From Songwriting Greats to New Artists, Kerrville Folk Festival Champions Multigenerational Folk Excellence

Drag performer/singer-songwriter Flamy Grant returns to the main stage after last year’s New Folk Competition win

Drag performer/singer-songwriter Flamy Grant returns to the main stage after a New Folk Competition win in 2023 (photo by Ash Perlberg)

Calling all fingerpick fanatics and Americana addicts – Kerrville Folk Festival is back for its 52nd sweat-filled summer. Only growing sweeter since celebrating its golden jubilee, the songwriting celebration strikes a chord between freaky and family-friendly.

Well-known as a hub for guitar-wielding greats, this year’s headliners include blues virtuoso Sue Foley, outlaw country OG Ray Wylie Hubbard, and genre-busting troubadour Alejandro Escovedo. Preferring a lenient attitude toward its titular genre, the festival welcomes lyricists of all varieties, from R&B good-timers Sir Woman to queerdo Adeem the Artist.

With options for tent camping and RV sleepers, the 18-day festival kicks off May 23 and runs through June 9, with ticketing options ranging from single-day to full-fest passes.

Aside from celebrating established artists, the grounds at Quiet Valley Ranch act as a coveted jumping-off point for new talent. Since Kerrville’s earliest iterations, the Grassy Hill New Folk Competition has provided up-and-coming artists with an opportunity to impress the festival’s famously attentive audiences. Former finalists of the contest include hall-of-famers like Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, while Robert Earl Keen and Hal Ketchum hold past winner’s titles.

Returning to this year’s event after bagging a 2023 New Folk winning distinction, Asheville-born drag queen/singer-songwriter Flamy Grant stands as a testament to Kerrville’s eye for budding folk excellence. Combining the contemporary Christian stylings of namesake Amy Grant with out-and-proud queer penmanship, the songwriter’s 2023 arrival at the festival coincided with the cold-blooded onslaught of anti-drag and anti-trans legislation in Texas.

Keeping with the inclusive Kerrville spirit, the festival’s audiences welcomed the queen with open arms. “I had never been to Kerrville, and it was a really cool, magical experience to be able to bring all of that down there and see how it resonated with people,” Flamy says.

The performer especially treasured the camaraderie found within the New Folk competition, in which 23 finalists select two original songs to perform for a group of all-star judges and a live audience.

“I described it as falling in love 23 times,” she remembers. “You’re hearing everyone sing the two songs they chose to submit to this songwriting competition, so it’s really personal, really good stuff.”

For her Grassy Hill showcase, Grant offered “Esther, Ruth, and Rahab,” a fiery acoustic ode to misunderstood biblical heroines, off 2022 album Bible Belt Baby. Upon the track’s triumphant closing lines (“So it’s a good thing when a girl learns how to fly/ And that’s one truth from the Bible I’ll hold on to ’til I die”), her audience burst into a rapturous standing ovation.

Of Kerrville concertgoers, she offers: “It doesn’t get much better. Those people are here for the songs – in a lot of ways, they’re not even there for the artist. There are more recognizable names, but then there were plenty of names that were, at least, brand-new to me, but whoever was onstage had the undivided attention of people attending.”

Grant returns to Kerrville for an upgraded main-stage performance on Friday, May 24, sharing a bill with Canadian journeyman Scott Cook, veteran blues luminary Ruthie Foster, and Turnpike Troubadours multi-instrumentalist John Fullbright. Catch this year’s Grassy Hill finalist showcase on Saturday and Sunday for a glimpse into the future of folk.

Kerrville Folk Festival

May 23-June 9, Kerrville

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