Part of the magic of Rhythm & Roots is not only the diversity of musical genres but also the energy and creative inspiration that flows among the musicians.
Performers sub in and out of other bands on stage and lucky roots music fans may even run across a late-night jam in the campground. But the 22nd annual festival, held over Labor Day weekend at Ninigret Park, features more collaborations than most.
Dustbowl Revival and Hot Club of Cowtown are merging to celebrate the music of The Band. A mix of three acts, Peter Rowan and Free Mexican Airforce with Los Texmaniacs, will combine Rowan’s five decades of singing and songwriting with his frequent rocker companions Free Mexican Airforce. Los Texmaniacs will add their authentic Tex-Mex flair.
Two other acts, Joe Craven & the Sometimers and Railroad Earth, will apply their own originality and inventiveness to the music of Jerry Garcia and the lyrics of John Denver, respectively.
Producer Chuck Wentworth says he has invested heavily in the lineup this year, and it shows. Headliners are the folk, blues and political protest musicians Son Volt on Friday, Aug. 30, the danceable fusion of styles from The Mavericks the next night, and acoustic rockers Railroad Earth on Sunday, Sept. 1.
The seaside festival features 30 bands on four stages, along with nearly 5,000 square feet of dance floor, international food, artisans and children’s activities on the grassy fields of Ninigret Park. About 1,500 of the festival attendees will either rough it camping or take the luxury route by “glamping” (a mashup of glamorous and camping). The park offers its own entertainment in the form of nature trails, a playground, swimming, tennis and basketball. Bring your kids, and remember your lawn chair, blanket and sunscreen.
Buy tickets at rhythmandroots.com or call 401.783.3926 or 800.901.7173 for more information on music or glamping. Tickets go fast, so save money and plan ahead by purchasing tickets by Aug. 23.
Wentworth, whose eclectic taste is reflected in the band choices every Labor Day weekend, says he jumped at the possibility of booking Dustbowl Revival, a popular Americana band, with the string trio Hot Club of Cowtown. The two roots groups will play an homage to The Band’s first two albums, Music from Big Pink and The Band, released 50 years ago. “They hadn’t planned to do it in a festival setting, so I talked them into it.”
He says The Mavericks are popular with the all-ages crowd. “They get people up and dancing and they’re a great fusion of all styles of music.” Booking Joe Craven & the Sometimers was a “no-brainer” for their first-time performance on the East Coast. Railroad Earth, “an original acoustic band that rocks out,” will perform songs that combine the band’s music with unpublished lyrics discovered by John Denver’s estate. The band hopes to convey what they call the warmth and emotional bravery of Denver’s music.
Here’s a look at some of the roots musicians, covering Zydeco, blues, bluegrass, Cajun and more who are making their first appearances at Rhythm & Roots:
- Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band is a Grammy-winning, high-energy Zydeco band from Lafayette, La.
- Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers, who won the 2018 Boston Blues Challenge, bring their dynamic rocking-roots-blues to the festival.
- Providence’s own Jabbawaukee, a quintet formed in 2017, is “beyond honored” to perform its blend of psychedelic/progressive rock and funk at Rhythm & Roots for the first time.
- Victor Wainwright and the Train, who earned a 2019 Grammy nomination for best contemporary blues album, perform their “boogie-woogie, pedal-to-the-medal blues.”
- The Travelin’ McCourys, who won the Grammy for best bluegrass album in 2018, are constantly innovating the traditional.
- The Lustre Kings, with their modern take on early rock, country, blues and R&B, rock out and play 150 gigs a year.