The thing I like about writing this column is that I not only get to report on what's happening in the world of roots music photography, I have the opportunity to share with others people, places, and events that are doing significant, rewarding things within our community. Despite the cable news syndrome that seems to merely repeat the rhetoric that's constantly spewed by political leaders, there a much more unifying force at work: a movement to keep roots music and traditions alive and passed on to others.
Culture Camp Preview
A prime example of that comes later this month in the form of the four-day Culture Camp (July 15-18) that precedes the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance (July 19-22) in Trumansburg, New York. Now in its third year, the Culture Camp has increased its number of workshops to 37. They include not only instruction on the instruments of roots music (from beginners to expert), but also yoga, painting, dance, and more by some 90 instructors. There are also workshops specifically tailored for young folks.
Where else could you learn the banjo from household names in the roots music community such as Richie Stearns (the Jimi Hendrix of the banjo and festival president), the fiddle from Rosie Newton and Judy Hyman, accordion from Preston Frank, the scrubboard from Steve Riley? Where else at the end of a day can you have themed dinners and dances with your fellow campers and instructors?
I will again be attending the Camp, and while a link is proved below to a full listing, I can tell you that the workshops and instructors are even more diverse this year, spanning country, zydeco and Cajun, Cuban, old-time, hip-hop dance for youths, and rap. Here are just a few workshops I am excited about.
J.P. Harris and his band, from Nashville, specialize in honky tonk music. They will be there all four days and will bring a country music presence for the first with six workshops: "Country Songs Old and New," "Origins of Country Drumming," "Country Harmony Singing," "Pedal Steel," "Songwriting," and "Telecaster Guitar." They'll also play the Sunday night dance.
Speaking of Nashville and country music, Sierra Ferrell recently moved there and she's bringing her own brand of Americana to the country and songwriting workshops. She's busked all around the country and has been getting a lot of local buzz in Nash City. She'll also also perform at the festival, and with Harris on Sunday night.
Songwriting and Singing
Songwriting is the most popular of workshops. The Camp has always offered diversity, but this year the styles are even more so, with not only Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins (Donna the Buffalo and Culture Camp founder), but also Tenzin Chopak, Taina Asili, Uniit Carruyo, Keith Secola (Native Americana), and rappers Daniel Lisbe and Joshua Higgins of Gunpoets. Mr. Americana himself, Jim Lauderdale, returns to share his wit, insight, and wisdom. But the real treat looks to be Anna Coogan, who brings more of an avant garde ambiance to her writing and performance.
Lori Burke, who has written songs for Sesame Street and has worked extensively with children, will, along with Amy Puryear (Laila Belle), lead the "SingSong" workshop for youths.
On the Road
This year the Camp will feature a workshop on a topic that can break all too many artists before they can begin to get traction, the business side. Ben Greenberg (Donna the Buffalo's manager) and Mollie Farr (Lost Buffalo Artists) lead the "On the Road Again" workshop, discussing the ins and outs on touring, agents, record companies, publicity, venue owners, and other nuts-and-bolts items.
Cajun, Painting, and More
Legends Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys highlight a week of Cajun music and will teach all week and play the Monday night dance. Preston Frank, Kevin Wimmer, Brazos Huval, Kevin Dugas, Sallay Freund, and Sam Broussard, just to name-drop a few, will also lead workshops.
John Vanderhayden will again be instructing the painting workshop. This is the one place where folks of all ages, particularly parents and their children, and ability levels come together and share their gifts. There's also a lot of laughter.
Finally, another fascinating aspect of the Camp is that instructors are not limited to leading just one type of workshop. For example, this year Jim Lauderdale will teach tai chi (!) and Taina Asili will lead discussions on social change.
Here's all you need to know about Culture Camp, the instructors, the workshops, the schedules, and available on site camping: https://www.grassrootsfest.org/culture-camp/
It's not only a relaxing way to hone your skills, it's also a nice prelude to the festival that follows. I promise you won't regret it.
Now, scroll through some photos of Culture Camps past and this year's instructors.