Riverfolk and NashBash
almost unconnected to the realm of larger promotional forces. Two small festivals happening this month are about as grassroots as you can get, each of them bringing threads of Southern music that aren't much heard around here.
The Riverfolk Festival started out in Manchester's Carr Park, and a Friday night dance party and jam camp are still held there. Plagued by mosquitoes and mud, however, the organizers moved their grand finale show indoors to the Ark a few years ago. The festival focuses on bluegrass and Cajun music, both underrated and largely under-the-radar American genres, and their Cajun visitor this year is worth a considerable detour to see. It's Christine Balfa, daughter of Dewey Balfa, the fiddler and singer whose performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival virtually kicked off the modern national revival of French music from Louisiana.
Christine went on to form the band Balfa Toujours. She's one of those rare musicians who both grew up immersed in a tradition and has thought about how to present it to outsiders. She once recorded an entire album consisting of nothing but triangle playing, and she has a knack for telling the history of a song in a way that's as engaging as the music itself. I met her once in the studios of WCBN, and I've rarely seen a traditional musician with as much sheer fresh charisma. The Riverfolk Festival Finale Concert, which also includes the finalists in the fest's songwriting competition and an appearance by bluegrasser and former Bill Monroe band member Bob Black, happens at the Ark on August 4.
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