May 2, 2016

New Frontier Artists Make Rolling Stone’s ‘Best of MerleFest’ list

Best MVP: Jim Lauderdale: With so many styles and traditions on the schedule, there’s only one way to classify the MerleFest artists: those who hit the road immediately after their show and those who don’t. From Thursday to Sunday, North Carolina native and Americana darling Jim Lauderdale judged contests, emceed showcases, sat in with friends and even played Western swing. And he served up a Day 3 show with a taut seven-piece band bigger than Bobby “Blue” Bland’s used to be. The late, legendary R&B star must have been on Lauderdale’s mind when he planned his set. Like Bland, Lauderdale screwed up his face and belted the blues from his recent album Soul Searching. Ever the interlocuter, he also brought up pop star John Oates to join him. As if he needed more blue-eyed soul.

Best Innovators: Steep Canyon Rangers: Taking a break from a spring tour with Steve Martin and Martin Short, the Steep Canyon Rangers — formed in 2000 at nearby University of North Carolina — once again stood up for young bluegrass bands everywhere who mash their beloved music with rock and folk. Only at MerleFest, the band took it one step further, closing its first-night set with a barrage of African rhythms that may have Paul Simon seeking its services. If there’s any doubt that the Steep Canyon players are modern bluegrass music’s hard-charging innovators, then Nicky Sanders’ gale-force fiddle breakdowns and Mike Guggino’s blistering mandolin solos settled the claim.

Read the full article here.