Newport Folk Festival, Aug 2008 :: Saturday Preview

As we mentioned yesterday, Aquarium Drunkard will be stomping around Fort Adams State Park next month, taking in the Newport Folk Festival. Following the obvious night-show of Brian Wilson, Kate Taylor, and Willy Mason on Friday night, here’s a quick preview of who we’ll be checking out on Saturday. If you’re going, drop us a line in the comments and tell us who you’re going to see.

Cat Power :: At one point in the not-so-distant past, Cat Power figurehead Chan Marshall was a notoriously flakey performer. Marshall had a history of playing shows with her back to the audience, sometimes even quitting the stage halfway through performances. Following the recording of 2006’s definitive The Greatest, Marshall entered rehab and emerged something of a sober fighting machine, effectively grabbing the touring market by the hand and forcing it to go along with her; where she once shied away from the public, she’s now the face of Chanel. This would be meaningless, of course, if Marshall’s music was anything less than stellar. The Greatest is a smoky, Memphis-smoked record that’s equal parts fall-down and get-up. while her latest release, Jukebox, is a collection of covers, with Marshall putting a mellow golden stamp on everything from Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man” (or “(Wo)man,” as she re-titles it) to Dylan’s “I Believe in You” to a snaked-out version of Sinatra’s “New York.”

Willy Mason :: I was initially made aware of Martha’s Vineyard’s Willy Mason when the then-nineteen year-old opened for My Morning Jacket in Houston the Thursday before Austin City Limits Fest in 2004. The nervous, foot-shuffling folk was matched only by Mason’s gentle demeanor (at one point, he shyly asked if he could catch a ride north to Austin for his ACL slot the following afternoon). Following a self-imposed exile from the music world, Mason reemerged in 2006 opening several American arena dates for Radiohead, of all bands.

Richie Havens :: Let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t Havens’ first time on a big stage. The 67 year-old Brooklyn native famously opened Woodstock thirty-nine years ago, playing his entire repertoire to a raucous crowd that demanded more, and culminating in a jaw-dropping improvisation on “Motherless Child.” Havens’ take on the folkie tradition is decidedly rhythmic; his flapping, fluttering guitar style is found today in the rejoicing hands of Devendra Banhart and the multi-thumping of the Dodos.

Jim James :: My Morning Jacket’s weirdo-in-chief has always sounded more soulful when he sticks to his acoustic guns than he does when aping Prince. Some of MMJ’s early, reverb-and-wine-soaked recordings still stand among his best and most ambitious work. From The Tennessee Fire’s “I Will Be There When You Die” through At Dawn’s “Hopefully” and It Still Moves’ “Golden,” not to mention subsequent solo tours with M. Ward and Conor Oberst, JJ has earned his place among Newport’s headliners. If nothing else, it should be interesting to hear Evil Urges funk-blasted tracks stripped to their core.

She & Him :: Only in 2008 could a record that sounds like 70s FM folk be considered revolutionary. What started as a side project between M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel has quickly developed a life of its own. Deschanel’s warm voice — somewhere in the neighborhood of Patsy Cline, though far more sweet than bitter — is a perfect match for the transistorisms that Ward has tweaked over several albums now.

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