Caramoor’s American Roots Music Festival 2017 Features Rhiannon Giddens and Sarah Jarosz (June 24), Plus July Performances by John Fullbright and Emmylou Harris
Caramoor’s American Roots Music Festival returns on Saturday, June 24 for a full day of music spanning the spectrum from bluegrass to blues and folk – with more than a few acts that could be described using all those categories. Headlining this summer’s festival are Rhiannon Giddens, whom T-Bone Burnett recently called “the most profound musician active today,” making her Caramoor debut; and the “direct, unadorned and thoroughly beautiful” (Wall Street Journal) Sarah Jarosz, whose most recent album, Undercurrent, won two Grammys this year. Daytime acts – taking place throughout the Caramoor estate – include The Mammals featuring Mike + Ruthy, River Whyless, The Lonely Heartstring Band, Michaela Anne, Kaia Kater, Anthony da Costa, and The Brother Brothers, all making Caramoor debuts; alongside sets from the Eddie Barbash Band, making a Roots Festival debut after appearances at the Jazz Festival; Spuyten Duyvil; and Cole Quest & The City Pickers. Another pair of concerts in July spotlights audience favorite John Fullbright, returning to Caramoor for his third appearance, and country/folk superstar Emmylou Harris, who returns after debuting at Caramoor in 2013.
Caramoor’s summer season, this year running from June 17 to July 30, comprises seven weeks of orchestral, chamber, jazz, American roots and family concerts, as well as opera, multi-ethnic dance, young artist showcases and sound art, all in a magnificent outdoor setting just one hour from Manhattan. With folk, country, bluegrass, gospel, blues, Creole, string band, old time, and everything in between, the eclectic American Roots Music Festival takes place throughout the day at multiple locations around the 90-acre Westchester estate, which is filled with historic gardens and architectural treasures. With concert ticket raffles, food and drink, special activities for kids, and much more, the festival offers the ideal opportunity to explore Caramoor with picnics packed and ears open.
Last season, it was the popularity of Caramoor’s Jazz and American Roots Festivals that prompted The Record Review to note: “Attendance records were broken during several of the daytime jazz and roots shows by two to three times their previous highs. And, in a scene that embodies everything to which Caramoor aspires, multiple generations of families often enjoyed the music and surroundings together.”
Caramoor has established a tradition of headline acts showcasing the very best that American roots music has to offer, ranging from Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, and Del McCoury to David Bromberg and David Grisman; this year’s featured artists are no exception. One of two headliners, multiple award-winning fretless banjo and fiddle player Rhiannon Giddens brings her masterful blend of Americana genres and dazzling vocal prowess to Caramoor. Winner of a 2010 Grammy Award with her band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens by all accounts stole the show when she sang Odetta’s “Water Boy” at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013’s “Another Day, Another Time” concert, which celebrated the early ’60s folk revival that had inspired the Joel and Ethan Coen film Inside Llewyn Davis. Legendary producer T-Bone Burnett curated that show, and after Giddens’s performance, which the New York Times described as having “the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a folk holler, and the sultry insinuation of the blues,” he immediately suggested a collaboration, going on to produce her solo debut Tomorrow Is My Turn. Her follow-up EP Factory Girl received multiple Grammy nominations this year. Most recently, her album Freedom Highway is a contender for Album of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. Giddens can be seen performing “Black is the Color” on Skype Live Studio here.
Texas songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz has had a banner year. The song “House of Mercy” from her recent album Undercurrent won a Grammy Award in February for Best American Roots Performance, and the album itself won another Grammy for Best Folk Album as well as the International Folk Music Award for Album of the Year. Jarosz played a sold-out show along with Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan at Caramoor two years ago as the band I’m With Her, and she returns as a headliner this summer with her new trio. The New York Times calls her “one of acoustic music’s most promising young talents: a singer-songwriter and mandolin and banjo prodigy with the taste and poise to strike that rare balance of commercial and critical success.” Click here for a video of Jarosz performing “House of Mercy” live on The Current.
The range of stellar daytime acts at this year’s American Roots Festival again reflects Caramoor’s commitment to engaging with the broadest possible range of music lovers of all ages and tastes. The Mammals featuring Mike + Ruthy – who “don’t suffer from multiple genre syndrome, they celebrate it” (Washington Post) – were the pioneers of the summer Hoot festival near Woodstock, NY, earning a stamp of approval from no less a roots legend than the late Pete Seeger, who wrote: “Dear Mike + Ruthy, your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I’ve seen in all my 94 years.” River Whyless is an American folk band with three harmonizing singer/songwriters, all playing instruments, and a drummer, an “immensely talented band from Asheville, N.C.” that NPR’s Bob Boilen declared “was my favorite discovery at this year’s Americana Music Festival.” Elmore magazine called The Lonely Heartstring Band “musicians of dynamic imagination and massive musical talent”; the band won a 2015 International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Award and released its debut album on Rounder Records last year. When Michaela Anne released her album Ease My Mind in 2014, the New York Times praised it as “full of plain-spoken songs of romantic regret and small-town longing, written by her and sung in a sweet voice,” and the Village Voice listed it among its Top 5 Country Albums of the year. Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, Rolling Stone has said that the “plaintive [and] mesmerizing” young singer/banjoist Kaia Kater “writes and performs with the skill of a folk-circuit veteran.” Influenced by her family’s deep ties to Canadian folk music, she also spent years learning Appalachian music in West Virginia.
