Live Shots: Old Settler's Music Festival

Danny Barnes
Danny Barnes (Photo by John Anderson)

Old Settler's Music Festival

Salt Lick Pavilion, Driftwood, April 18

For 28 years, Old Settler's has endured its share of inclement weather, a consequence of occurring during rainy season. This year's storms hit both Friday and Saturday. On the latter day, Oklahoma's JD McPherson began rocking and rolling as the sky opened up with an accompanying light show, the title track of his new disc Let the Good Times Roll featuring the line, "Let the sky open up, let the good times roll."

Up until that point, the day had been a stirring representation of today's Americana scene. Local resident and mountain man Israel Nash conjured thunderous Crazy Horse-cum-Son Volt roots rock with his band in the noonday sun, while Nashville's McCrary Sisters' spiritual prodding demonstrated a maximum amount of funk utilizing the Staples Singers as their blueprint.

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis drew a huge crowd for their family hour featuring the former's splendid songwriting and the latter's skill on covers from Walter Hyatt and Dave Alvin. Nashville newcomer Lauren Shera impressed with a skilled acoustic trio that veered from dark to pretty. Jake Shimabukuro once again proved his wizardry on ukulele, wowing a massive dinnertime audience with songs delicate yet dexterous.

There were a couple of surprises that thrilled. Former Austinite and leader of onetime punkgrass trio the Bad Livers, banjo master Danny Barnes joined the Jeff Austin Band unannounced. Austin, formerly of the Yonder Mountain String Band, joked, "We've got that new-band smell. It's still got the sticker on it." The quartet cut an enthralling mix of bluegrass and jamgrass with fierce grooves and impossible interplay.

Less surprising yet equally satisfying was Hot Rize alter ego Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers, which offered inside jokes and cowboy songs. The quartet ended with the traditional side of Hot Rize, bluegrass staples "Train 45" and "High on a Mountain," performed with reverence and panache.

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