The Lowell Folk Festival only offers folk music. If you think that’s limiting the festival, take a look at some of the styles in the 2022 artist lineup: blues, bluegrass, balafon, bomba, and jewel creole (and those are just the B’s).
To guide you through the folk sounds and styles of globe-trekking on Lowell’s free weekend of music, art and food, here are some “must-see” acts playing the Mill City. (Fun Lowell fact: The town’s motto is “Art is the handmaiden of human good,” which pretty much sums up what the festival is all about.)
Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band
Martin plays both genres of music, country and western! Although Martin sings these styles, this description doesn’t get the magic that Martin conjures up at all. A Texas-born swing singer, Martin and her band can conjure up the big step and shuffle of Bob Wills, the dreamy cowboy music of Marty Robbins and Dolly Parton when she rocks bluegrass.
Greenleaf does not strictly define the blues. She adds gospel, soul, jazz and jump blues pieces to the standard 12-bar jams. Of course, when she leans into traditional blues readings, she explodes and blossoms. Go listen to the positively raunchy “I’m a Little Mixed Up”. During the rave, the guitar roars and the harmonica roars, but she overpowers all the background musicians with her powerful voice.
Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push
Of course, of course, you’re still mad at Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ for not winning album of the year in 2014. What should outrage you are the 12 Grammy nominations and zero Gomulka wins. He’s the guy who started the “Chicago Push” style of Polish polka! He’s the guy who wrote “Say hello to someone in Massachusetts,” the official state polka! Long live the polka!
Los Pleneros de la 21
Since 1983, Juan “Juango” Gutierrez has linked different generations through the bomba and the plena, the fundamental forms of traditional Puerto Rican music. Over the decades, the band he founded, Los Pleneros de la 21, brought their drum-centric grooves to street corners and Carnegie Hall, national festivals and episodes of “Sesame Street.” Juango received a well-deserved National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1996.
Nava Persian Trio
Persian music is around 3,000 years old. When you watch Sourena Sefati play the santour – a 72-string metal instrument – you might think it took her 3,000 years to master it. Sefati is an absolute virtuoso, but the melodies he composes deliver such depth and tenderness. After just a few minutes of listening, you’ll forget that you haven’t liked Persian music in your entire life.
Treme Brass Band
New Orleans’ second-line musical tradition is one of the most joyful forms of expression. When these marching bands start cooking, they stomp, bop and boogie like a big band after a bender. Few acts in Crescent City can match the warmth and swagger of Treme – named after the historic neighborhood of Nola. Bring plenty of water and your credit card so you can log on right after Treme’s set and book a weekend in the French Quarter.
For a full list of artists playing Lowell Folk Festival and a schedule, visit lowellfolkfestival.org.