Hudson Valley “high-octane Americana” (WFUV) sextet Spuyten Duyvil returns to Caramoor’s Roots Festival for the seventh year running. In 2016 they received an Album of the Year nomination at the International Folk Music Awards; went on an American Embassy-backed tour of Israel, playing two headlining sets at the Jacob’s Ladder Festival on the Sea of Galilee; and debuted as headliners at the South Florida Folk Festival. Also returning after playing the festival two years ago, Cole Quest & The City Pickers – fronted by Woody Guthrie’s grandson – have gained recognition on the local scene performing both Quest’s original tunes and traditional favorites. Eddie Barbash is another familiar face, after playing the Jazz Festival two years ago with Jon Batiste Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert of which he is a founding member, and again last year with his own band. He brings his alto saxophone and sensibility to Texas and Appalachian fiddle tunes, bluegrass, old time, R&B, soul, and classic New Orleans.
Two more acts are part of the extended musical family of headliner Sarah Jarosz. Anthony da Costa is a singer/songwriter/guitarist living in Nashville, who at sixteen became the youngest-ever winner of both the Falcon Ridge and Kerrville Folk Festival songwriting competitions. He spent last year touring with Aoife O’Donovan as a guitarist and back-up singer, and after his daytime solo set he will perform with Jarosz as part of her new trio. Brooklyn-based twin brothers Adam and David Moss, the aptly-named roots-music duo The Brother Brothers, have toured as an opening act for Jarosz, who says of them: “They approach their poignant and often charming songs with an almost startling sense of ease, and the tight harmonies are enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. Their ability to pull the listener into their quietly energetic musical journey is a joy to behold.”
A special addition to the programming for a second consecutive year is a collaboration with the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA), which will present a program called Young Folk, featuring New York singer/songwriter Brian Dunne and others tba. This “in-the-round” session, as Maggi Landau, Artistic Director of Roots Music at Caramoor, says, “spotlights young folk artists who are new to the scene, and provides performance experience and feedback for them as they develop their music careers.”
The festival also includes The Social Music Hour, an all-ages sing-along and a play-along session, free activities for children (including the Caramoor Scavenger Hunt), and tours of Rosen House for adults and “I Spy the Rosen House” for children. Two ticketing options allow visitors to experience either the entire range of activities throughout the day – including the evening headline performances – or to enjoy only the daytime activities and performances. WFUV, 90.7FM, is the media sponsor of Caramoor’s American Roots Music Festival.
The food and beverage offerings at this year’s festival will also be a highlight. Special picnic baskets with pre-order options are available as well as a local craft beer tent and food truck provided by Great Performances. More information about dining options can be found here.
After the daylong festival, the Americana offerings at Caramoor continue with John Fullbright on July 21 and Emmylou Harris the following night. An American singer-songwriter from Bearden, Oklahoma and a former member of the both the Red Dirt band Turnpike Troubadours and the Mike McClure Band, John Fullbright got his start at the legendary Blue Door listening room in Oklahoma City. It was there that he recorded a live album, 2009’s Live at the Blue Door, and found his base, opening for many other writers including fellow Oklahomans Kevin Welch and Jimmy Webb. His 2012 studio debut, From the Ground Up, received a Grammy nomination for Americana Album of the Year, and later that year he won ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Award for lyric writing. In 2014, he released the critically acclaimed Songs, and, since then, has relentlessly toured all over America and around the world. As the New York Times describes him: “Mr. Fullbright joins the lineage of terse Southwestern songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, sticking to a few folky chords and reaching for unassailable clarity.”
Emmylou Harris shows no signs of slowing down after a 40-year career. The 13-time Grammy Award-winner, one of the most distinctive voices in American music, returns to Caramoor with her unique blend of folk, country, and roots after touring across the U.S. with John Mellencamp throughout June and early July. Whether singing the songs of Seeger, Dylan, Baez, or a lyrical masterpiece from her own pen, Harris infuses her singing with pathos, crystalline beauty, and emotional honesty. The New York Times found her most recent solo album, Hard Bargain – only the third album of her career for which she wrote most of the material – to be “suffused with kindly intimacy”; as the review continues, the album represents “the work of a songwriter thinking not only about herself but also about generations: mentors and ancestors, friends living and dead, children and grandchildren, mortality and faith.”
A detailed events listing of Caramoor American Roots concerts appears below.
For more than 70 years, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts has been a leading destination for music lovers. Comprising a Mediterranean revival villa on 90 acres of gardens and serene woodlands in Westchester County, NY, the estate is just 40 miles north of Manhattan. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters – the 1,508-seat, acoustically superb Venetian Theater, and the more intimate, romantic 470-seat Spanish Courtyard – as well as in the picturesque gardens, which include a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, Sunken Garden, Butterfly Garden, Tapestry Hedge, and Iris and Peony Garden. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the grounds, tour the historic Rosen House, enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon tea, or unwind with a pre-concert picnic. Click here for a short video history of Caramoor and the Rosen House.
In addition to the summer season, Caramoor presents concerts all year round in the magnificent Rosen House Music Room. Through an impressive range of education programs, Caramoor serves more than 66,000 students in the New York metropolitan area, besides boasting an array of highly successful mentorship programs designed for young professionals who have completed their conservatory training. Over the past 20 years, alumni from these programs have become leaders of the next classical generation, whose accomplishments include winning a MacArthur Fellowship, becoming first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and appointment as the Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic.
Getting to Caramoor
Getting to Caramoor is simple by car, train or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available.
By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour.
By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station, where taxi service is always available and free shuttle service is available for the American Roots Music and Jazz Festivals. For current information, check the Metro-North schedule.
Caramoor: upcoming American Roots performances
American Roots Music Festival
Multiple Locations (daytime)/ Venetian Theater (evening)
Venetian Theater Evening Artists
The Mammals (feat. Mike + Ruthy)
The Lonely Heartstring Band
Anthony da Costa
Cole Quest and The City Pickers
Eddie Barbash Band
The Brother Brothers
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All concerts made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from the Westchester County Government.
All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.