Sunday, September 03, 2006


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The big news: It didn't rain.

The winds kicked up a few times, and by early evening it started getting pretty cold for early September, but the Thirsty Ear Festival was spared of actual rain on Saturday and for that, everyone was grateful.

The other big news: The joint was packed!

I've attended every Thirsty Ear Festival and I've never seen as many people at the J.W. Eaves Ranch as I did yesterday. It looks as though all these years of persistence for Mike Koster -- including some heartbreakingly meager turnouts at some festivals past -- are starting to pay off.

And here's the good news for the future -- there were plenty of good, and some great performances Saturday to create enough positive word-of-mouth to ensure good turnouts in years to come.

Here's my favorite performances on Saturday:

T. Broussard & The Zydeco Steppers: When I first heard a radio ad about this year's festival, I thought I heard "Zydeco Strippers." So I was disappointed when a bunch of guys came out. But that feeling didn't last very long. These guys roared! Broussard (pictured above) is an accordion maniac and the band seemed to play nearly nonstop. People were dancing not only up by the stage, but even the vendors in front of their tents couldn't keep from shaking it. The Steppers played a number of zydeco standards -- "My Toot Toot," "Jambalaya," etc. and a lot of French-language tunes. But there also some surprising covers, including Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" and Wa's "Cisco Kid."

The Steppers made one major misstep: They didn't bring any CDs to hawk. They easily could have sold a couple of hundred. I bet a lot more festival-goers are looking for Boussard's web site right now than are reading this blog.

Greg Brown: Some folks were hoping that Brown was bringing his guitar buddy Bo Ramsey. But that wasn't to be. Greg played solo, but it was still a fine set. His deep laconic drawl (think Leonard Cohen as Uncle Remus) is irresistible. And his between-song patter is half the fun.

His set consisted of a lot of favorites ("Boom Town" is a natural Santa Fe hit), plus a good selection from his new album The Evening Call.

Eddie Turner: Guitar hotshot Turner was just what the festival needed when he started his afternoon set. At the risk of offending every sensitive female in Santa Fe, I'm not that huge of a Be Good Tanyas fan. Their music is pretty and I can take them one song at a time, but a whole set of their low-key Canadian folk, I was starting to feel a little drowsy.

But guitar stud Turner cranked it up immediately with his Hendrix/Jeff Beck drenched hard-rocking blues. (He did a sizzling cover of one of J. Beck's instrumentals Saturday.)

Turner was the guitarist for Otis Taylor until a couple of years ago. He's not nearly the songwriter that Taylor is. Then again, Taylor's sound has suffered since Turner's departure.

Turner's new album has a rather twisted title: The Turner Diaries. If only Tim McVeigh been into Eddie Turner than that other Turner Diaries!

Trilobite: This Albuquerque-based group has one of the most unique instrumental line-ups: Banjo, trombone, cello, stand-up bass -- and on Saturday they were joined by The Handsome Family's Brett Sparks on musical saw.

Mark Lewis, the banjo man, is an excellent songwriter, as he shows on the group's self-titled album. It was great to hear my favorite songs from that album -- "Caves of Burgundy" and "Man of God" live.

I spoke briefly with Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family following Trilobite's set. She said she'd like the Handsomes to play Thirsty Ear. Maybe next year.

Josh Martin & The Santa Fe Supergroup: OK, I crapped out before the end of this late-night bluegrass set. But what I saw just reminded me of a lot of the things I love about the Santa Fe music scene. I like seeing relative new kids like Josh and Ben Wright playing beside oldtimers like stand-up bass queen Janice Mohr and Jerry Faires, who joined the group for a few songs

The Sunday chapter of the festival will begin in a few hours, Honeyboy Edwards, Dave Alvin, Goshen, etc.


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