WILKESBORO — MerleFest, presented by Window World and slated for April 28-May 1, 2016, has announced the music festival’s initial lineup. The four-day event, an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans, will once again take place on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro.
The star-packed grouping announced includes:
• John Prine — Two-time Grammy winner John Prine returns to MerleFest to perform in 2016, his first appearance in a decade. Long considered a “songwriter’s songwriter,” Prine wrote classics like “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Paradise” and “Hello in There.” His music speaks to the everyday experience of ordinary people with a simply honesty. Performers who have recorded from his extensive catalog include Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, Joan Baez, George Strait, Old Crow Medicine Show, Norah Jones, Bette Midler, Miranda Lambert and many others.
• Dave Rawlings Machine — Dave Rawlings Machine, whose rousing live show has prompted critics and fans alike to call them “one of the hottest string bands on the planet” (SF Weekly), adds MerleFest to its “Nashville Obsolete” tour. The new album, the second full-length release for DRM, highlights the brilliant musicianship of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch on lead vocals and guitar, Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) on bass, Willie Watson on vocals and guitar, and guest appearances from Brittany Haas (fiddle) and Jordan Tice (mandolin).
• The Wood Brothers — Performing together as The Wood Brothers, Chris and Oliver Wood have long been mainstays on the Americana circuit. They released their debut album in 2006, but both enjoyed success before that. Chris had legions of devoted fans for his work as part of Medeski Martin & Wood, while his brother Oliver toured with Tinsley Ellis before establishing his band King Johnson. Almost a decade later and with drummer Jano Rix added as a permanent third member, The Wood Brothers celebrate their new album, “Paradise.” Dubbed “masters of soulful folk” by Paste magazine, it’s become quite clear that The Wood Brothers are indeed a main act.
• Steep Canyon Rangers — Fifteen years and nine studio albums since forming while students at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Steep Canyon Rangers are living, picking proof that bluegrass can adapt to its times without losing its history and that artistry plus dedication can launch a major career. The Rangers, whose latest album “Radio” was released in August, are world-class musicians who are just as at home taking the stage at Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry as they are knee-deep in a mountain brook, fly rod in hand. MerleFest welcomes the Rangers for their eighth festival appearance in 2016.
• Jerry Douglas — Jerry Douglas is on fire. He was named the 2015 IBMA Dobro Player of the Year and leads the tribute band Earls of Leicester, which won four 2015 IBMA awards: Entertainer of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, Album of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year. Douglas produced the Album of the Year, “The Earls of Leicester.” He also produced the Steep Canyon Rangers’ new critically acclaimed album, “Radio.” And, Douglas is one of only five musicians who have played at every MerleFest. There’s a reason for that. MerleFest fans love him!
• Scythian — Infusing the energy and passion of their Ukrainian heritage with Celtic and bluegrass traditions, Scythian (sith-ee-yin) “has reinvented folk rock in America,” according to iHeartRadio’s Arroe Collins. And Nashville’s Music City Roots variety show says “[Scythian is] what happens when rock star charisma meets Celtic dervish fiddling.” Hailing from Washington, D.C., Scythian, a MerleFest fan favorite, merges classical prowess with thunderous energy to give crowds an exuberant barn-dance rock concert experience.
• The Kruger Brothers — The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music, composed by Jens Kruger, is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated and delightfully fresh. The Kruger Brothers were awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for “Music from the Spring,” a symphonic suite composed and orchestrated by Jens Kruger. In late 2010, The Kruger Brothers premiered the “Appalachian Concerto” for banjo, bass, guitar and string quartet. Doc Watson said, “The Kruger Brothers is just about as fine a band as I’ve ever played with. I love to play with them.” And that is why they are a MerleFest mainstay.
• Donna the Buffalo — Donna the Buffalo’s feel-good, groove-oriented, danceable and often socially-conscious music has held steadfast since 1989. It has roots in old-time fiddle music that evolved into a soulful electric Americana mix infused with elements of cajun/zydeco, rock, folk, reggae and country. The band’s sound perfectly fits MerleFest’s ingenious “traditional plus” style. Donna the Buffalo is known for touring the country, remaining fiercely independent as one of the industry’s most diverse roots-music bands and has “earned a reputation as one of the most respected, eclectic and hardest-working acts today,” praises Encore.
• Becky Buller — Becky Buller is one of the most sought-after bluegrass musicians, which should be no surprise after her collection of awards from the 2015 IBMA Awards Ceremony — Recorded Event of the Year (“Southern Flavor”), Emerging Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. She was nominated for seven awards. Becky won the bluegrass category of the 2001 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest. She performed at MerleFest 2012 with the Kickin Grass Band and MerleFest 2014 with Darin and Brooke Aldridge. And she will again grace the stage at MerleFest 2016 with the Becky Buller Band.
