The Wood Brothers plus 14 more acts added to Rooster Walk 10 band lineup Roots-folk-rock trio The Wood Brothers and renowned pedal-steel act Robert Randolph & The Family Band were added to the bill of the tenth annual Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival, set for May 24-27, 2018 just outside of Martinsville, Va. The two bands joined JJ Grey & Mofro Tuesday at the top of the RW10 lineup, along with new additions TAUK, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Zach Deputy, Colter Wall, Dangermuffin, The Last Yaltz (a Yarn-hosted tribute to The Band’s legendary “Last Waltz” performance), Cris Jacobs, Front Country, Kat Wright, Songs From The Road Band, Sanctum Sully and Fireside Collective.
In addition to JJ Grey & Mofro, the festival had previously announced the Marcus King Band, Billy Strings, The Jerry Douglas Band, Yarn and The Commonheart as RW10 performers. Presented by title sponsor Bassett Furniture, Rooster Walk has been named one of the top five festivals in Virginia by the Richmond-Times Dispatch. The event’s final band lineup will be announced in the coming weeks.
“The Wood Brothers have consistently been one of the most requested bands by our fans over the past few years, and Robert Randolph & The Family Band has been on our band wish list since the very first festival,” said Johnny Buck, who along with William Baptist, co-founded the festival in 2009. “We feel really fortunate to be able to add so many amazing artists to the band lineup as we prepare to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We can’t thank the fans, volunteers, sponsors and festival staff enough for growing this thing into the incredible celebration of life that has become.”
Comprised of brothers Oliver Wood (electric guitar), Chris Wood (upright bass) and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, The Wood Brothers mix folk, blues, gospel and jazz. Chris Wood toured for many years in legendary avant-jazz-funk band Medeski Martin & Wood, but in 2005 The Wood Brother recorded their first album. The band’s following among music fans has grown rapidly in the years since, and the group released its sixth album, One Drop of Truth, to critical acclaim last week. Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s most recent album, Got Soul, was nominated for a 2018 Grammy Award as the Best Contemporary Blues Album. On Got Soul, the band displays its virtuosity within the context of a dozen smartly crafted tunes.
In addition to four days of amazing music on five stages, the family-friendly Rooster Walk will offer a wide variety of kids’ activities, craft beer, food/arts vendors and beautiful on-site camping. Rooster Walk Inc. is a community-nonprofit dedicated to promoting music, arts and education in its home of Martinsville/Henry County. A portion of festival proceeds go to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship as well as the Rooster Walk Music Instrument Program for entry-level band programs in Martinsville/Henry County public schools. The festival is proud to have Bassett Furniture return as its title sponsor once again. Rooster Walk Inc. has donated more than $150,000 to local and regional charities since its first festival in 2009.
To learn more or purchase tickets, visit www.RoosterWalk.com.
Rooster Walk 10 Current Band Lineup: The Wood Brothers, JJ Grey & Mofro, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Marcus King Band x2, Billy Strings x2, The Jerry Douglas Band, TAUK, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Zach Deputy, Colter Wall, Yarn, Dangermuffin, The Last Yaltz (featuring Yarn & special guests), Cris Jacobs, Front Country, Kat Wright, The Commonheart x2, Songs From the Road Band, Sanctum Sully x2, Fireside Collective, Gunchux and many more to be announced.
The Wood Brothers: The Wood Brothers’ sixth outing, ‘One Drop of Truth,’ dives headfirst into a deep wellspring of sounds, styles and influences. Whereas their previous outings have often followed a conceptual and sonic through-line, here the long-standing trio featuring brothers Oliver and Chris Wood along with Jano Rix treat each song as if it were its own short film. The plaintive, country-folk of the album’s opening track “River Takes The Town” gives way to the The Band-esque Americana soul of “Happiness Jones.” The wistful ballad “Strange As It Seems” floats on a cloud of stream of consciousness, standing in stark contrast to “Sky High”—a Saturday night barnburner built upon stinging
slide guitar funk. “Seasick Emotions” is rife with turmoil, yet “Sparking Wine” is jaunty and carefree. The end result is undeniably The Wood Brothers’ most dynamic recording to date.
