Highlights: Labor Day Weekend Brings Roots Music to the Fore

  • John Doyle headlines the annual New World Festival in Randolph on Sunday, one of three roots music festivals taking place in the Upper Valley this weekend. (Courtesy photograph) Keith Wright photograph

  • The Vermont folk duo Cricket Blue, comprising Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith, is among the acts performing at this weekend's Plymouth Folk & Blues Festival, in Plymouth, Vt. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Cellist Eric Wright, a Barnard native, performs at the New World Festival in Randolph on Sunday. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/30/2018 12:04:59 AM
Modified: 8/30/2018 12:05:17 AM

Eric Wright already was counting himself the luckiest among the dozens of musicians preparing to flock to the Upper Valley for three roots music festivals over Labor Day weekend.

The Barnard native will play his cello in concert with Cape Breton fiddler Mairi Rankin on Sunday afternoon at Randolph’s New World Festival, but he’s also looking forward to being in the audience.

“This year they’ve got (Irish singer-guitarist) John Doyle, my all-time hero,” Wright said last week. “I’ve only seen him live one other time, at a festival in Canada. That’s the beauty of them, especially this one. When you get to be at a festival and listen to the music as well as play, it’s such a treat.”

Wright is lucky in another way, though: Two weekends ago, he narrowly escaped with his parents, his girlfriend and his cello from the wildfire that surrounded the family’s vacation cabin in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

“One little lightning strike set it off,” Wright recalled in a telephone interview from a Montana airport. “We heard a big BOOM, and there it was, burning on a ridge maybe half a mile away. At the time, we said, ‘It’ll be fine. Somebody will get that.’

“Next thing we knew, we had this inferno bearing down.”

So after spending what his father, Will Wright, last week described as “a few refugee days” bouncing around hotels and an Airbnb, and a week teaching at a fiddle camp in California, Eric’s real vacation starts Sunday in Randolph’s Bethany Church, where he and Rankin will renew a collaboration that began at a folk-music camp in central Canada a few years ago.

“She’s a superstar,” Wright said. “When we ran into each other for the first time, we really hit it off. We have the same kind of sense of humor. When we were doing workshops and then concerts together, I just had a smile on my face the whole time.”

The 26th annual New World Festival on Sunday follows ArtisTree’s inaugural Base Lodge Bluegrass Festival in South Pomfret on Friday, and coincides with the second day of the 14th Plymouth (Vt.) Folk and Blues Festival at the Calvin Coolidge homestead.

In addition to his and Rankin’s appearance at 1 on Sunday afternoon, Wright is scheduled at 4:30 to play Scottish music with the Canadian trio Cantrip and cellist Natalie Haas in the sessions tent next to Chandler Music Hall.

Between shows, he’s counting on catching at least Doyle and the Quebecois supergroup Le Vent du Nord, and on selling and signing copies of Cabin Sessions, the CD that he, Rankin and guitarist-producer Spencer Lewis recorded at Lewis’ hideaway in Bethel.

“It’ll be nice to get some fresh Vermont air again,” Wright said.

The New World Festival begins at noon and runs through 11 on Sunday night in downtown Randolph, with performances of Celtic and Franco-American music in the Chandler Center for the Arts, Bethany Church and under the dance tent across from the Chandler. Admission is $12 to $44.

Bluegrass in South Pomfret

The Hot Flannel All-Stars headline ArtisTree Community Arts Center’s inaugural Base Lodge Bluegrass Festival at the Suicide Six ski area on Friday night. The band’s two regulars and co-founders, South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross and Washington, Vt., singer-guitarist Doug Perkins, recruited mandolin master Matt Flinner, banjo player Papi Biondo and upright bassist Pat Melvin for the occasion.

“With four lead instrumentalists, it makes it so we can play all day if we want,” Ross said this week. “I’m not gonna want this gig to end. This particular lineup is not only for bluegrass fans but for musicians.”

Deadgrass, the Jerry Garcia tribute band led by Grammy Award-winning guitarist-songwriter C Lanzbom, opens the festival at 6:30. Refreshments and kids’ activities will be available.

Tickets to the Base Lodge festival Friday night cost $28 in advance and $35 at the door. For reservations and more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Plymouth Folk & Blues Festival

Plymouth seasonal resident Jay Ottaway kicks off the 14th edition of the festival he founded by performing on Saturday afternoon at 2 with a quartet of Berklee School of Music alumni and teachers. Next up at 3 is Julia Mark, who “was a crowd favorite here two years ago,” Ottaway said, and who is a finalist for songwriter of the year in the New England Music Awards. And at 4, Connecticut singer-songwriter Seth Adam performs Americana classics and his own work.

The Vermont folk duo Cricket Blue kicks off Sunday’s festivities at 2 p.m., followed at 3 by singer-songwriter Alice Howe — winner of the emerging-artist prize at the recent Falcon Ridge festival in upstate New York — and at 4 by former National Park Service ranger Dan Weber, whom Ottaway describes as “a traveling bard … in the vein of John Prine, and he’s also a big Woody Guthrie fan.

“It’s a well-rounded group.”

The Plymouth Folk & Blues Festival offers performances at 2, 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, on the lawn between the Coolidge homestead’s visitor center and the main barn on the site. In the event of rain, the musicians will perform in the 1840 Union Christian Church. On Saturday night, Jay Ottaway will host a jam session at Ramunto’s Pizza in Bridgewater.

