Old Settler’s Music Festival is pleased to announce the first wave of bands confirmed for its 35th anniversary gathering, slated for April 21-24 — a welcome return to its usual springtime slot. The festival takes place at its permanent home in Tilmon, Texas, 12 miles southeast of Lockhart.
The dozen acts — so far — represent some of the finest talents in roots music, from young mandolinist and singer-songwriter Sierra Hull to beloved elder statesmen Del McCoury and Peter Rowan. And Austin’s own Shinyribs!
Yes, Kevin Russell’s swamp-pop soul-funk blues-country R&B-etc. revue, now a festival mainstay, returns this year for more booty shakin’ and conga-line snakin’.
Bluegrass patriarch McCoury, a true icon who embodies both the original spirit of Old Settler’s and its growth to embrace all roots music, returns for his sixth visit. He’ll be sitting in with other performers in addition to headlining with sons Ronnie and Rob as the Del McCoury Band. The York, Pa., native, celebrating his 83rd birthday on Feb. 1, built his chops as guitarist and vocalist in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys before stepping out on his own. McCoury had already ascended to bluegrass royalty status by the time he became one of the top award winners in International Bluegrass Music Association history, including earning nine Entertainer of the Year titles. McCoury will make only limited number of carefully selected appearances for 2022, so we are especially honored that he chose to spend an entire weekend at Old Settler’s and look forward to the unique collaborations that only he could bring.
JJ Grey grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., just below the Georgia border. It’s a place that imbues its inhabitants with a particular set of sensibilities, musical and otherwise. Grey couldn’t help but absorb the distinct vibe of a region that produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and, an hour away in Gainesville, Tom Petty. In that incubator, Grey and his band, Mofro, hatched a style that mixes Southern soul, chicken-fried funk and gospel-honed blues — plus a little sanctified somethin’ somethin’ — which they’ll deliver in liberal doses during their headline slot.
Grammy-nominated bluegrass virtuoso Hull made her Grand Ole Opry debut at 10. Two years later, she played Carnegie Hall, and at 13, she signed with Rounder Records; Alison Krauss coproduced her first Rounder album; Béla Fleck produced her third, and is currently keeping her busy playing on his My Bluegrass Heart tour.
Singer-songwriter BJ Barham has made seven studio albums with the morphing entity known as American Aquarium; his last four producers were Jason Isbell, Brad Cook (Bon Iver), John Fullbright and Shooter Jennings — all Grammy winners or nominees. They’re all fans of Barham’s ability to dissect difficult subjects, personal and political, with a folk singer’s nuance — and an acoustic guitar turned up to 11.
Legendary guitarist/mandolinist Rowan, who played alongside McCoury in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and wrote the New Riders of the Purple Sage hit, “Panama Red,” makes a rare appearance in his rock band incarnation with Free Mexican Airforce, featuring San Antonio’s Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs.
New Orleans’ Galactic is beloved by jam band fans, but the jazz-funk collective freely draws on beyond-jam elements and influences including electronica and hip-hop. They’ve appeared two dozen times at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and in 2018, they became owners and caretakers of one of the city’s most important musical institutions: Tipitina’s.
Leftover Salmon is not only a true jam band, they’re regarded as the originators of the subgenre known as jamgrass. But if you ask them to describe their sound, they might say “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass.” Like most bands, they’d rather have listeners than labels.
Steep Canyon Rangers were the pride of Asheville, N.C.’s bluegrass community even before they gained fame as Steve Martin’s collaborators and touring band. The Rangers also collaborated with the Asheville Symphony and Philadelphia’s Boyz II Men for “Be Still Moses,” the title song of a 2020 album featuring completely new arrangements of favorites from their catalog.
New Jersey’s Railroad Earth denies they’re a bluegrass or country band, instead claiming “We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.” Nonetheless, they’re mainstays at top bluegrass fests all over the country.
The California Honeydrops mix horns, keyboards, bass and drums with more eclectic instruments such as clarinet, washboard and melodica to lead a high-energy sonic tour through New Orleans, the Delta, Muscle Shoals and even San Francisco’s Bay Area. Dancing may be required.
We Banjo 3 is actually four — one pair of brothers from Nashville and another from Galway, Ireland — who fuse pop sensibilities with Americana, bluegrass and Celtic references, then bust beyond borders and boundaries into a fresh territory they’ve dubbed “Celtgrass.”
Stay tuned for more announcements — and be sure to purchase wristband/camping bundles before they disappear. (Single-day wristbands and short-stay camping options will go on sale soon.) A special teen rate also is available for younger music lovers attending with an adult (student ID required). Children 12 and under attending with an adult are admitted free. For more information about package options and to purchase tickets, visit oldsettlersmusicfest.org and click the “buy tickets” button. (Please note: the tab links to a separate ticketing site.)
Old Settler’s Music Festival takes place in a professionally designed 145-acre space just 20 minutes from Lockhart and less than an hour from downtown Austin or San Antonio and two hours from Houston (program GPSs for 1616 FM 3158, Dale, Texas 78716). Amenities include on-site parking, play areas for children, a variety of food offerings and a fully electrified campground powered by renewable green energy, eliminating noisy generators.
The nonprofit festival’s annual Youth Talent Competition has awarded several college music scholarships and helped to launch a few careers — including that of Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz. Musicians up to age 18 are invited to compete for cash, a 2023 stage slot, professional mentoring and special recognition. To apply, go to oldsettlersmusicfest.org/music/youth-talent.
According to No Depression magazine, “Old Settler’s is what a festival should be: simple, properly sized, stocked with excellent bands, and held in an environment where it is nearly impossible not to enjoy yourself.”