WILKESBORO, NC (Jan. 16, 2018) – MerleFest, presented by Window World and slated for April 26-29, is proud to announce the additions of The Mavericks, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Mandolin Orange, Alison Brown and Brandy Clark to the 2018 festival lineup. The annual homecoming of musicians and music fans returns to the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC. MerleFest has already announced over 75 artists for 2018, including Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Rodney Crowell, Rhiannon Giddens, Elephant Revival, The Devil Makes Three, a Midnight Jam hosted by Town Mountain and Jim Lauderdale, and many more. The rest of the distinguished lineup for MerleFest 2018 will roll out over the next few months.
The genre-defying Mavericks are declaring their independence and stepping out on their own with “Brand New Day,” the first studio album released on Mono Mundo Recordings, the label they founded in 2016. “Brand New Day” is the follow-up to the widely praised albums “Mono” (2015) and “In Time” (2013). Flashing the same exhilarating, beyond-category style that has defined the Mavericks, the new album introduces a collection of taut, energetic, economical songs sure to be embraced by both original fans of their top-10 albums and hit singles of the ‘90s and a new generation of listeners who have joined the party since their triumphant 2012 reunion. It is the mature and timely work of an exciting and underestimated American band that has embraced its own destiny.
“This is the first studio record on our own label, and it is an important component in the band’s history,” Malo says, “but the real goal was just to make a great record.”
The new collection – co-produced like its immediate predecessors by the band’s golden-voiced singer Raul Malo and Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Melissa Etheridge), who is partnered with the band in the new Mono Mundo imprint – features the core members of the group since their reformation: Malo, drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Eddie Perez, and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, along with auxiliary members “the Fantastic Four” filling out the set’s brawny sound with their signature accordion and horns. The Mavericks will play the Watson Stage on Thursday night.
With one eye on using the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage and the other pulling the noble instrument from its most familiar arena into new and unique realms, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s second album “Echo in the Valley” is simultaneously familiar and wildly innovative. “Echo in the Valley” is the follow up to Béla and Abigail’s acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. This time around, the mission was to take their double banjo combination of three finger and claw-hammer styles “to the next level and find things to do together that we had not done before,” says Béla. “We’re expressing different emotions through past techniques and going to deeper places.”
The results are fascinating, especially considering their strict rules for recording: all sounds must be created by the two of them, the only instruments used are banjos (they have seven between them, ranging from a ukulele to an upright bass banjo), and they must be able to perform every recorded song live. Fleck and Washburn will play the Watson Stage on Friday night.
Mandolin Orange’s music is “laced with bluegrass, country and folk…often wistful and contemplative without being somber, and always firmly grounded in the South” (WNYC). The Chapel Hill, NC duo has built a noteworthy catalog of recordings and performances since their founding in 2009. Their live shows are filled with vibrant chemistry, effortless instrumentation, and breezy, fluid harmonies that continue to win over local and far away fans. Recent performances include Red Rocks Amphitheater, Telluride Bluegrass, Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo and Pickathon, with 2018 performances in support of the Avett Brothers at PNC Arena and Josh Ritter at the Ryman Auditorium. Hailed by No Depression as “one of the most talented acts making music today,” Mandolin Orange’s most recent album “Blindfaller” debuted #3 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart, was featured on NPR’s Heavy Rotation and made Rolling Stone’s “40 Best Country Albums of 2016.”
“The musical tapestry of “Blindfaller” is delicately woven with lush threads of acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin and pedal steel, all ever-present without ever overplaying. However, it’s the vocal interplay of Frantz and Marlin that is the band’s most distinctive calling card” (Rolling Stone). Lean in to the album and you’ll understand why. You’ll hear the way it magnifies the intimacy at the heart of the North Carolina duo’s music, as if they created their own musical language as they recorded it. Mandolin Orange will play the Watson Stage on Friday night.
Alison Brown has taken an unlikely path in establishing herself as one of the most critically acclaimed banjoists in the world. A former investment banker (she has a bachelor’s degree in History and Literature from Harvard and an MBA from UCLA), she toured with Alison Krauss and Union Station and Michelle Shocked before forming her own group, The Alison Brown Quartet. She has recorded 10 critically-acclaimed solo albums, received four Grammy nominations, a Grammy award and the Banjo Player of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Alison has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered and in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She was personally requested to play at the inauguration of Harvard’s first female president, Drew Faust, and was a recipient of Irish America Magazine’s “Stars of the South Award” for her efforts towards the “cultivation and preservation of Irish music.” In 2014 she was awarded the prestigious United States Artists fellowship for excellence in music. Alison and her band have performed at a long list of music festivals in the US and abroad including The Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, MerleFest, Rochester Jazz Festival, Celtic Connections (UK), Verbier Festival (Switzerland), Country Gold (Japan). Alison is also co-founder of the internationally recognized Compass Records Group, which has been called by Billboard Magazine “one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade.” She currently serves on the board of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and on adjunct faculty of Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. Alison Brown will play the Hillside Stage on Saturday and the Watson Stage on Sunday.
The Nashville, Tennessee-based Brandy Clark received her first of an impressive six career Grammy nominations in 2013 in the Best Country Song category for co-writing the Miranda Lambert No. 1 hit “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Her talent as a storyteller has quickly propelled her into critical acclaim as one of Nashville’s best tunesmiths. Subsequently writing songs for Sheryl Crow, The Band Perry, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Billy Currington, Darius Rucker, and Kacey Musgraves to name a few. In 2015, Brandy independently released her own debut album “12 Stories,” which embraced by music lovers and critics alike and was subsequently nominated for two Grammys including Best New Artist and Best Country Album. 12 Stories went on to be named “Best Album of 2013” by The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, NPR, The New York Post, and more. Brandy also won the 2014 CMA Song of the Year Award for “Follow Your Arrow,” which she co-wrote with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, and was also nominated for a CMA New Artist Of The Year that same year. 2016 brought the release of her sophomore album “Big Day In A Small Town,” which also garnered two Grammy nominations for Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance (“Love Can Go To Hell”) and once again topped critics’ “Best of” lists including NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, among others thus cementing Clark as one of country music’s most talented artists, beloved by fans, critics, and fellow entertainers alike. Famed music critic and author, Ann Powers, calls Clark, “a storyteller of the highest caliber.” Brandy Clark will play at the Watson Stage on Friday.
“We are extremely excited to be adding these artists to an already stellar lineup for 2018. They represent the diverse talent that MerleFest is famous for,” says Ted Hagaman, festival director. The 2018 current lineup may be viewed at www.MerleFest.org/lineup.
Tickets for the festival may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org. MerleFest offers a three-tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take advantage of the extended early bird discount. Early Bird Tier 1 tickets may be purchased from Nov. 14 to Feb. 18, 2018; Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from Febr. 19 to April 25. Tickets will be sold using Tier 3 pricing at the gate during the festival.
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