April 22, 2016

Seven artists to watch at this year's Folk Fest

The Philly Folk Fest just announced its 2016 lineup

Music Folk Fest
Liz Longley Shervin Lainez/lizlongley.com

Local singer-songwriter Liz Longley plays the Folk Fest this year.

Last Friday, the Philadelphia Folk Festival announced its 2016 lineup — and once again it’s an impressive mix: young and old, folk and bluegrass, hip and old-timey. It’s a lot to take in. Let us be your guide. Here are Seven artists to check out before you head to the fest in August.

1. The Wood Brothers

Nashville’s well-represented on this year’s Folk Fest roster, but that doesn’t mean it’s all country. What The Wood Brothers do is closer to Americana, with traditional arrangements of easygoing originals but every once in a while they show you something bluesy or jazzy, just to keep you guessing.

2. Anderson East

Alt-Americana star Anderson East has an old-timey kinda voice — engaging, charming and gritty as a gravel road. He made waves last year with his bluesy/R&B jam “Satisfy Me.”


3. Rock My Soul: The McCrary Sisters and The Fairfield Four

Founded in the ’20s, Nashville’s Fairfield Four are the stuff of gospel music legend. The McCrary Sisters, descendants of Fairfield veteran Rev. Sam McCrary, are gospel superstars in their own right — plus they performed with Dylan for years. Together, they make some of the sweetest harmonies around.


4. Sharon Shannon

A dazzling player of accordion and fiddle has been one of Ireland’s most beloved modern performers of traditional music since the early ’90s. Her career is riddled with notable collaborations — with Nigel Kennedy, Steve Earle, Natalie MacMaster — but this Folk Fest appearance puts her center stage.


5. Liz Longley

Local hero Liz Longley is a gentle-voiced singer-songwriter with a scoop of blues in her lyrics and a pinch of country in her melodies. “Bad Habit” is pretty and simple, a sad song that’s really easy on the ears.

6. Darlingside

With blissed-out melodies and a sputtering mandolin, Massachusetts foursome Darlingside walk in that increasingly gray area between folk and pop. A little Simon and Garfunkel, a bit Mumford & Sons. They’ll fit in fine at Folk Fest, but they’ll probably wind up in an iPad commercial one day, too. This song shows them at their earthy best — soft voices and acoustic instruments moving as one.


7. Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

This is country-rock like it oughtta be played — with slick guitars, big hair and tastefully applied sequins. This video kinda cracks me up, because here’s these dudes in bedazzled jackets just blazing away having a great time, and every shot of the audience shows a bunch of stone-faced, cross-armed fuddy-duddies.