Habitually checking the weather forecast has become standard behavior for many in the build up to the 46th Kerrville Folk Festival, after Memorial Day rains blasted the campgrounds the last two years. And while you’d hate to be the one to tempt the weather gods, it does indeed look like folk music prayers have been answered for camping in peace under the Texas Hill Country skies. Add to the mix this year’s relatively mild Texas spring temperatures and breezes and it all seems too good to be true!
The opening Memorial Day weekend will indeed be influenced by the recent passing of Saturday night’s planned headliner and renowned Austin singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, who lost his battle with cancer on Sunday, May 22nd. A longtime Kerrville artist, LaFave will be remembered with a tribute concert of sorts in his slated Saturday night closing slot, hosted by his dear friend Ray Bonneville along with band members, John Inmon, Bobby Kallus, Glenn Schuetz and special guests Michael Fracasso, Jaimee Harris, and others. Preceded by Kerrville favorites Trout Fishing in America, The Rifters and Shake Russell and Michael Hearne, the special evening will surely reflect on some of the beautiful ways Jimmy touched the Kerrville and larger music community.
Mid-week highlights include the annual Songwriters School during the day, featuring Kathy Matea, Lloyd Maines, and Bill Nash, and the Roots and Blues Guitar Workshop. Second weekend highlights include the afternoon concert for New Folk winners followed by the headliner treat of Los Texmaniacs. The Grammy award-winning conjunto Tejano band has combined elements of folk, country, Latin and rock for the last 20 years, teaming up with the likes of Flaco Jimenez, Los Lobos and others. The band’s inclusion offers one more example of the festival’s broad interpretation of folk music which keeps the annual event lively and unpredictable!
The second week kicks off with the 3-Day Ukelele Workshop held at the same time as the 3-Day Harmonica Workshop, while Monday’s Fischer Fest Showcase presents Wimberley favorites Susan Gibson and Walt Wilkins. Dana Cooper keeps things going Tuesday night before Austin’s House of Songs, priding itself as a global music handshake between international songwriters, pairs European musicians with those from Texas and Arkansas.
The ultimate gesture of Remembrance comes on the final weekend with tributes to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. First, New Folk Winners from 2016 get going on Friday the 9th with six musicians playing a few songs each as they revisit their glory from one year ago, before the beloved troubadour Verlon Thompson, who toured with Clark and shared the stage with him on his last Kerrville visit, shares stories and tunes from Clark on Saturday. Following Thompson is the Welch Family with fiddler Warren Hood -- both sure to cover some gems from both Clark and Van Zandt, too. Radney Foster makes a much-awaited return to Kerrville to close the festival on the Clark – Van Zandt weekend with a few surprise guests to join the fray. Organizers have remained tight-lipped, but expect the unexpected!
As always, those wanting to remain close to the camping quarters will be treated to an endless supply of late night jams from attendees and featured musicians alike, while the days offer something for everyone. Yogis convene every Saturday at 9am at the Threadgill Theater while weekend nature walks and canoe trips offer additional exercise. The popular, mid-morning Children’s Concerts on the weekend are always a delight, showcasing Trout Fishing in America, among others, while a number of panels and other seminars round out the schedule. A scoot down to the river for a swim or some hoola-hooping at Kidsville is fun for the entire family and a pleasant reminder, or shall we say Remembrance, the festival offers something for everyone!