“Often, when you’re making an album in the traditional way, there will be a unifying concept, whether that be in the approach to the music stylistically or lyrically in terms over the overall narrative. And even though there are some themes that revealed themselves later, this one is all over the place,” explains Oliver Wood. “What I really love about this record is that each one of these songs has its own little world. There are diver-se sounds and vibes from one track to the next.”
Building off the success of their previous studio album, 2015’s ‘Paradise,’ which was dubbed “the warmest, most sublime and occasionally rowdiest Wood Brothers release yet,” by American Songwriter, the band found themselves at a fortuitous crossroads. Following a tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band, high profile festival dates and sold out headline shows, the band felt free from the cyclical album release, tour, write, record and do-it-all-over-again pressures of the traditional music business. With all three members living in Nashville affording easy access to each other and a wealth of local independent studios at their disposal, they started work in January of 2017 with a new approach. “Instead of going into one studio and recording it all at the same time, we picked a couple studios, and started to experiment,” says Chris Wood. “Sometimes we’d just make demos of songs to see if we got anything we liked. There was no pressure, and that really freed us up. We just did one or two songs a day, put it aside, let the songs simmer, and then we’d have a fresh perspective on what was working or not working. You need time to go by to gain objectivity.”
JJ Grey & Mofro: From the days of playing greasy local juke joints to headlining major festivals, JJ Grey remains an unfettered, blissful performer, singing with a blue-collared spirit over the bone-deep grooves of his compositions. His presence before an audience is something startling and immediate, at times a funk rave-up, other times a sort of mass-absolution for the mortal weaknesses that make him and his audience human. When you see JJ Grey and his band Mofro live—and you truly, absolutely must—the man is fearless.
Onstage, Grey delivers his songs with compassion and a relentless honesty, but perhaps not until Ol’ Glory has a studio record captured the fierceness and intimacy that defines a Grey live performance. “I wanted that crucial lived-in feel,” Grey says of Ol’ Glory, and here he hits his mark. On the new album, Grey and his current Mofro lineup offer grace and groove in equal measure, with an easygoing quality to the production that makes those beautiful muscular drum-breaks sound as though the band has set up in your living room.
For devoted listeners, there is something fitting, even affirmative in Grey’s commitment to the land of his north Florida home. The farms and eddying swamps of his youth are as much a part of Grey’s music as the Louisiana swamp-blues tradition, or the singer’s collection of old Stax records. As a boy, Grey was drawn to country-rockers, including Jerry Reed, and to Otis Redding and the other luminaries of Memphis soul; Run-D.M.C., meanwhile, played on repeat in the parking lot of his high school (note the hip-hop inflections on “A Night to Remember”). Merging these traditions, and working with a blue-collar ethic that brooked no bullshit, Grey began touring as Mofro in the late ’90s, with backbeats that crossed Steve Cropper with George Clinton and a lyrical directness that made his debut LP Blackwater (2001) a calling-card among roots-rock aficionados. Soon, he was expanding his tours beyond America and the U.K., playing ever-larger clubs and eventually massive festivals, as his fan base grew from a modest group of loyal initiates into something resembling a national coalition. Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed. Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band—whose label debut for Sony Masterworks, Got Soul—is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks, all of whom have played with him and studied his technique. It wasn’t until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke away from the confines of his social and musical conditioning and discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, soon forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.
The Family Band’s improvisational skills quickly made them mega-popular among the jam-band crowd, but for Randolph and his band mates, what they were doing was just an extension of what they’d always done. “The jam band scene has that name but it’s really a true music art form scene where you can just be who you are,” Randolph says. “We fit in that category in some sense but the jam band scene itself has changed a lot since that time. I’ve grown to like songs and I like to jam within the song.”
