The Austin Chronicle

"Welcome Home" to the Kerrville Folk Festival

Five neighborly artists to see onstage at Quiet Valley Ranch

By Kevin Curtin, Doug Freeman, and Rachel Rascoe, May 26, 2023, Music

Going to the Kerrville Folk Festival is less like attending a concert and more like stepping into another universe. The 51-years-running festival (among the longest continuously recurring music events in America) is unlike any other: It lasts 18 days, it features a unique set of performers ranging from loyal legends returning to their roots to artists who are mostly just Kerrville-famous, and the New Folk competition is a proving ground for emergent songwriters (past finalists include Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, and James McMurtry). Its unmatched camping culture begins with a "Land Rush Re-Settlement" where attendees buy stakes and plot out their sites, and the songs strummed in those camps hold equal prominence to what transpires on the bandstand – except of course on the final day, when everybody sways to a mass sing-along of "Heal in the Wisdom" ... a song you've probably never heard if you're a "Kerr-virgin."

The acoustic guitar cases start opening up at Quiet Valley Ranch on May 25 and the final song commences June 11. Performers include Squirrel Nut Zippers, the John Doe Folk Trio, Ley Line, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, Steve Poltz, and Trout Fishing in America. Single-day tickets range from $32 to $68, while a multiweek wristband runs $900 at  – Kevin Curtin

Pat Byrne

Thursday 25

The clenched-jaw ballads of Pat Bryne hit with a Springsteen grit and the intense emotional heft of fellow Irish songwriter Glen Hansard. Since relocating to Austin in 2017, Byrne's sharp hooks and keen eye have matured into moving narratives, latest single "Feels Like Living" promising an impressive follow up to 2021's Into the Light.  – Doug Freeman

Anaïs Mitchell

Saturday 27

Before she garnered eight Tony Awards and a Grammy for her remarkable musical Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell won the New Folk award at Kerrville 2003. The Vermont songwriter returns to the campground with her eighth studio LP, last year's self-titled platter bursting with warm and poignant, memory-soaked vignettes.  – Doug Freeman

Mary Gauthier

Sunday 28

Writing right to the heart of things, Mary Gauthier's music breathes with a stubborn compassion grounded in hard realities, the tensions of a world strung between love and loss. Last year's exceptional Dark Enough to See the Stars meditates with rejuvenating tales from the lonely road.  – Doug Freeman

Kaia Kater

June 9

For this Tiny Desk alum, formative years at Canadian folk fests led to studies in Appalachian music in West Virginia – threading traditionalist banjo storms to smoky pop shifts, like 2021 track "Parallels." Teasing a 2023 LP in The Creative Independent, she said, "Creatively, I feel like I swing between extremes a lot."  – Rachel Rascoe

Good Looks

June 10

Guitarist Jake Ames, a Kerrville native, overcame being hit by a car last year to make the band's long-sought debut at Quiet Valley, certainly earning a 2023 reprise for the ringing rock warmth of debut LP Bummer Year. Singer Tyler Jordan's frank wordsmithing also carried recent dates with Bright Eyes.  – Rachel Rascoe

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