by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Now in its 17th year, the Sisters Folk Festival has experienced tremendous growth since the humble beginnings as a chili feed and a bit of good music to becoming one of the premier celebrations of American folk music in the country. Thousands travel each year to the foot of the Cascade Mountains for a weekend of music and community, but the effects of the festival can be witnessed year-round.
Beyond the three-day weekend of music, the festival’s community-inspired mission has created a number of programs that have contributed to the creative energy found throughout the town: the Americana Project, a music educational program in local schools; My Own Two Hands, a community-themed arts fundraiser; Americana Song Academy, a camp taught by festival performers on the craft of song; and the Winter Concert Series which brings music to Sisters during the colder months.
This year’s Festival, taking place September 7-9, will cover eight stages throughout the town, including workshops, the Dave Carter Memorial Song Writing Contest and performances by a wide variety of talent from around the country.
“The Festival continues to evolve, and the audience continues to grow,” commented Brad Tisdel, Sisters Folk Festival executive director. “Our Festival is a unique model that has very small intimate venues, many of which are in established businesses, so the town itself really participates in partnering with us to present the Festival and to represent the incredible beauty and attraction of Sisters and Central Oregon.”
With 2012’s acts ranging from legendary songwriter James McMurtry to Gregory Alan Iskov, Brian Blade to John Jorgenson, everyone’s musical tastes will be satisfied by folk, blues, bluegrass and everything in between.
“I think the most exciting part is that there is so much incredible talent. Inevitably people may know a few of the acts but there are always folks that surprise our audience and become some of their favorite musicians ever, all introduced at the Sisters Folk Festival,” Tisdel said. “You really have to experience it to understand the vibe and energy.”
Through a process spear-headed by the festival’s talent committee, each year a wish-list of performers is created. Then depending on tour schedules, availability and cost, the committee chooses the best talent they can find. “Budget is always a consideration, but I think we do a very commendable job of introducing great acts to the Sisters Folk Festival and Central Oregon community,” said Tisdel. “We are known for bringing great songwriters and musicians in and introducing them to a larger audience.
“I think it is always a challenge to grow the Festival and be thoughtful of the integrity of the event. We want to get better and find the talent that will be compelling to our audiences. We contracted this year with 32 acts, plus five song contest finalists and four emerging artists, so 41 total acts over eight stages throughout the three day event is a wonderful but challenging matrix to deliver well.”
On the Cover
Abigail Washburn will be bringing her unique blend of venerable folk music and far-flung sounds to the Folk Festival. She has taken her interest in Chinese folk music to the clawhammer banjo to create sounds that not only bridge musical genres, but cultural lines. Visit Washburn on the stage at Sisters Art Works, Friday at 8:30pm, on the Village Green Saturday at 7:15pm and at the Depot Café on Suday at 2pm.
Festival Infused with Fresh & Eclectic Americana Acts
by JEFF SPRY Cascade A&E Feature Writer
Within the annual carnival of memorable music supplied by this year’s edition of the Sisters Folk Festival are two stellar events not to be missed, the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration called Walking Woody’s Road and the inspiring gospel vibes of Brian Blade’s Mama Rosa Band.
On Friday, September 7 at the Village Green Main Stage, the words, music and legacy of folk singer Woody Guthrie will be saluted during Walking Woody’s Road, a unique tribute to the songs and life of Woody Guthrie on what would have been his 100th birthday year. The special touring troupe’s performance will include at least four festival main acts alongside Guthrie’s own granddaughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie. Scheduled artists include Eliza Gilkyson, Slaid Cleaves, Jimmy LaFave and Johnny Irion.
Folk Festival Chairman and co-founder, Jim Cornelius, is excited and honored to present this joyous jam session in a respectful “tip of the hat” to the legendary troubadour.
“Every folk singer who’s come since has been walking Woody’s road,” he said. “And we’re offering our audience a chance to travel along out on that ‘ribbon of highway’.”
Sisters Folk Festival Executive Director Brad Tisdel strives to maintain an innovative balance in the musical lineup each year, always moving the festival forever forward and infusing the program with the best Americana roots-based acts he and the festival board can discover.
“We like to keep it fresh and go out and try to find some eclectic acts to book,” said Tisdel. “Many of these groups and singers eventually become our patrons and audience favorites.”
Brian Blade, one of the best jazz drummers on the planet, takes to the stage with his Mama Rosa Band for two performances, belting out some stirring spirituals with a catchy gospel vibe.
This is one of the first shows ever heard outside Europe and festival-goers are in for a rare treat. The soulful music takes root in Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana where his father is still pastor at the Zion Baptist church. Growing up singing in church before becoming a star drummer and session musician for the likes of Bob Dylan and Herbie Hancock, Blade finds personal inspiration from the gospel hymns and soul songs of his youth.
This is a fortunate opportunity to hear one of the best musicians in the world deliver a rousing set under the pines of Sisters Country that the entire family can enjoy.
“Brian is most excited about doing his music in Sisters,” Tisdel said. “He is performing Saturday night at the Village Green Main Stage and Sunday afternoon at the Sisters Artworks Stage and will be closing out that day’s schedule.”
Introducing new and exciting artists to their audience is what the Sisters Folk Festival does best, collecting a magical meshing of sonic wonders for music-fans of all temperaments and persuasions.
“We have 32 distinct musical acts booked for this year’s festival,” said Tisdel. “A couple more I’d like to mention are Gregory Alan Isakov and Abigail Washburn. If you get the chance to check either of them out you will be well rewarded.”
Isakov is a young South African-born singer/songwriter who is extremely popular right now. Washburn is married to iconic New Grass banjo-picker Bela Fleck of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
“Abigail Washburn is a huge humanitarian who sings and travels around the world and is just a stunning human being. She’s a real heavy hitter and plays the clawhammer banjo. Abigail is a true ambassador of music and simply a tremendous talent. People are going to love her. I think she’ll go over very well here in Sisters.”
Check festival programs for dates and times of these and other acts during the entire three days at www.sistersfolkfestival.org or call 541-549-4979.