Marcus King Band: Songwriter. Guitarist. Singer. Bandleader. At only 21 years of age, Marcus King’s dazzling musical ability is evident throughout The Marcus King Band, the young phenom’s 2nd full-length LP and first for Fantasy Records. Operating within the fiery brand of American roots music that King calls “soul-influenced psychedelic southern rock,” the album highlights King’s gorgeous, rough-hewn vocals, soaring guitar work and heartfelt songwriting all amidst a group of masterful musicians who, together, are quickly becoming one of the country’s most sought after live acts.
Raised in Greenville, South Carolina, King was brought up on the blues, playing shows as a pre-teen sideman with his father—bluesman Marvin King, who himself was the son of a regionally-known guitarist—before striking out on his own. Going beyond the sonic textures of his acclaimed 2015 debut album, Soul Insight; The Marcus King Band broadens his sound, touching upon everything from funky R&B to Southern soul and Americana in the process. His band gets in on the action too, stacking the songs with blasts of swampy brass, a lock-step rhythm section and swirling organ. Ever the multi-tasker, King bounces between several instruments, handling electric and acoustic guitar — as well as pedal and
lap steel — while driving each track home with his soulful, incendiary voice. The Marcus King Band will be playing two sets over the course of the RW weekend.
Billy Strings: Whether sharing stages with acoustic music royalty, crisscrossing the nation playing as a solo artist or performing high-energy, jaw-dropping sets at festivals, the reaction to Billy Strings tends to come in two varieties: “Who is this guy?” and “That kid can play!” Raised in Michigan and based in Nashville, Strings — real name William Apostol — learned music from his father, who had learned it from his father, and his father before him. Maybe that’s why at 24, Strings’ songs, his articulation, his entire approach, sounds so authentic and steeped in tradition. Consider him the next in line of an Americana thread, not some upstart or bandwagon jumper. While Strings’ profile as a guitarist and singer in the acoustic/bluegrass scene continues to grow, he has already earned some landmark achievements. He has been invited to play on stage with Del McCoury, David Grisman, Larry Keel, Sam Bush, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon and more. He’s landed coveted slots at festivals like Pickathon, Merlefest, DelFest, High Sierra Music Festival, Grey Fox to name a few and he’s shared bills with popular touring acts Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain Stringband, Leftover Salmon, Cabinet and more. And the industry has taken notice: He just won IBMA 2016 Momentum Awards Instrumentalist of the Year for guitar, banjo and mandolin and was voted #1 in, scene tastemaker, Bluegrass Situation’s Top 16 of ’16. Billy Strings will be playing two sets over the course of the RW weekend.
Jerry Douglas Band: Jerry Douglas was a teenager playing in a band in Lexington, Kentucky, the first time he heard Weather Report and Chick Corea — on the same day. More than 40 years later, he remembers the moment vividly. “It blew my head off,” he says. “I loved it. And I thought, ‘Well, there’s where I could go with all this stuff runnin’ around in my head.’”
“All this stuff” is the remarkable music Douglas has made on Dobro and lap steel in a career that’s earned him world renown as the top purveyor of his craft. On his latest musical foray, What If, Douglas decisively merges those jazz inclinations with the bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul he’s spent his life absorbing and performing, forging a sound that flies beyond the boundaries of anything he — or anyone else — has done before.
Though Douglas has recorded several of these songs previously, he turns them inside out here in bold new arrangements filled with unexpected elements. For example, in 1992 he covered “Hey Joe,” the Billy Roberts folk tune that became one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beloved blues-rockers, as an uptempo bluegrass song. Here, it’s recontextualized again with drums and fiddle — and horns instead of mandolin. And “Freemantle,” which Douglas and banjoist Béla Fleck had co-written and recorded decades ago as a duet, is now so deeply layered, it almost begs to be heard through headphones.