April 29, 2019

New Frontier Artists Highlight MerleFest from Start to Finish

Seven of New Frontier Touring’s signature Americana artists thrilled MerleFest crowds this past weekend, while keeping North Carolina’s music heritage in the forefront, with highlights that included the Steep Canyon Rangers’ tribute to North Carolina, The Avett Brothers’ homecoming, and more.  Starting Thursday, Chatham County Line kicked off the 32nd annual MerleFest with a big “newgrass” bang.  At the top of their game, the Raleigh-based group appeared right at home on one of the biggest stages their home state has to offer.

CCL also were honored to host the midnight jam Saturday night, and had Molly Tuttle, Jim Lauderdale, Scythian, and others perform on that fan-favorite show.

Friday saw Elizabeth Cook delight the crowd with her “Outlaw Twang” sound, and to close out Saturday night,  festival headliners Seth and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers joined Brandi Carlile around a single mic at the front edge of the Watson Stage and performed the Avett’s “Murder In The City”, drawing a huge reaction from the already stunned crowd.

Lindi Ortega got the Sunday morning Hillside Stage crowd fired up, and at noon Peter Rowan’s Free Mexican Airforce surprised the Watson Stage crowd by having members of Los Texmaniacs join them, and he also performed in other configurations throughout the weekend.  Mark & Maggie O’Connor were up next on that featured stage, and blew the crowd away with their Grammy-caliber virtuosity.  Subsequently, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper introduced Steep Canyon Rangers on the same stage. Late last year, Gov. Cooper declared 2019 to be North Carolina’s “Year of Music”, adding, “from bluegrass to the blues, from gospel to funk, from beach music to indie and hip hop, North Carolina is the birthplace of many musical styles and iconic performers.” Gov. Cooper was in attendance for Steep Canyon Rangers’ “North Carolina Songbook” set which dove into the rich history of the region’s music, specifically the musical heritage of their—and the festival’s—home state, and solidified their place in MerleFest lore.  North Carolina’s own The Avett Brothers closed out the festival (after having joined their father, Jim Avett, for Sunday’s annual Gospel Hour.)  Headlining the Watson Stage, gladly playing tunes that spanned their almost-two-decade long career, The Avett Brothers had the crowd singing along from the very first line. While many MerleFest patrons have seen the Avetts at the festival before, this performance proved that the brothers and their band have now truly transcended to the next level of much-deserved stardom.



About MerleFest

MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including old-time, classic country, bluegrass, folk and gospel, and blues, and expanded to include Americana, classic rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. MerleFest has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Foundation, funding scholarships, capital projects, and other educational needs.