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The 13th annual Rhythm & Roots Festival announces its spectacular all-star lineup for 2010.  Held at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Rhode Island every Labor Day weekend, the festival has become a destination event drawing roots music and dance fans from all over the country.  This year the festival is held Sept 3-5, 2010. Ninigret Park is located at 4890A Old Post Rd, (just off Route 1), Charlestown, RI  02813.  For tickets and info:  www.rhythmandroots.com, 1-888-855-6940.  Hours:  Friday, 5:00 pm to midnight and noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. (more…)

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Old-time-tastic!

by Michael Parrish

String band music is not standard fare on country music cable channel CMT. Yet earlier this year, acoustic quartet Uncle Earl could be seen in regular rotation on the channel, performing its very traditional-sounding instrumental “Streak o’ Lean, Streak o’ Fat.” The music may be traditional, but the video involves a kung fu showdown: Two warring dance clans engage in a clogging duel, join together for one big group clog, then sit down to eat together.

Uncle Earl

Uncle Earl

Commercially successful female string bands have a rich history, stretching back at least to the 1920s with the Coon Creek Girls, but there has never been an ensemble quite like Uncle Earl.

The group was initially established by current guitarist KC Groves and singer/songwriter Jo Serrapere, back in 1999. The name did not refer to any real person, but instead represented an archetype of a musician that might be found playing the group’s style of music. Over time, musicians came and went before the group solidified near the end of 2003 as a touring entity that included Groves, multi-instrumentalist Kristin Andreassen, clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn, and fiddler Rayna Gellert. All had previously worked in musical settings of various types and had active solo careers. However, the four musicians found the chemistry of their new partnership irresistible, and the lineup stuck. In the five years the current group has been together, the members’ enthusiasm, virtuosity, and engagingly quirky onstage manner has made the group a festival favorite.

At this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado, the four g’Earls (as they have come to label themselves) were a constant musical presence, individually and collectively. After they wound up an afternoon “New Generations Jam” workshop with the Duhks and a variety of other young old-time musicians, guitarist KC Groves and Rayna Gellert were able to sit down at a coffee shop to discuss the proper descriptor for the traditional string band music they play. Is it “old-time” or “old-timey?”

“Some people are sticklers about that. I never say old-timey myself,” said Gellert.

“I hear people say bluegrassy a lot. That’s kind of bluegrassy,” offered Groves.

“Actually, in describing Uncle Earl, I could say old-timey. It’s like saying old-timeish, which I would say about our music. We’re a heavily old-time-influenced string band,” Gellert said.

“We’re old-timey!” Groves agreed.

“Old-time-tastic!” Gellert asserted.

This is an excerpt from the print edition of Dirty Linen #139 (December 2008/January/February 2009). The full article is in the magazine, available on newsstands, by subscription, and at the Dirty Linen webstore.

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