Swallow Hill Folk and Roots Music Festival Delivered!


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Last night, I attended the Swallow Hill Folk and Roots Music Festival at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver.  To be honest, the only reason why I bought tickets was to see Bruce Cockburn but I got so much more.   The show started at six and we got almost  6 hours of top quality folk music from southern spirituals to Australian indigenous music.  To top it off, it was all staged in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House that, by far, was one of the best venues I have visited.  The acoustics and mix of the music was amazing.

The show was emcee’ d by Harry Tuft(Swallow Hill Founder), Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore.  Between each set they would perform one or two classic fold song to help pass the time.  I was really impressed by the guitar playing of Tuft and Moore, they both played together but it seemed as if it was one instrument.  The collaboration of their guitars were inspiring.  Moore was the nice surprise with his blues fingerstyle licks all over the fingerboard.  He more than once got the crowd going with his playing.

Other Acts:

  • Souther Journey, featuring Emily Morgan Bates and Marta Burton:

Morgan Bate’s voice filled the hall with her voice with old time southern spirituals like “Wade in the Water.”  It was a great start to a wonderful evening.

  • Fifth World:

Mix Australian didgeridoo playing with Native American flute and rhythm, you have Fifth World.  First time I ever heard them and I’m getting their CD now.  The rhythms of the didgeridoo and the calmness of the flute was intoxicating and I wanted more.  If you like good mood music with a cosmic feel, check them out.

A three piece band from Arizona playing traditional Mexican music with the and Arizona flair.  Tight rhythms and perfect harmonies during their set and thy topped it off playing one of my favorites, “Volver, Volver.”  I’m a sentimental fool, that song reminds me of my grandma.

Yet another first time listen and I will definitely get their CD.  There were so many things I could go on about them but what got my attention was the mandolin play of Ernie Martinez.  Worthy to note was their rendition of Men at Work’s “Man Down Under.”  I Highly recommend a listen.

These guys (and gal) totally surprised me.  Wasn’t sure to what to expect but they didn’t disappoint.  High energy Jazz in the spirit of the 30’s and 40’s, they got the crowd rocking.  Two brothers in the band were Andy and Joe Wilson and it was fun to watch them.  They would switch between instruments in the middle of the song and I’m not just talking 1 or 2 but three or four.  From fiddle, resonator, trombone, trumpet, harmonica and even a flute, they played each instrument like it was their main one.  A pleasure to hear.

A legend in her own right, Nanci Griffith was nothing short of magnificent.  Her beautiful voice resonated through out the hall and I was hooked.  She played for about an hour and her energy was infectious.  She chatted with the audience and told stories just like a true folk musician should.  

Bruce was great but you will get a more detailed description of his set in my next post.

I have to say that the Swallow Hill Folk and Roots Festival was worth every penny that I paid for my tickets.  Swallow hill needs to be congratulated for bringing such a talented group of musicians to Denver last night.  Swallow Hill Music association is a hidden jem in not only Denver but all of Colorado.  I encourage you to check out their site at http://www.swallowhill.com/

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