Rhythm & Roots Celebrates 20 Years

Sep 4, 2017

On Sunday, the 20th annual Rhythm and Roots music festival in Charlestown closed out with some great music, some wet weather and then a double rainbow.

The music of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys sounded late into the night on Sunday at the Rhythm and Roots dance tent, a fitting end to another festival of Americana roots music and that specialty of the bayou, Cajun French dance grooves. This festival was the 20th incarnation of Rhythm & Roots, and Riley and band have been at every one. (In fact, Riley was a regular at R & R's earlier ancestor, the Cajun & Blugrass Festival in the 1980s.)

Drizzling rain, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, made for soggy listening during the day, but by early evening, when Canada's fiddling couple Natalie McMaster and Donnell Leahy took the stage, the sun had come out and sparked a double rainbow over the crowd. By the time Rosanne Cash appeared, there was an almost-full moon shining from clear skies.

Cash, with a set of original songs and roots classics, referenced her family legacy and with her band, led by husband John Leventhal, delivered some blistering rock and blues as well. An unusual touch was her reverent and spooky rendition of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe."

For Cash, it was her first time at the festival. She said she hadn't been avoiding the venue, which would seem a natural for her music. "They just told me they've been trying to get me here for a few years, and I did not know that," she said. "So I'm happy to finally make it."

After her set, Cash had praise for the audience. "This crowd, I mean that was an impressive crowd. A lot of festivals you play, there are a lot of drunk people, they're kind of crazy, they're there for the ride," she said. "But these people were there for the music. They were really listening. It was great."

Another crowd favorite was ShinyRibs, delivering a mix of country-soul and swamp-funk. Taking the main stage after Rosanne Cash were the New Orleans Suspects w/ Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett of Little Feat.