MUSIC BOX: Women rule Targhee Fest

By on July 15, 2015

From Grammy-winning legends to grassroots songstresses, the female-heavy lineup allures

Amy Helm, left, and  Patty Griffin are just two of the female tour de forces headlining Targhee Fest this weekend.

Amy Helm, left, and Patty Griffin are just two of the female tour de forces headlining Targhee Fest this weekend.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Targhee Fest will certainly feature more women than ever, and this batch of female artists is exceptional. Brandi Carlile, Patty Griffin, Amy Helm, Mavis Staples and Martha Scanlan are all phenomenal vocalists with a genuine songwriting knack and stylistic approach that sets each of them apart from contemporary female pop stars.

That’s what Targhee Fest promoter and Vootie Productions’s Tom Garnsey has excelled in for 11 years — staging artists that blur the lines of American roots styles, able to own the stage with a personalized touch, yet blend seamlessly into the next set with the audience’s anticipation of musical discovery.

“I’m always conscious of having a strong female presence at the festivals,” Garnsey said. “It does play out somewhat organically in that we are subject to who’s touring and when/where. This year, we were working on Mavis Staples and then heard she was putting together a tour with Patty Griffin and Amy Helm, which is a great fit for Targhee. Mavis fills the legacy piece of the bill, where folks get a bit of a history lesson tucked into a phenomenal show. Brandi Carlile is one of today’s most dynamic new artists and young people really respond [to her]. We always want to cover youth, history, hippies and singer/songwriters. We really aim to make a great big umbrella with incredible music under it.”

Friday’s lineup kicks off with the great songs and soloing of Jeff Crosby & The Refugees and is followed by the virtuosic voice and captivating nature of Martin Sexton. Then, a Warren Haynes solo set preludes a finale with his crunchy-rocking jam band powerhouse Gov’t Mule (who actually headlined the first Targhee Fest). Haynes releases a solo album later this month, “Ashes and Dust,” a collection of folksy story tunes that never seemed to have fit his other projects.

A string of female energy will engulf the first half of Saturday’s lineup. Usually a quintessential fit to the Targhee Bluegrass Festival lineup, country-folk sweetheart Martha Scanlan (formerly of The Reeltime Travelers) is followed by Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers. Amy is a founding member of roots band Ollabelle, and her bloodline is traced to her father Levon Helm — late drummer for The Band. Like her dad, she has a knack for transmitting folk and rock into a deep, soulful place.

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Patty Griffin is one of the most revered of female Americana artists. She is set to release her tenth studio album, “Servant of Love,” this September. She doesn’t tour that often, so this is a must-see. Her relationship with Robert Plant is also no more, so why not hit the road?

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples released a 2010 album “You Are Not Alone” with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, which earned a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album. Staples is currently rounding up sessions for her father Pops Staples’ last album “Don’t Lose This” (also produced by Tweedy), as well as a feature-length film about her life and career called “Mavis!”

Caption: Amy Helm, left, and  Patty Griffin are just two of the female tour de forces headlining Targhee Fest this weekend.

Monster instrumentalist Jackie Greene will kick Saturday’s gear into overdrive with an improvisational approach to Americana, soul and poppy R&B. He rolls into Alta with his first studio outing in five years in “Back to Birth.”

As for Saturday headliner Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers, the Targhee crowd will feel like a living room session. Hornsby was a member of the five-show run of “Fare Thee Well” concerts to celebrate The Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, closing the run at Soldier Field in Chicago with about 73,000 fans. The word on the street is that Hornsby’s rhythm section—bassist J.V. Collier, a 20-year veteran of the band, as well as keyboardist/organist John “JT” Thomas and drummer Sonny Emory, who have played with Hornsby 24 and 12 years respectively, are roof-raising, extraordinary talents. Rounding out the band is fiddle/mandolin player Ross Holmes and guitarist Gibb Droll.

Sunday starts with Good Old War embracing pop and dance with folk tendencies, following by a staple in the region: alt-country songwriter James McMurty. The Wood Brothers trio has earned their way into the hearts of Americana/blues lovers with super songs, tight playing and a familiar feel that simultaneously registers as original. Sunday closes with the magnificent vocal pipes of pop Americana singer/guitarist Brandi Carlile and her longtime band mates. Carlile just played Bonnaroo and the Country Music Hall of Fame in support of her new album and first on ATO Records, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter.”

Don’t forget to check out the late night schedule at the Trap Bar — Sneaky Pete & the Secret Weapons (Friday, $5), Kris Lager Band (Saturday, $10) and The Hooligans (Sunday, free).

The 11th Annual Targhee Fest is Friday through Sunday at Grand Targhee Resort. Tickets are $69 per day or $179-$199 for the weekend.

Aaron Davis is an award-winning singer-songwriter, journalist, multi-instrumentalist, frontman for bands Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, and founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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