If you’re pining for some twang, make sure you head to the Northwest Folklife Festival on Sunday, May 24th for the Underwood Stables Show at the Fountain Lawn Stage beginning at 6 p.m. Featuring four acts – Caleb & Walter, Lowman Palace, Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer, and the Ganges River Band, the showcase is sponsored by the Seattle PI, KEXP, and last but not least, STACKEDD Magazine.
The rootsy line-up was selected by Robynne Hawthorne and Leigh Bezezekoff of the Underwood Stables Social Club. Formerly a venue for private events, Hawthorne says via email, “We’re on the road to creating memorable events in different locations around the city. Without the keys to our own stage, we’re bringing our previously private events, musicians, dancers, and outlaw swing to the public.”
The showcase starts with Caleb and Walter, who call themselves an Americana quintet, and that’s a good fit. Fronted by Caleb Blue on guitar and Paul Beaudry on mandolin, these two deliver heavenly harmonies and skillful picking. Backed by Brian Christianson on guitar, Colin Nelson on bass, and drummer Dave Bush, they play a blend of originals and covers, bluegrass and country, in an old-timey folk fusion – these guys should be a blast live. You can listen to clips here. They take the stage at 6 p.m.
I’ve seen guitarist/songwriter Dean Johnson and his new band Lowman Palace several times, and Johnson’s songs are so compelling, they always stun me into silence. There are no recordings as of yet, except this new song, “Annabelle Goodbye,” a haunting ballad that I can’t stop playing. Backed by lead guitarist Doug Arney, bass player Robert Mitchell, and drummer Dave Abramson, the band plays a mix of honky-tonk and wistful alt-country behind Johnson’s fragile but devastating voice. Lowman Palace play at 6:45 p.m.
American roots songwriter and guitarist Cahalen Morrison’s latest project, Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer, is honky-tonk drenched classic country complete with drinking songs and shuffles. Clearly influenced by Buck Owens and Ray Price, the songs on the band’s 2014 album “The Flower of Muscle Shoals” sound both vintage and fresh. Backed by a band that includes Mary Simkin-Maass on fiddle and vocals, Michael Conolly on bass, Ethan Lawton on drums, and secret weapon Country Dave Harmonson on pedal steel, I predict dancing during this set that starts at 7:30 p.m.
Looks like Harmonson is going to continue to get a workout when the Ganges River Band takes the stage at 8:20. Continuing with the country-songs-you-can-dance-to theme, the Ganges River Band came about after songwriter/guitarist/vocalist A.P. Dugas and bassist/vocalist Steven Burnett moved to Seattle from Houston. Legend has it they were going to start Seattle’s only honky-tonk band until they discovered the Ballard scene and realized they weren’t alone. Along with drummer Adrian Van Batenburg, the band plays honky-tonk and country/folk. They released their debut album, “I Am Your Man” in 2013.
The Northwest Folklife Festival is still free, and with this showcase over by 9 p.m., it’ll make a great pre-function for whatever else you’ve planned for the Sunday night of a holiday weekend – see you there!