Monday, September 01, 2008



There were moments Sunday at the Thirsty Ear Music Festival when the weather made things seem touch-and-go.

Opening act, bluesman Samuel James had to move from the main stage to the hotel to finish his first set. Somehow the rain affected Junior Brown's guitsteel, causing it to lose power a couple of times during his set. Alex Maryol's main stage set was moved to the hotel before he even started. And Patty Griffin's vehicle got stuck in the mud when her driver took a wrong turn on the way to Eaves Ranch.
Samuel James sings Son House
But this is New Mexico, dammit, and most folks are just happy to get any rain, even when it falls on their favorite musicians. Everyone I talked to at the festival just grinned and shrugged off the weather. And anyway, it already was gone well before Patty took the stage.

Here's my favorite Sunday shows:

Samuel James proved you can even get the blues in Maine. He just learned guitar, banjo and other instruments in recent years and, inspired by his dad's Son House records, honed his act after splitting up with a girlfriend. He has a good voice and he can play. I hope to hear more from this guy.

What can I say about Junior (Jamie) Brown? Well, I said a lot of it yesterday on stage when I got to introduce my old Santa Fe Mid High and Sata Fe High School classmate (though he might not have wanted me to bring up how we took short cuts in cross country in gym class and probably didn't want me to mention where his old psychedelic band Humble Harvey got their projectors for their light shows back in 1968).
Everybody knows that the bird is the word!
Like I said above, Brown's guitsteel was plagued by rain-releated problems. Sometimes he was clearly frustrated, but he soldiered on like the pro he is. At one point during the middle of his "Surf Medley" the instrument just went silent. It's hard to play a guitar instrumental without a guitar, but, not missing a beat, Brown started singing "Hey hey hey ya ..." and broke into Gary U.S. Bonds' "New Orleans" as his drummer and bassist played on. And then he started in on The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" until a stagehand returned with the guitsteel.

This was the second time I've seen Buckwheat Zydeco -- and it definitely was better than the first time. That was about 15 years ago at Sweeney Center when he was on the same bill as Richard Thompson. Though Thompson was the headliner, it was decided to let Buckwheat go on last -- perhaps because it made sense, on paper at least, to not have a dance band go on before an acoustic act. Or maybe it was because Buckwheat was late getting to town. But the sad part was that after Thompson's set, about half the audience left. Then there was a lengthy soundcheck. By the time Buckwheat actually went on the crowd had shrunk to just a couple of dozen. He played his heart out, but ended up cutting his set short.
BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO at Thirsty Ear Festival
He was a little late Sunday night too, but there was still a good sized crowd at the festival. Buckwheat didn't disappoint. With a band that included two guitarists, a trumpet, bass, drums, and rubboard (played by his son Sir Reginald Dural) they romped and stomped. There was even a cool, if somewhat lengthy version of "Hey Joe." And at one point he got a couple of local kids up on stage who did enthusastic 10-year-old boy versions of a zydeco dance.

In addition to the music had fun talking to Junior and Buckwheat live on the air for the KSFR/Southwest Stages broadcast. (I'd done that with Bill and Felecia of Hundred Year Flood on Saturday, though that conversation was taped and played later.)

I had to be careful with Jamie to not let the dialogue descend into a Santa Fe triva fest. (Though he did play a new song he wrote about The Horseman's Haven restuarant, so we had to talk about that.)

Buckwheat, (Stanley Dural) spoke about his life and career. He also asked for prayers for the people of the Gulf Coast. Most of his family is back in Lafayette, La., and he cleary was worried. It's amazing how he was able to perform with such joy with that on weighing his mind.

Check out my photos of the Thirsty Ear Festival HERE .

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