Good tunes set tone for festival PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Saturday, 07 September 2013 08:45
A crowd is seen enjoying a performance by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics during the first night of the 2013 Black Swamp Arts Festival. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Ruthie Foster, the second act to hit the stage, at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Friday set the tone for the event.
"Good music, good food, good family, good friends," she said. "What a festival." PHOTO GALLERY
"We're going to have a hallelujah time in the swamp," Foster declared.
And she and her band of "dreadlocked sisters" from Texas, Samantha Banks on drums and Tanya Richardson on bass, did their part to make that come true.
She talked about visiting blueswoman Jessie Mae Hemphill, before launching into the blues. She turned songs from Patti Griffin and Lucinda Williams and June Carter Cash's "Ring of Fire" to her own gospel-inspired ends.
She talked about the Blue Cruise, which she will perform on later this year, and then said she was going to play a song she probably wouldn't be allowed to sing on the cruise ship. Then she, Banks and Richardson gave a choral rendition of the folk ballad "The Titanic."
And she played her own originals "Stone Love" and "Aim for the Heart."
All of this comes under the rubric of "spirit music," sounds aimed at emotionally moving listeners, Foster said. She moved them to their feet as the set ended.
The festival continues in downtown Bowling Green today with an art show from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and music until midnight today and 5 p.m. Sunday. Extensive activities for children as well as music will be offered both days in The Kiwanis Youth Arts Village.
"The festival is a community homecoming," said Roger Shope, who chairs the volunteer committee that stages the event.
He noted that after two years without a presenting sponsor, the Bowling Green Rotary Club stepped up.
That sponsorship allowed for improvement to the stages, including more prominent display of the festival and host city names.
The festival continues to build a reputation for its strong musical offerings.
Peter Magolda has driven up from Oxford several times in the past few years mostly to hear music. This year, he said, the big draw was Foster.
Deena and Jeff Deutschman, of Bowling Green, were excited by the chance to see personal favorites the Ben Miller Band. They'd seen the quirky, old-time combo several times before including at the Bikes, Blues and Barbecue festival in Fayetteville, Ark.
The couple had even mentioned the Black Swamp Arts Festival to band members when they chatted with them in the past.
Jeff Deutschman said he loved the band's assortment of odd instruments.
Indeed some of their instruments looked like they'd been retrieved from a antique store, fitting for many of the songs they played. Their set included an amplified spoons solo. The bass player's instrument was a long Weed Eater cord attached to a long piece of wood and affixed to a galvanized tub. The music was as odd at times as the instruments.
Their renditions of such classic American tunes as "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "St. James Infirmary" had dark undertones, raw emotion and piquant instrumental textures.
By the time Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, from Atlanta, hit the stage, Lot 2 in downtown was packed. Velle was in constant motion in front of the seven-piece Soulphonics. Listeners had settled in for some soul sounds as they tucked into their favorite foods from the regular lineup of festival vendors. One new addition was The Taste of Amish Deli.
The show closed out with Bright Light Social Hour, like Foster from Austin, Texas, though with a very different sound.
The band, which has in the past played a high energy rabble-rousing rock, settled into a set of atmospheric numbers, that grinded, swayed in triple meter and soared, yet rocked nonetheless.
The band had been scheduled to play in the same spot at last year's festival, but never appeared after a lightning storm rolled in.
Friday night they provided their own thunder.
This show, bass player Jack O'Brien told the crowd, "was a long time coming."
A few songs later, he declared: "It's a beautiful night with beautiful people."

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