Jason Isbell, The War and Treaty and Lost Dog Street Band top the 26th Master Musicians Festival lineup

By Matt Wickstrom

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit | Danny Clinch

SOMERSET, Ky. — Four-time Grammy award winner Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, The War and Treaty and Lost Dog Street Band will perform at the 26th annual Master Musicians Festival, to be held on the campus of Somerset Community College from July 19-20, 2019.

Joining the aforementioned artists are Cedric Burnside, Charley Crockett, The Tillers, The Josephines, Nicholas Jamerson, Johnny Conqueroo, The Baja Yetis, Jericho Woods, Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, Senora May, Chelsea Nolan, Josh Nolan, Mama Said String Band, The Handshake Deals, Kevin Dalton & The Tuesday Blooms, Laid Back Country Picker, Lylak, The Winetree, Sean Whiting, Chris & Jenn Shouse, Pearlie Jenkins and Spooky Fox. 

The festival will also feature two songwriter sessions. Friday’s festivities will begin with a session led by Darrin Hacquard, Tim Delonjay, John Clay, Tim Lancaster and Eric Bolander. Saturday’s session moves into the early afternoon and will feature Abby Hamilton, Jen Tackett and Wonky Tonk.

“One of the most unique characteristics of our festival is the board’s ability to find and feature artists just before they make it big,” said MMF President Tiffany Finley. “The Avett Brothers come to mind. St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Jason Isbell. We are incredibly honored Jason Isbell is returning to our stage, having risen to the top of the Americana scene and experiencing continued success. It is a wonderful testament to the blood, sweat and tears we put into this festival.”

The headlining performance from Isbell will be the artist’s first time performing the festival since 2012, shortly after embarking on his solo career. His wife, singer-songwriter and fiddle player Amanda Shires, performed solo at the festival in 2018.

In fact, a family theme exists with many of this year’s performers. Playing just before Isbell on Saturday evening is husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty. Michael Trotter is a wounded warrior who found
his voice while serving in Iraq, when he was pulled from the frontlines to write songs for the fallen. Wife Tanya is a lifelong artist, drawn to singing’s power to take another’s pain away. Together they bring funky bass lines, keys, lap steel, acoustic strings, and stripped-down percussion to create a swampy Southern soul bed for their transcendent vocals.

Also joining the 2019 gathering is Muhlenburg County, Ky.’s Lost Dog Street Band, another husband-and-wife duo that has crafted a distinct sound best described as “dark country.” In the same vein as country-legend Guy Clark, the band’s Benjamin Tod weaves his melodies and lyrics together to offer
listeners an unapologetically raw and authentic account of the human experience.

On Friday night, MMF brings its best blues game with headliner Cedric Burnside, Grammy-nominated in 2015 for Best Blues Album and recipient of the Blues Music Awards Drummer of the Year honor for four consecutive years. The 39-year-old still lives near Holly Springs, Ms., in a home where he was raised by his grandfather, the late singer/songwriter/guitarist R.L. Burnside whom Cedric famously played with, just as his own father, drummer Calvin Jackson, did.

Taking the stage before Burnside is Charley Crockett, whose unique approach to American roots music — a mix of Texas blues, classic country and Cajun soul — has earned him an audience on both sides of the Atlantic.

The 2019 iteration of the Master Musicians Festival will also feature the return of the Eastwood Records Stage sponsored by Citizens National Bank in Art Valley and the addition of acoustic music inside the SomerSessions tent. SomerSessions is a Somerset, Ky., based recording studio that brings listeners local and regional music, art and stories from southern Kentucky.

“We had an incredible response to our addition of the second stage last year for the 25th anniversary,” said Finley. “We want to bring that back year after year — for music to be everywhere you turn when you’re on Festival Field. The heart of our mission is to deliver a rich and affordable music experience for the people of southern Kentucky, and we’re able to keep ticket prices low with the generous help of our title sponsor, Don Franklin Somerset, and a host of supporting sponsors. This year we’re making that
experience even more abundant.”

Held annually in July, the Master Musicians Festival has been named Southeast Tourism Society’s Festival of the Year and the Governor’s Awards for the Arts Outstanding Community Arts Organization.

In addition to two days of eclectic, diverse music, the Master Musicians Festival offers meet-and-greet workshops hosted artisans and musicians, as well as a wide variety of art and food vendors. MMF also showcases juried artisans and craftsmen, and recognizes a Kentucky artist whose festival-themed work is auctioned and featured on merchandise.

Weekend passes to the 26th annual festival are on sale now at mastermusiciansfestival.org.


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