If it’s February, it’s Cayamo time again. This week we have Boom Baker, whom you should know well from his numerous photos, taking over the helm of the Lens column. It was his eighth cruise and, if you’re like me, after reading his experiences during that week, and viewing the photos that he and three other photographers took, you’re going to ask, “Where do I sign up?” Now, here is Boom Baker:
The Kick Off with John Prine
On an early February morning I boarded the Norwegian Pearl in New Orleans for my eighth Cayamo music cruise, with stops in Cozumel, Mexico, and Harvest Caye, Belize. Between ports there were 135 performances and over 42 different artists and groups. There were many highlights for myself, the alumni, and the 579 maiden voyagers. Those magic moments are hard to describe … but not easily forgotten. What follows are a few.
"A Celebration of John Prine” was the sail away show that kicked off this year’s Caribbean adventure. Prine himself was first to appear on the pool deck stage, much to everyone’s delight, singing “All The Best.” He was followed by adoring artists who performed 17 of his songs. It was a heart-warming and soul-shaking show.
Brandi Carlile and Margo Price
Brandi Carlile and Margo Price were everywhere, sitting in with just about everyone. Perhaps the show of the week was their set together, swapping stories and songs. Carlile opened with a song about the Carlile men,“The Same Old You.” They showed great vocal chops on old country songs, and it was a delight watching them trade off lines in “Red Dirt Girl.” “Landslide” was a mind-bending moment that made time stand still. When Carlile asked Price who her favorite songwriters were, she responded Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. After Price’s story about singing with Kristofferson at the Newport Folk Festival, they did a jaw-dropping beautiful “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” It’s performances like these that creates the magic that is Cayamo.
Buddy Miller, Paul Thorn, and The McCrary Sisters
Buddy Miller is one of the reasons we come each year, and this year’s highlight show was with Patty Griffin and Lee Ann Womack. They covered the waterfront of great old songs, including “Ain’t No More Cane on the Brazos” from the Basement Tapes. Miller has a way of taking nearly forgotten, overlooked songs and weaving them into gold. Womack’s version of “Long Black Veil” dug deep into my soul. Although dark, her mournful adaptation was seriously beautiful.
Paul Thorn and the McCrary Sisters’ “Mission Temple Fireworks Revival” show in the Stardust was one of those took me to church and put me in the amen corner experiences. I get goos-bumps when I hear what heavenly inspiration they shared with us that afternoon with “Come on Let’s Go,” “Got to Move,” and the soul-stirring cover to the O’Jays classic,“Love Train.” They had us on our feet feeling the spirit.
Fresh Voices: Joe Purdy, Amber Rubarth, Steve Poltz, and The War and Treaty
Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth, fresh from the release of the film and its soundtrack, American Folk, dove deep into a treasure chest of vintage folk songs, along with their own. Their inspired performance made us keenly aware of the impact folk music has had on the current popularity of Americana music. Perhaps the most moving moment was a song they wrote for the movie, called “Townes.” Even now, over 20 years after his passing, Van Zandt’s spirit shines on. The show filled me up with the beauty of simpler times.
A great tip of the hat goes out to Steve Poltz, a first-timer. I don’t think I have laughed as hard at any musician’s banter more than at his shows. Plus, he was everywhere on the boat, and so outgoing and giving that he won the hearts and minds of a lot of folks and made a slew of new fans. Here's him doing, "God, I'll Trade You Donald Trump for Leonard Cohen":
There’s always someone new that knocks your socks off. This year it was Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount, better known as The War and Treaty, who appeared at Shawn Mullins Variety Show. After their all too brief 10-minute set, the audience burst into one of the most amazing spontaneous standing ovations I have ever experienced. Blount was moved to tears of joy as they were overwhelmed with the love and appreciation they were shown by the Cayamo community. What a tremendous impression they made.
One final thing, it was during Mullins' annual Variety Show that he "crowned" Carlile the Queen of Cayamo. And I was lucky enough to be there and get the photo.
Can’t wait till next year, all aboard this Americana love boat.
But you don’t have to wait to see all the photos that Boom, Brenda Rosser, LJ Fowler, and M. Hammer took during that week of magic in the slideshow below. There are some stunners, and photos of many more folks not discussed above.