Rockin’ Women at Rhythm and Roots

There’s nothing I like better than a woman who can really make some noise, and without the benefit of artificial smoke or spandex. I got a double dose at the 2013 Rhythm and Roots Festival over the Labor Day weekend in Charleston, Rhode Island. It’s one of my favorite festivals, and I’d been away too long.

yvette landry

Yvette Landry with ace fiddle player Beau Thomas, who showed up later in the day playing with Roddie Romero. He was everywhere. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I minored in female vocalists at the College of Musical Knowledge, but I had never heard of Yvette Landry. I’m making up for that now. She opened up the Sunday festivities and, as the announcer said, the festival is all about cajun and crawfish, but Landry is a honky tonker.

In fact, she’s the whole package, a great singer, a great songwriter, and the leader of a band tighter than a drunk in a brewery. Of special note was fiddler Beau Thomas, who just locked into the groove and never let go. Landry, who is an educator and children’s book author, with two CDs out, is well worth checking out. She specializes in pungent done-me-wrong stories, and they really go down easily.

I needed a dose of Eilen Jewell, and she was on fire at Rhythm and Roots, even taking my request for Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City.” Starting out as a more conventional singer-songwriter, she met one of the rockingest bands in the known world, and now she’s a honky-tonker, too. Here she on my shaky video with “Rain Roll In,” a matter-of-fact way of looking at life (and especially it’s end):

I’m not the first guy to say this, but Jerry Miller, her guitarist, is simply one of the best in the world, able to distill 50 years of American roots tradition in a one-minute solo. He never over-plays. Eric Clapton needs to hear him–the effect will be similar to his first encounter with The Band. I totally enjoyed the workshop Miller (who has his own first album out) did later that night with two other splendid guitarists, Bill Kirchen and Albert Lee. Sure, they tried to outdo each other, but it was great, anyway, (And, no, he’s not the same Jerry Miller who was with Moby Grape.)

Hot Tamale Brass Band

The Hot Tamale Brass Band were among the strolling minstrels at Rhythm and Roots. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Rhythm and Roots boasts cheap food, strolling minstrels (like the brass band above) and even a swimming hole. If Rhode Island isn’t on the other side of the world, put it on the calendar for next year.