MerleFest, presented by Window World, is proud to announce the first round of artist additions for 2023. Taking place April 27-30, 2023, on the campus of Wilkes Community College, MerleFest 2023 will feature performances from North Carolina’s favorite sons The Avett Brothers, country mega-star and Highwoman Maren Morris, the genre-weaving cultural collective Black Opry Revue. Also joining the lineup are award-winning MerleFest veterans Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, and many more. 2023 will mark MerleFest’s 35th festival and will honor Doc Watson’s 100th birthday year. To celebrate the historic milestone event, organizers intend to feature MerleFest’s unique history and present unique collaborations to honor the festival’s founding folk icon. From the flatbed trailer stage at the 1988 Eddy Merle Watson Memorial Festival to today, and looking into the future, MerleFest will continue to draw fans from all over the world to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains each spring to make music, moments, and memories together.
In addition to those mentioned above, the following artists and bands are set to appear at MerleFest 2023: Andy May, Banknotes, Carol Rifkin, Charles Welch, Donna the Buffalo, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little Trio, Jim Lauderdale, Joe Smothers, Kruger Brothers, Laura Boosinger, The Local Boys, Mark Bumgarner, Mitch Greenhill & Mitch’s Kitchen, Pete & Joan Wernick, Presley Barker, Roy Book Binder, Scythian, T. Michael Coleman, The InterACTive Theater of Jef, The Waybacks, Tony Williamson, and Wayne Henderson.
MerleFest 2023 Tickets are available now. For general admission passes, as well as patio seating, reserved seating, camping, parking, and more, please visit merlefest.org/purchase.
About The Avett Brothers (performing Friday): Three-time GRAMMY Award nominees and North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductees The Avett Brothers made mainstream waves with their 2009 major label debut, I And Love And You. Esteemed documentary May It Last: A Portrait of The Avett Brothers (co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio) chronicles the writing of 2016’s True Sadness. In 2019, the band released their 10th studio album, Closer Than Together, featuring “High Steppin'” which reached #1 on the Americana Radio Singles chart. Their newest album, The Third Gleam, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Americana/Folk Albums chart, #1 on Rock Albums, #1 Vinyl Albums, and “Victory" hit #1 on the Americana Radio Singles chart. In January 2022, Swept Away, a musical inspired by and featuring the music of The Avett Brothers, premiered in Berkeley, CA to rave reviews.
About Maren Morris (performing Saturday): Maren Morris is one of the leading voices in music today, armed with incredible vocal stylings and songwriting chops, sheer talent, honest lyrics, and an undeniable presence. Her third album, Humble Quest, which is nominated for Album of the Year at this year's CMA Awards, debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and features Gold-certified lead single, “Circles Around This Town.” Her four-time Platinum single “The Bones” dominated 2020, earning Morris Song of the Year and Female Artist of the Year at the 2021 ACM Awards, Female Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2020 CMA Awards, plus Female Artist of the year and Music Event of the Year at the 2020 ACM Awards and a 2021 GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Song. Her 2019 album GIRL was named Album of the Year at the 2019 CMA Awards. Her Platinum-certified debut album HERO earned a GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance, New Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2017 ACM Awards and New Artist of the Year at the 2016 CMA Awards. HERO features the much-lauded singles “My Church,” “80s Mercedes,” “I Could Use A Love Song,” and “Rich.”
About Black Opry Revue (performing Friday): The MerleFest Black Opry Revue performance will include Yasmin Williams, Chris Pierce, Ping Rose, Nikki Morgan, Aaron Vance, Mel Washington, and Leon Timbo with more artists to be added soon. Black Opry is a home for Black artists and Black fans of country, blues, folk, and Americana music. Country music has been made by and loved by Black people since its inception. For just as long, Black artists, songwriters, and musicians have been overlooked and disregarded in the genre by fans and executives. Black Opry wants to change that. They invite music fans to discover, support, and enjoy the Black artists who make magic in this space. One of the most valuable aspects of country music is its versatility and diversity in sound. Country, blues, folk, and Americana music overlaps, weaving together the distinctions of each genre. The Black Opry Revue showcases and celebrates the diversity in sound and stories that Black artists offer to these genres.
About Sam Bush (performing Saturday): There was only one prize-winning teenager carrying stones big enough to say thanks, but no thanks to Roy Acuff. Only one son of Kentucky finding a light of inspiration from Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys and catching a fire from Bob Marley and The Wailers. Only one progressive hippie allying with like-minded conspirators, rolling out the New Grass revolution, and then leaving the genre's torch-bearing band behind as it reached its commercial peak. There is only one consensus pick of peers and predecessors, of the traditionalists, the rebels, and the next gen devotees. Music's ultimate inside outsider. Or is it outside insider? There is only one Sam Bush.
About Jerry Douglas (performing Thursday, Friday & Saturday): Dobro master and 14-time GRAMMY winner Jerry Douglas is a freewheeling, forward-thinking recording and touring artist whose output incorporates elements of country, bluegrass, rock, jazz, blues, and Celtic into his distinctive musical vision. Called “Dobro’s matchless contemporary master” by The New York Times, three-time CMA Musician of the Year award recipient Douglas is one of the most innovative recording artists in music as a solo artist, band leader for The Jerry Douglas Band and his GRAMMY-winning bluegrass band The Earls of Leicester, as well as a member of groundbreaking ensembles including Alison Krauss & Union Station, J.D. Crowe & the New South, The Country Gentlemen, Boone Creek, and Strength In Numbers. As Jerry Douglas continues his incalculable influence on country, Americana, bluegrass, and their many related genres, he forges ahead as a true pioneer in American music.
About Peter Rowan (performing Friday, Saturday & Sunday): Peter Rowan's bluegrass career started as a Blue Grass Boy in 1964. By Bill Monroe's own admission, Peter sounded a lot like him. When the two harmonized together, they were said to have reached "heavenly heights." Monroe & Rowan co-wrote what has already become a bluegrass standard, “Walls Of Time.” Peter's touring bluegrass band consists of outstanding players Keith Little, banjo; Paul Knight, bass; and Mike Witcher, dobro. The band features original songs written by Rowan along with Carter Family and Bill Monroe favorites. This is a winning combination for an audience that knows and loves this music!
About MerleFest: MerleFest, presented by Window World, celebrates its 35th celebration on April 27-30, 2023. MerleFest started in 1988 as a fundraiser for the Garden of the Senses at Wilkes Community College to memorialize world-renowned flatpicker Doc Watson’s late son, Eddy Merle Watson. In keeping with the MerleFest traditions, 2023 will offer jams honoring MerleFest’s past, present, and future. The celebration also aligns with the late Doc Watson’s 100th heavenly birthday. The festival plans to celebrate the life of Doc & Merle Watson and the history of MerleFest both visually and musically through vintage videos and artist collaborations.