Saturday: Sonya Kitchell, Rosanne Cash, David Gray...
Sunday: Grace Potter, Keller Williams, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, The Meters, The Indigo Girls...
This year at Newport was a year of surprises: We had perfect, 79-degree weather (surprise!), no traffic (surprise), and Gillian Welch (surprise!).
This is my 11th trip to the Newport Folk Fest. I come for the music and cuz it's my job. I introduce artists, hang out at the FUV tent, and generally just represent.
I arrive on Friday nite and hit my fave dinner spot, Scales and Shells. No reservations and cash only are the rules here, but we're prepared. We enjoy fresh fresh raw bar - oysters, littlenecks and cherrystones - and then I get to have grilled toro, too.
Saturday at Newport begins for me with introducing Chris Smither. His set includes some new songs from his forthcoming release which are very good.
Soul underground fave Bettye LaVette is up next. She is surely the wildcard of the lineup. She's been making records since the 60's and has recently enjoyed a rediscovery through her new album on ANTI records. She's played Joe's Pub and def has some hipster music fans but it's hard to know how she will be received on the big stage. Her band is classic soul fare all the way-what makes this special for me is her voice, energy and material. She does a mean version of Lucinda's "Joy." I watch part of the set with Sonya Kitchell, who made her Newport debut later in the day. She tells me a good tale about opening for Bettye in Pittsburgh two years ago and Bettye offering her this backstage advice: "Get out of this business and go back to school!" Needless to say, Sonya didn't listen - and by all accounts, Bettye is finally enjoying her job!
Mary Gauthier plays a great set on the Harbor Stage, opening with a perfectly delivered "I Drink." Her timing is right on - no rush, she takes her time. It's all about the words with Mary Gauthier, just listen to "Mercy Now" sometime. I don't get to stay as long as I want cuz I had to get over to the main stage to introduce Rosanne Cash. I'm such a big fan and was so psyched to hear her set with the full band in the sunshine! I hung for a bit with Amy Ray, we were both hoping for "Seven Year Ache" from Rosanne, and got it.
David Gray followed, and joked that it was the first time he was actually looking at the sea while playing a few of his many sea-inspired songs, like "From Here You Can Almost See the Sea" and "Sail Away." His set ends with "Shine" - Wow! Very good.
My best friend Tracey showed up from Cape Cod to be my 'plus-one' on Sunday. If you were there, she was the one with the peace flags. That made me think about how Newport was once a gathering for social and political activists. Now it's mostly entertainment. Tracey did her part to change that, so did all the other folks who joined in with their new flags.
The dog ate my Sunday blog, sorry!
- Rita Houston, 2006
For more info on the Newport Folk Festival in general, visit newportfolkfest.net.