three years. I'm glad to see they are expanding their fan base. While I like their studio albums, the live performance is something very special. The energy and emotion can not be bottled.

Sent by Wayne | 8:48 AM | 8-6-2008

I love the way you can tell that Brandi means what she sings. You just don't get that kind of passion these days, or rawness that comes through well on the radio as hers does.

Sent by Jane | 11:13 AM | 8-6-2008

yes, bob, she is brilliant! i saw her when she was touring with shawn colvin and it was a true treat.

"josephine" is a pretty one:

and "downpour" is a beaut:

Sent by jehan | 11:10 PM | 8-7-2008

The Avett brothers are great - but why nothing from the Felice brothers?

I've heard people say they're cliched and I guess that folk or American Primitive as Gillian Welch calls it can soon become cliched, or at least pastiche. But over here at least (I live in England) people are excited by them.

I will give the Felice Brothers another listen. I though they were talented but also derivative. It made me want to put on my old records by The Band.
but again, I'll give them another shot.


Sent by Tom | 7:27 AM | 8-8-2008


Your sentiments were right on with Ms.Carlile. I think she has amazing talent -- she can knock any pitch yards out of the park -- but unfortunately chooses ruminate on good-yet-shallow song writing and instrumentation. "The Story" was held together with T-Bone's production, the bond between Carlile and the twins, and widely heralded Matt Chamberlain, but it lacked the "it" that I think we all know she's capable of.

I for one think a set of legit tunes and a permanent musician roster would yield one of the greatest products of the 21st century. Seriously.

Until then, it'll be real good. Which might just be a serious waste of legitimate potential.

Sent by fawkes | 9:34 PM | 8-12-2008

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