While admission is free, donations are welcome.

Best Bets

The Cassotto Duo, aka the married, Sharon-based tandem of pianist Annemieke McLane and accordionist Jeremiah McLane, plays new arrangements of works by Bach, Edvard Grieg and Gerald Finzi and of several folk tunes on Friday night at 7 at the United Church of Strafford. Admission is by donation to the Manheim Fund, which supports upkeep of the church steeple.

The New York-based Charlotte Moroz and The Society for Misfit Puppets perform their Regret & Time Travel show of puppetry tonight and Friday night at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden. Both performances run from 8 to 9 p.m.

Pianist Sonny Saul hosts a night of jazz at his Pleasant Street Books in Woodstock on Friday, playing his compositions from the last 40 years in concert with drummer Tim Gilmore and other guest artists. Admission is free to the show, which starts at 7.

Orford residents Ernie Drown and Beth Hilgartner play baroque works for organ, harpsichord and recorder at the Congregational Church in Orfordville on Sunday afternoon at 2. Admission is by donation to the church and to the Orford Historical Society.

If you missed the Vermont Mozart Festival’s tour of the Green Mountain state this summer, the Pentangle Council for the Arts is offering a sample on Sunday afternoon at Woodstock’s Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. Festival principals Scott Woolweaver (viola), Andrew Price (oboe), John Lindsey (violin) and Karen Kaderavek (cello) perform the maestro’s Oboe Quartet in F Major, his Divertimento in E-flat Major and his Ave Verum Corpus. The concert, which starts at 4, memorializes William Gallagher, the church’s former pastor who masterminded the festival’s annual stop in Woodstock. Admission is by donation.

Looking Ahead

The Scottish folk trio Cantrip will close the concert series at Newport’s Library Arts Center with a performance on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. Admission costs $16 in advance and $20 at the door. Learn more, libraryartscenter.org/threebridges/ or call 802-863-3040.

Theater/Performance Art

The ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival’s production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change continues over the coming week, with performances at 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night, at 2 on Sunday afternoon and at 7:30 on Wednesday night and next Thursday night. For tickets ($28 to $35) and more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

The New London Barn Playhouse wraps its summer this weekend, with performances of the musical whodunit Murder for Two at 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night. To reserve tickets ($20), visit nlbarn.org or call 603-526-6710.

Brian Muenzer hosts the monthly session of stand-up comedy at the Engine Room in White River Junction next Thursday night at 8:30. Doors open at 7.


Tuning up for the New World Festival, the Boston-based Celtic string ensemble Night Tree plays the Feast and Field Market in Barnard tonight at 5:30. The folk ensemble Oliver the Crow plays there next Thursday night at 5:30.

The Dupont Brothers perform indie folk-rock on Friday night at 5:30, on the back lawn of the Woodstock History Center.

Donavon Frankenreiter plays the free, weekly Cooler in the Mountains concert at the Killington Resort’s K-1 base lodge on Saturday afternoon at 3:30.

The Shana Stack Band plays country-western classics and its own compositions at the Flanders Stage on Sunapee Harbor on Saturday afternoon at 5.

The Repeat Offenders post up at Colburn Park on Monday at noon, to play rock classics from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s for runners and bikers (and spectators and support teams) in the annual Labor Day Rail Trail Ramble benefitting Headrest.

The Pillsbury Slow Boys quartet plays danceable blues on the common in Strafford on Tuesday night at 6. The recommended donation is $5.

Bar and Club Circuit

The Bears, aka saxophonist Katie Runde, guitarist Ted Mortimer and accordionist Steve Pixley, play the Taverne on the Square in Claremont tonight starting at 5:30. Runde and Mortimer also perform at Babe’s Bar in Bethel on Sunday night, from 5 to 8.

Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner perform at Peyton Place in Orford tonight at 6.

Still Hill pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7 to play roots music. Moxley Union rocks the house at 9:30 on Friday night and the Justin Panigutti Band contributes more rock on Saturday night at 9:30.

Soulfix plays the VFW Hall in Newport on Friday night at 7.

Woodstock singer-songwriter Jim Yeager performs a mix of original material and what he calls “eclectic covers” at The Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Friday night at 8, with accompaniment from percussionist John Foster.

Sensible Shoes sets the rhythm for the Back-to-School Dance Party at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 8.

John Lackard sings and plays the blues at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday night at 9. Rock singer-songwriter Chris Powers performs on Saturday night at 9.

Guitarist Ted Mortimer plays rock classics of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s with the Repeat Offenders at Lebanon’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9, and returns on Saturday night at 9 to perform with the Rock Island Blues Brothers Review.

Singer-songwriter Alec Currier appears at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Saturday night at 9.

Arthur James sings and plays the blues at Newport’s Salt hill Pub on Saturday night at 9.

Pianist Sonny Saul plays jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

Keyboardist Doc Winslow, bassist Tom Lord, guitarist Kit Creeger and drummer Bryant Harris play during brunch at Poor Thom’s Tavern in Meriden on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Rockit Science serenades the summer’s final buffet supper ($10 to $25) at Loch Lyme Lodge on Sunday night at 6.

Saxophonist Michael Parker leads his jazz trio into Carpenter and Main in Norwich on Tuesday night at 7.

Open Mics

Woodstock musician Jim Yeager hosts open mics tonight at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret and on Wednesday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.

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