The Reviews Are In From Telluride: Sarah jarosz, Milk Carton Kids, Bela Fleck, Steep Canyon Rangers

Lee Zimmerman recently posted a multiple day review from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. We have included portions concerning our upcoming artists who are appearing this Fall at Miami Hamilton and Miami Middletown. 

“The day began innocently enough, as any day in paradise ought to. Arriving toward the end of Sarah Jarosz’s opening set, we caught enough to reconfirm our suspicions that the young Ms. Jarosz, now all of only 21, is indeed one of those child prodigies one only reads about but rarely gets to witness. Her choice of covers – Dylan’s Ring Them Bells among them – prove the prerequisite to honing a careful tuned youth, that is, to learn from the masters.

The duo that dubbed themselves the Milk Carton Kids followed, first-timers and by definition, Telluride virgins. Their exceptional new album, “Ash and Clay,” is the first to bring them to the masses, a follow-up to two previous albums generously offered for free download. Noting the fact that they appeared overdressed in their matching suits, they remarked how undressed the crowd seemed by comparison. Although their songs and harmonies most frequently bring to mind Simon and Garfunkel, even freakishly at times, in concert they recall the brotherly harmonies of the Everlys, with Joey Ryan’s bespeckled appearance and ’60s era mop top also bringing to mind vintage pairings like Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy.

On the other hand, Ryan’s comedic introductions, often at the expense of his straitlaced partner Kenneth Pattengale, might make the Smothers Brothers the best basis for comparison. Introducing one song, Ryan remarked that Pattengale had composed it in anticipation of the arrival of his daughter. Never mind the fact that they’ve been singing it for two years, and he’s yet to find a mother to bring a child into the world.


Notably then, North Carolina’s Steep Canyon Rangers managed to maintain that high bar, little surprise considering their dexterity in blending various musical forms with the bluegrass that provides their point of departure. Their latest album, “Nobody Knows You,” proved the highlight of their set, offering the title track, Rescue Me and Asheville Town, songs clearly destined to become standards in their set. A new percussionist added to the rush of tempos and melody, but as always, it was fiddler Nicky Sanders that threatened to steal the show. Yet, for all their remarkable syncopation and interplay, the tuneful trappings of their material still sway even those lacking bluegrass bearings. Indeed, the first of two appearances they’d make on day one – the second would be in the company of Steve Martin – proved to be a definitive definition of why Steep Canyon Rangers may be the genre’s most able ambassadors to the world at large.


The problem with multi-day festivals is that they always seem to fly by too quickly. Elation turns to exhaustion. Anticipation becomes the realization that all things, music included, must eventually come to an end. It’s anticlimactic in a very real way; after witnessing such great sounds each of the preceding three days, it’s hard to reach a new bar so late in the proceedings.

Not that Telluride didn’t try. An early morning set by a solo Bela Fleck turned on the natural wonderment of what the man can accomplish with a traditional stringed instrument, stretching its parameters into realms heretofore unimagined. Indeed, who would ever have dreamed that he would single-handedly tackle side two of “Abbey Road” and provide such a straight on reminder of those melodies?”

We are looking for reviews from the Newport Folk Festival to post next. Stay tuned.


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