The initial lineup reflects the diversity and quality of performers who are the hallmark of the festival. MerleFest is known for its unique mix of traditional, roots-oriented music from the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, Americana, blues, country, Celtic, Cajun, cowboy, zydeco, rock and many other styles that the late Doc Watson referred to as “traditional plus.”
The following are among the artists scheduled to perform at MerleFest 2016: Annie Moses Band, Ash Breeze, Jim Avett, Banknotes, The Barefoot Movement, Billy Strings and Don Julin, Roy Book Binder, Blue Mafia, Laura Boosinger, The Bros. Landreth, The Brothers Comatose, Mark Bumgarner, Carbon Leaf, Carol Rifkin with John Fowler and Jeanette Queen, Clyde’s on Fire, The Commons, Commonwealth Bluegrass Band, The Contenders (Josh Day & Jay Nash), Kristy Cox, Sherman Lee Dillon, EmiSunshine, Fireside Collective, Foghorn Stringband, Grace & Tony, Britt Gully, Wayne Henderson, High Plains Jamboree, Bob Hill, Sierra Hull, In With The Old, The InterACTive Theatre of Jef, Tom Feldmann, Fruteland Jackson, Jeff Little Trio, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, Jeni & Billy, Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Kacy & Clayton, Karl Shifflett & Big Country Show, Jack Lawrence, Wanamaker Lewis, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, Liz Frame and The Kickers, The Local Boys, Bonnie Logan, Lou Reid & Carolina, Love Canon, Bill Mathis, Andy May, David and Valerie Mayfield, Penny and Sparrow, Sarah Potenza, Salvador, Shinyribs, The Slocan Ramblers, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Steve and Ruth Smith, Joe Smothers, South Carolina Broadcasters, Sparky & Rhonda Rucker, String Madness with Mitch Greenhill, Susie Glaze & the Hilonesome Band, Bryan Sutton, Sutton, Holt and Coleman, Tellico, The Buck Stops Here, Mark Tobolosky, Happy Traum, April Verch, Liz Vice, Seth Walker, The Waybacks, We Banjo 3, Charles Welch, Pete & Joan Wernick, Westwend, The Whiskey Gentry, Uncle Ted White, Shannon Whitworth, Will Overman Band, The Williams Brothers, Wood & Wire, and Zoe & Cloyd.
Additional performers for MerleFest 2016 will be announced in the coming months. The lineup is viewable at www.MerleFest.org/lineup.
“We keep Doc Watson’s ‘Traditional Plus’ spirit alive each year at MerleFest by inviting artists that will showcase a wide variety of music from multiple genres. With artists and bands like John Prine, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Wood Brothers, Scythian, Jerry Douglas and Steep Canyon Rangers, it will be a weekend packed with great music,” said Steve Johnson, MerleFest artist relations manager. “As in years past, the lineup will continue to develop in the coming months. MerleFest fans have grown accustomed to the special ‘moments’ that MerleFest plans each year. And the possibility for ‘spontaneous special moments’ is highly likely given the combination of artists that are known to pull together onstage jams at MerleFest.”
“As MerleFest fans have learned, we release up-to-the-minute lineup additions and other festival news through our social media platforms; so staying in touch with us via our electronic newsletter, website (www.MerleFest.org), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter is crucial,” Johnson added.
“It’s always a thrill for us to announce the performers at MerleFest each year because we take pride in always presenting a lineup that is dynamic and diverse,” said Ted Hagaman, festival director. “It’s the quality of the artists and performances that our guests see over the four days of the festival that, in turn, creates another important element of MerleFest’s success: people truly feel that the festival is a great value. So many music fans and families return year after year, making MerleFest a regular spring tradition. We will always work to make that tradition continue.”
“Regarding value, we instituted a new pricing structure in 2015 that was a hit with MerleFest fans, so that tier pricing will continue for 2016. Those who plan ahead will appreciate the discounts that our ‘early bird’ tier pricing offers,” added Hagaman.
Tickets for MerleFest 2016 went on sale Nov. 10 at 2 p.m., and may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. A three-tiered pricing structure will be offered for MerleFest 2016. The Early Bird Tier 1 ticket discount is available starting Nov. 10 through Feb. 15, 2016. An Early Bird Tier 2 ticket discount will run from Feb. 16, 2016, through April 27, 2016. The third price tier will be gate pricing.
MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. 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 music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, 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. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.