Walnut Valley Festival makes lineup changes

Organizers have announced several changes in the lineup of performers to play at the 49th Walnut Valley Festival on Sept.15-19 in Winfield.

“Some of the changes are cosmetic. Most of our hires were made in 2019, and a few bands have changed their names in the interim. Missy Raines recently changed her billing to Missy Raines & Allegheny. Helen Avakian & Dave Irwin are now known as Red Door Duo,” media director Rex Flottman said.

While most of the performers scheduled to play in 2020 have agreed to play live this year, a few are unable to appear for various reasons. Marley’s Ghost, a West Coast band of veteran musicians loved by the Winfield crowd for their ability to play a variety of styles, from roots to rock, blues to bluegrass, gospel to country, will not return to touring out of state until 2022.

Adam Miller, an autoharpist, folksinger and storyteller will likewise stay close to home due to the wildfire situation near his residence in Oregon.

The festival had a few resources already on hand to fill the sets left empty. Several additions to the lineup were announced in February, including the addition of the Dillards, a legendary band known to bluegrass aficionados and newcomers alike.

A second band, Pretend Friend, was added to this year’s list of performers after winning the festival’s online Battle of the Bands.

Now festival spokesmen have announced that several other performers have been added to provide for the right “Winfield” mix. Rachel Baiman and George Jackson are a multi-instrumentalist old time and Americana duo from Nashville, Tenn. Baiman’s June 2017 album “Shame” was featured on NPR’s “Songs We Love” and was nominated for Americana Album of the Year in the Independent Music Awards.

New Zealand native George Jackson spent years on the Australian festival circuit, and since moving to Nashville, has worked with bands including the Missy Raines Trio, Front Country and Peter Rowan.

Old Sound, a trio based in Kansas City with roots in Winfield, craft traditional and original acoustic folk music. Led by Grady Keller’s imaginative storytelling, the trio is strengthened by the exploratory bluegrass flat-picking style of Chad Brothers and the playful doghouse groove of Greg Herrenbruck on upright bass. Both also take turns leading the group vocally.

Brothers and Herrenbruck grew up in Winfield, and all three have made appearances on campground stages at festival. Old Sound’s initial album “Rain Follows the Plow” was joined by “Deluge,” released in 2021.

They will be joined by Jo Ann Smith, a three-time autoharp champion (1999 and 2013 at Winfield, and 2003 at the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship). Smith is known for her expertise with the diatonic autoharp. Her unique, melodic and expressive playing style has won her legions of followers on YouTube with more than 1 million views to date.

Three-time National Flatpicking Champion Allen Shadd will return to play at both the Champions Concert (showcasing the previous year’s contest winners) and on stage in a duo with flutist Kristen Holloway.

One final change, sadly, relates to the recent death of legendary fiddle player Byron Berline. The Byron Berline Band will be playing now as the Byron Berline Band & Legacy Grass.

Berline, a gifted musician, was at the first Walnut Valley Festival in 1972 and many thereafter, and played at various times with several of this year’s performers, including Dan Crary, Steve Spurgin and the Dillards. His band is planning to invite some special guests to join them in one of their sets to honor Byron.

The 49th Walnut Valley Festival is Sept.15-19. For additional information about the performers, contests and other festival activities, or to purchase advance tickets, visit www.wvfest.com. Tickets can also be purchased by phone, (620) 221-3250, or during business hours Monday through Thursday at the festival office, 918 Main St., in Winfield.

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