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Blue Jordan Music Festival 
The Third Annual
Blue Jordan Music Festival
September 16, 2000
Heritage Village Museum
in Sharon Woods Park
Sharonville, OH

What exactly can you expect from a city that auctions pigs to raise arts support (www.bigpiggig.com)? Well, nestled in the hills surrounding the Cincinnati city bustle is a quaint forest-park. Tucked into that park is a 19th century village--the perfect setting for a folk music festival.

Amongst turtles, a gopher and a moss-covered waterfall, the Blue Jordan Music Festival presented 25 acts on three unique stages to raise funds for its location, the rustic Heritage Village Museum.

To be specific about the charm factor there, one of those stages, the Hayner Stage, was the white-pillared front porch of a transplanted 19th century home-now-gallery. The Somerset Church contained the Somerset Stage. Finally, the Chester Park Stage, a replica of the Sharonville depot complete with train tracks, served as the main stage. After experiencing a folk festival in this atmosphere (and only shelling out $15), how could one go back to an auditorium?

The third annual Blue Jordan Music Festival featured performers from a variety of genres. Headlining the fest were Victoria Williams & the Creek Dippers, and The Cowboy Junkies--two acts each worth twice the admission price. Several other performers at the fest have been awarded or were nominated for Cincinnati area music awards. Others have played at showcases in Boston and Philadelphia. No two acts could be compared, and as with any fest it is regrettably impossible to catch everything due to sheer option anxiety. Compiled below is a short-list of the impressions some artists gave me.

Zac Morgan - Zac brings child-like fun to any event with his delightfully crazy song antics. He was doing the "18 Wheeler" song when I walked in.

The Ryan Adcock Band - the 21-year-old tenor bandleader of this five-piece group shows a mature self-reflection in his acoustic rock lyrics and music.

Barbara Kessler - This decorated, soprano folkster on acoustic guitar has opened for the likes of Shawn Colvin and gives a charming, peppy performance.

Brown House - a 3-piece art-pop group along the lines of early Sixpence None the Richer. They opened for Over the Rhine the evening prior.

Ashley Peacock - a songwriter with gravity and a gorgeous voice on an acoustic guitar. (Sorry about the fava bean crack, Ash.)

The Graveblankets - an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek, four piece, folk-rock band.

Chris Collier - a guitar duo with thick alto vocals in the 60s, old school folk style. The yummy, folkiest-of-the-folk at the fest.

Lagniappe - transplanted from Louisianna, these Cincinnati regulars create a Zydeco, Cajun, and gypsy sound as well as do a nice Counting Crows cover.

Claire Holly - an excellent, Mississippian guitarist with an extraordinary, storytelling song-writing ability whose voice is reminiscent of Suzanne Vega.

Lux - passionate, all-boy, ambient folk-pop with a jazz influence.

Janet Pressley - a prominent, folk songstress with incisive, adept lyrics.

Messerly and Ewing - this folk duo has expressive, tight harmonies and slightly whimsical lyrics which are well presented with guitars, violin and harmonica.

Tracy Walker - a smokey alto on guitar along the lines of Pamela Means. Check out this lady's sultry version of Cole Porter's "Summertime" when you can.

Katie Rieder - nimble guitars with an aggressive voice and intellectual yet catchy lyrics.

(Apologies go to the also great acts I didn't quite catch- The Perkolaters, Ticklepenny Corner, Mike Georgin, Mohenjo Daro, David Wolfenberger, Gwendolyn Speaks, Maurice Mattei, and Monk.)

At the apex of the festival's nippy, fall evening were two delicious folk acts - the quirky, downhome spunk of Victoria Williams & the Creek Dippers and the hankering, unbound Cowboy Junkies. With an audience huddled and bundled in front of the Chesterfield Stage, each group quivered through their set lists and gave listeners more than their money's worth.

Vic and her Creek Dippers gave the audience a rambunctious performance that stretched from hootenanny to jazzy. The versatile Vic's joyous warbles were accompanied by banjo, violin, drums and guitar on such songs as "Sweet Relief," "Century Tree," "Detroit Railroad," and "Please Be on My Way." The most moving song of the evening, "Rainmaker," held a subtle and profound evangelical consolation. Also included in Vic's set was a stripped-down version of her hit single, "You are Loved." Through frigid fingers and the innocence only Vic can perpetuate, she and the Creek Dippers closed the set with  "One-eyed, Black Dog Moses."

When it came time for Cowboy Junkies to perform, the temperature had dipped well into the low 50's and the stage was plagued with technical problems. The Junkies were blanketed and gracious, as vocalist Margo Timmons said that this was nature of festivals and calmed the cold audience by letting them know it was no fault of the fest or the Junkies. With a few more shivers than usual in her part bed-time lullaby and part Patsy Cline voice, Margo and "the boys" waltzed through a full set list complete with beautiful, obsessing guitars and favorites like "Misguided Angel" and "Anniversary Song." The evening debuted "Small, Swift Bird," a tune to be expected on their 2001 release. The day prior, The Cowboy Junkies released a live retrospective titled "Waltz Across America" available only through their website. They performed a re-strung version of "Hollow as a Bone" (from Miles from Our Home) available on that new effort. With just one encore, the quailing Junkies held onto the darkness a little longer with their haunting rendition of Miles Vandzant's "Blue Guitar."

One must experience the charm of the fest for oneself, let alone the musical variety the Blue Jordan Folk Festival presents. The event is well worth the drive from Detroit, Chicago or your hometown and an overnight stay in one of Cincinnati's old-fashioned bed and breakfasts (visit bbonline.com). With award-winning local/regional and national folk acts, a dip into the Blue Jordan Music Festival could be your baptism into midwestern folk and more.

Jessica Aguilar Walker 9/29/2000
 

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