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MeadowGrass 2019 lineup is big on genre diversity

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Reckless Kelly will perform as part of the 2019 MeadowGrass Music Festival, which will include plenty more amazing Americana, bluegrass, country and folk bands. - COURTESY RECKLESS KELLY
  • Courtesy Reckless Kelly
  • Reckless Kelly will perform as part of the 2019 MeadowGrass Music Festival, which will include plenty more amazing Americana, bluegrass, country and folk bands.
Summer might still feel like it’s a long way off, but the upcoming 11th annual MeadowGrass Music Festival is certainly at the forefront of many minds, with Rocky Mountain Highway recently unveiling 2019’s full lineup. As always, the MeadowGrass stage will host a variety of local, regional and national talent, with this year representing a fairly impressive degree of genre diversity. The full lineup and schedule is available on Rocky Mountain Highway’s social media, and there’s plenty to unpack, so let’s get to it!

If the MeadowGrass tent isn’t immediately filled up when Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express are getting ready to play, it’s your duty as a festival-goer to make it happen. Prophet has been a fixture of the celebrated alt-country/punk-and-country hybridization scene virtually since its inception, playing guitar in the seminal psychedelic-country-garage outfit Green on Red from their excellent 1985 LP Gas Food Lodging through the remainder of the group’s lifespan. Since then, Prophet has been active as a solo artist, releasing a slew of critically acclaimed albums since the early 1990s (most recently, 2017’s Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, released on Yep Roc), serving as an in-demand guest musician, and writing songs recorded by Alejandro Escovedo, Bruce Springsteen, Heart and many others. Prophet’s MeadowGrass appearance will certainly be a delight to alt-country fans (much like Jay Farrar’s 2012 appearance with Son Volt), and his performance and songwriting acumen will quickly make new fans of those who are unfamiliar.

Reckless Kelly, meanwhile, likely needs less introduction. Brothers Willy and Cody Braun, hailing from a musical family, shared stages with Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard as kids, and after forming Reckless Kelly in 1996, boasted Robert Earl Keen as their first manager. Such experience has a way of translating into great records, of which Reckless Kelly has had many in the last 20 years — not least of all the incendiary live set Reckless Kelly Was Here and 2013’s Grammy-winning Long Night Moon.

Speaking of Grammys, the Grammy-nominated Shannon McNally is another impressive addition to the MeadowGrass roster, a poetic, bluesy, often transcendent roots artist currently touring with Steve Earle. Idaho-based singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell will also likely bring a bluesy edge to the proceedings, if her 2017 LP Down Hearted Blues is any indication — an intoxicating collection of vintage material from the likes of Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie.
Boston-based trio The Ballroom Thieves, likewise, put a retro jazz patina on their rootsy indie stylings, led by the powerful group vocals of cellist Calin Peters, guitarist Martin Earley and percussionist Devin Mauch. Denver sextet Mama Magnolia has won acclaim for their soulful sound, which they captured on their self-titled LP with assistance from Grammy-winning producers and engineers Steven Vidaic and Mike Yach. The New York-based Upstate purveys an adventurous mix of folk, jazz and R&B, while San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green and recent Colorado transplants The Jauntee are touring veterans of free-flowing jam rock.

If you’re drawn to MeadowGrass for the more distinctly folk/country/Americana (and Americana-adjacent) sort of thing, there’s still plenty of that to be found this year, of course. The taut songwriting of Wyoming-based quartet The Two Tracks possesses terrific vocal harmonies and a breezy melodic sensibility that flows through bluegrass, country and rock ’n’ roll-inspired material. Woodstock five-piece The Mammals, who describe themselves as “subversive acoustic traditionalists” and “a party band with a conscience,” recall the best aspects of ’60s and ’70s folk-rock while sounding completely fresh and vibrant. Their long-awaited 2018 LP Sunshiner is a highly recommended listen. Duo Roy Schneider and Kim Mayfield, also known as the Reckless Saints, are festival circuit favorites, while Denver-based bluegrass act Meadow Mountain is certainly at the forefront of the Colorado bluegrass realm, winning the prestigious RockyGrass band competition in 2017.



There will also be plenty of familiar faces for the MeadowGrass and local music faithful: singer-songwriter Patrick Dethlefs making his first return to the main stage since 2012; Denver folk-rock powerhouse Heavy Diamond Ring featuring Sarah Anderson and Paul DeHaven, formerly of Paper Bird; and Daniel Rodriguez, a founding member of Elephant Revival who performed with the band at MeadowGrass in 2010 and 2014, returning to perform new solo material (with a band featuring members of Great American Taxi, no less).

And, as always, an array of local talent will shine on both the main stage and in the late night performances, including Tender Foot Bluegrass, Woodshed Red, Roma Ransom, Blue Frog, Whiskey Kate and A New Brain for Arnie.

Send news, photos, and music to collin@csindy.com

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