Merlefest is back after a year off (there was some kind of virus last year?) and it’s a packed four day weekend with plenty of local bluegrass and big country names. Sturgill Simpson opens the festival this Thursday night, but WKNC coverage begins Friday afternoon – here’s what we’re most excited for (listed in bullet form, not numerical, because we refuse to rank):
- Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange, Kiah’s third album, came out earlier this year and we’re more than ready to hear it live. We’re most excited to hear the new electrified version of her song Black Myself, previously released in 2019 with her group Our Native Daughters (composed of Kiah, Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell) and getting to feel her voice vibrate through our bodies. Friday at 7:50pm.
- Leann Rimes. Perhaps after hearing Blue live, we can die fulfilled and content. A revisit of the critically acclaimed 2000 film, Coyote Ugly, was necessary to prepare for our visit with Ms. Rimes. Fun fact: we all know that Leann’s first album, Blue, dropped when she was only 13 years old, which is crazy enough. Even crazier, she had recorded Blue as an 11 year old, re-recorded it two years later for the album, but the tracks got switched and the earlier version was accidentally released. She was eleven years old, singing like that – she won a Grammy for the album at age 14. We’ll see her Friday at 6:45pm.
- Tedeschi Trucks: Although great through headphones or in the car, the full power of this group is only unleashed in their live performances. In lieu of a formal discussion, I’d like to direct you to this cool graphic showing their shifting band over the past 11 years. We’ll see them Friday at 8:30pm.
- Sarah Shook and the Disarmers: Although well known around the triangle music scene, this is the group’s first Merlefest. In our interview with the group, they teased that they’ll be playing some tracks off of their upcoming album, Nightroamer, at the festival. We’ll be seeing them Saturday at 5pm.
Mavis Staples: Mavis Staples. In the flesh. You may have seen the gospel legend in Questlove’s documentary Summer of Soul about the Harlem Cultural Festival that took place in the summer of 1969. Fifty two years later, at 82 years old, Mavis Staples has only become more of a commanding presence, both musically and as an icon. We’ll be seeing her Sunday at 2:25pm.