Celebrating 29 years of welcoming music fans to the campus of Somerset Community College in south-central Kentucky, the Master Musicians Festival has long carried the banner of being one of the oldest and best-run music festivals in the state. Its 2022 gathering on July 15-16 was no exception with its first ever female headliner in Grace Potter as well as performances by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, The Wood Brothers, SG Goodman and others.
For nearly three decades, the festival has been on a mission to showcase “master musicians” like John Prine, Guy Clark and Willie Nelson alongside future stars like Billy Strings, Tyler Childers and Kelsey Waldon. The hard work of Executive Director Tiffany Finley, MMF President and Chief Media Officer Julie Harris and the rest of the festival board in the year-round search for the stars of tomorrow to partner with the stars of today hui for their annual gathering is second to none and is a huge key to the festival’s recipe for success.
From current household names to future names, here are our ten favorite performances from the 29th Annual Master Musicians Festival.
Celebrating a month since its release a lot like you EP, Corbin, Ky. Sydney Adams kicked off MMF’s Somersessions tent stage with a riveting performance that included an ode to her Eastern Kentucky roots (“Always Home To Me”), a murderous ballad and a country revival of “Royals” by Lorde. “Even solo, Adams’ powerful voice was more than enough to dominate the stage during his driving 40-minute set.
I had seen Leah Blevins solo before, but her full band on Friday afternoons at MMF took her songs to another level. The Nashville via Sandy Hook, Ky. The native’s country twang took on an extra rock ‘n roll flavor on tracks like “Little Birds,” “Magnolias,” “Walk Home,” and “First Time Feeling” thanks to help of guitarist Ricky Dover Jr. and his other bandmates. With a dynamic voice with a chirp similar to rising West Virginia-born star Sierra Ferrell, Blevins easily has one of the most recognizable and intoxicating voices in country music today, which she has showcased for his hour-long set.
Considered an adopted Kentuckian by many in the Commonwealth due to his removal to Thunder Sound in Franklin to record the 2018s Awake, Rayland Baxter lit up the main stage of MMF’s Horse Soldier Bourbon on Friday night with a barrage of songs from the aforementioned album like “Strange American Dream”, “Angeline” and “Hey Larocco”. Older fan favorites like “Bad Things” and “Mr. Rodriguez” also made an appearance, each of them drawing spontaneous chants from the cheering crowd.
Hailing from Louisville, Bendigo Fletcher’s laid-back rock sound has many similarities to Baxter, but with a more country flavor. This was evident from the start when frontman Ryan Anderson wielded a banjo for an opening rendition of last summer’s “Astro Pup.” Laughter. This was followed by a series of songs from the band’s catalog that showcased Anderson’s vocal range as he moved from soft croons (“Sleeping Pad”) to mind-blowing screams (“Evergreen”), leading to one of the most weekend entertainment.
Showcase of young songwriters
As Pete Townshend once said, “the kids are fine.” Although the famed Who frontman wasn’t at the MMF, Appalachia’s top young songwriters were, and they gathered on the main stage Saturday afternoon to open day two of the festival with a captivating round of songwriters. Participants included Jayce Turley of Greenup County, Ky.; Kara Wilder of Hart County, Ky.; Lexington, Vivian Leigh of Ky; Logan Purcell of Somerset, Ky.; Cara Bishop of south-central Kentucky and Jake Kohn of Middletown, Va. (pictured). Each had good songwriting skills for their youth and very different voices, and all have a very, very bright future.
Court & Company
With an all-star band consisting of multi-instrumentalist J. Tom Hnatow, mandolinist John Looney and drummer John Clay from John R. Miller’s backing band with Ashland, Ky. native and top 10 finalist for the 2021 season of NBC’s The voice Holly Forbes, Jeremy Short’s Short & Company were firing on all cylinders during their blues, soul and jam-infused set on Saturday afternoon. The Jackson, Ky. native paired his high-pitched Appalachian howl with rugged blues guitar that earned him trips to perform at the International Blues Challenge on originals like “Marvin Gaye,” “(Falling Into A) Trance ” and “Midnight Train to Glasgow” as well as an exhilarating cover of “Rocket Man” by Elton John with Forbes in the lead.
Longtime Lexingtonian Justin Wells brought a fiery mix of country soul rock ‘n roll to MMF’s main stage on Saturday afternoon with his good songs of love and perseverance. With a voice singing soft whispers one second and roaring the next, Wells provided one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend as the former Fifth On The Floor frontman ran through songs like “The Dogs,” The Highway Less Taken” and “The Screaming Song”. .”
Called by Wells “Queen of the Commonwealth, Kentucky’s ethereal rock ‘n roll siren,” Murray native SG Goodman lived up to the hype (and then some) in her Saturday night performance. Opening with the agonizing rock of “Work Until I Die,” Goodman went through several songs from his new album. Teeth marks like “You Were Someone I Loved” and the title track itself. Also included were cuts from her much-loved debut. old feeling including “Space And Time”, a song that has been given even more prominence recently after being covered several times by another Kentuckian, Tyler Childers.
The wood brothers
Making a rare appearance in Kentucky, thrilling trio The Wood Brothers honored their favorite dark liquor and signature Kentucky spirit (“I Got Loaded”), then some that left not just the brothers themselves, but all the crowd dancing to the beat of their Saturday night performance. The chemistry between drummer Jano Rix and brothers Oliver and Chris Wood is unparalleled, resulting in an incredibly strong and well-rounded sound for the trio as they blast through hits like “Alabaster”, “River Takes The Town” and other tubes from their roots. , rock and jazz inspired song library.
John R. Miller
Closing the Citizens National Bank stage of the festival was West Virginian John R. Miller. Dubbed during his introduction as “one of the best songwriters in the world” – which I would agree – Miller went on to back up that statement with a set of vivid tales of life’s ups and downs. in Appalachia which included songs like “Red Eye”, “Shenandoah Shakedown”, and “Lookin’ Over My Shoulder”.