The heart of the summer means that the Rosendale Street Festival is upon us: July 18 and 19 on Main Street in Rosendale. There will be plenty to eat and drink and buy, but this festival – staunchly, fanatically – is about music and always has been. Maybe we forget that most small-town street fairs have a couple of cover bands, a bouncy house, a clown or a fire-eater and a voter registration drive – not six fully outfitted stages and 74 musical acts over two days, the thickest gathering of the local stalwarts and heavies on the calendar. For hill people, we have a lot of stalwarts and heavies.
Surveying the lineup, we see many of the cornerstone and flagship acts of this venerable festival: Peter Head’s psychobilly trio Pitchfork Militia; the surreal “kindie” duo Ratboy, Jr.; Woodstock’s fiercely talented prog/folk songwriter Joey Eppard; Vanessa Kniceley and Kniceley Done, a new family project involving one of the festival’s key organizers, the virtuoso fusion bassist Charlie Kniceley.
The stages, as always, are well-apportioned and allocated stylistically. The more Xtreme dimensions of rock tend to keep to the Mountain Stage, but all the stages amp up gradually toward a nighttime crescendo. Original folk, blues, jam, funk and a dash of turbulent psychedelia (for example, Tulula!) form the primary colors of the style palette.
Some surprises this year? To be sure. It is great to see the uncategorizable punkish world-rock quartet the Fasads back in action after a long hiatus. Soulia and the Soultans have rapidly evolved from the Market Market house band to a viable, sophisticated and stylish concern.
There are too many headliners on the bill to call them headliners. Deni Bonet and Gabriel Butterfield (son of Paul) are names that you might recognize. Mad Satta is a seriously buttoned-down big, original soul and funk outfit with a line on the bigger stages. The elegant folk/pop songwriter Jude Roberts has been anchoring the festival for years. The rootsy New Paltz singer/songwriter Brittani O’Hearn consistently dazzles with the biting depth of her lyrics. The Seth Davis Band plays its namesake’s heartfelt and witty indie/folk songs that blend classic rock with Dylanesque narrative. The elegant guitarist Jose Lopez’s project Rice and Beans takes soul blues to dangerous places.
We mentioned the 74 acts, right? I am tired and have to go now. The festival is loaded with good bands and solo performers, names you know and names you don’t. Check the schedule at https://rosendalestreetfestival.ning.com and plan your walking circuit. And remember, the outrageously musical Rosendale Street Festival is a 100-percent-donor-and-volunteer-driven enterprise. It’s on us to keep it going.
My only question is: Where is Ross Rice? Oh yeah, Nashville. I hear they have music there too.
Rosendale Street Festival, Saturday/Sunday, July 18/19, 12 noon on, free, Main Street, Rosendale; https://rosendalestreetfestival.ning.com.
Payne’s Grey Sky plays Rosendale Street Festival this Saturday
I met the acquaintance of Jimi Scheffel at the turn of the millennium when his wife – my colleague and herself a Berklee grad – discovered that Jimi and I shared a rather burning interest in music and put us in touch. Usually that means one thing, and I’ll leave it at that. But in Scheffel, I found a lefty with a big backlog of really good songs and a set of interpretive skills remarkably polished for a public school teacher without a band or much of a venue for performance at that time, other than the occasional open mic. The songs were psychologically probing, long-form, narrative and Dylanesque, but with a lovely and sad Celtic lilt and a bracing tendency to veer occasionally from oracular folk toward modern rock territory. It was one of those hidden-riches moments, but I wasn’t in much of a position to do anything about it.
The company at which his wife and I worked burst with the bubble, and we all lost touch. But imagine my utter and absolute lack of surprise when I discovered that this cat had a working band – Payne’s Grey Sky – and a fine new record out: Payne’s Grey Sky.
The first track, “We Will Bend,” establishes a lot of the ground rules of the disc. Lyrically, it is bardic, perching with impeccable balance between personal and social, addressing relationship challenges in a high diction that could just as easily be describing the historical moment. Musically, it’s ecstatic chamber folk/rock, an unrelenting Mumfordian four-on-the-floor groove counterbalanced by an elegant string arrangement. “Delusions of Grandeur” introduces Sheffel’s taste for epic narrative; “When It Comes to Love” boards the American train groove. The lovely title track reinforces what “Delusions of Grandeur” first suggested and what numerous tracks downstream will confirm: Scheffel’s lyrical and melodic Muse is most opulent and most at home when working in 3/4 and 6/8.
Bassist Rich Dymond and drummer Dave Sahloff round out the core ensemble with playing that is subtle, steady and dynamically attuned to the swelling and subsiding forms of Scheffel’s folk/rock epics. No fewer than ten guest performers account for the record’s many chamber-folk details, accents, solos and flourishes, and these include some names that you know: Professor Louie on four tracks, Connor Kennedy on two and the local songwriter-of-note Casey Erdmann contributing essential harmonies on three songs.
Payne’s Grey Sky manages to be both plainspoken and humble in sound and richly detailed and ambitious in its musical development. It is a fitting and nicely realized expression of that talent that I thought I discovered more than a decade ago, and I am glad that I can say a word about it now. The beautifully packaged and feature-rich physical CD is available at CD Baby, and the music is available digitally at all the usual outlets.
Payne’s Grey Sky’s performances are infrequent but regular. They’ve got one coming up at the Rosendale Street Festival on Saturday, July 18 at 1 p.m. on the Café Stage.
Payne’s Grey Sky, Saturday, July 18, 1 p.m., free, Café Stage, Rosendale Street Festival, Main Street, Rosendale; https://rosendalestreetfestival.ning.com.