Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 8pm

Arts & Entertainment

2018 Montana Folk Festival Announces First Sevcen Performers Coming to Butte July 13-1

Annika chambers
Wylie The Wild West
CJ Chenier edited
Iberi Georgian Choir

(from Press Release) BUTTE, MT - Montana Folk Festival organizers today announced the first seven performing artists/groups coming to the 2018 Montana Folk Festival in Butte, Montana, July 13-15. 

Admission is free to all performances during the three days of the festival, although organizers urge patrons to "Pony Up" a contribution of $20 per person and $25 for a family to sustain the festival in this year and in years to come.

For anyone who doesn't want to wait until the festival to Pony Up, they can visit www.gofundme.com/2018MFF or send contributions of any size by mail to Montana Folk Festival, P.O. Box 696, Butte, MT  59703.

This year, 20 performer groups representing a broad diversity of musical and cultural traditions will perform on the festival's six stages in Uptown Butte.          

"This is the eighth year of the Montana Folk Festival in Butte,” says Festival Director George Everett, "after three years as the National Folk Festival in Montana."  “In this 11th year, everyone planning to attend, no matter how well they think they know this festival, should come expecting to be amazed. This first set of performers only represents one third of those who will be performing.  We're just getting warmed up, so check in at our Facebook page -- mtfolkfest for the latest developments."

The first seven performing artists/groups confirmed for the 2018 Montana Folk Festival are:

Annika Chambers


Houston, Texas

Annika Chambers, like many powerful vocal artists, can trace her love of music back to early childhood.  

“I grew up singing in the church,” she says. Not that she had to tell us. Citing the gospel influences of Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, Dottie Peoples and Whitney Houston, you can’t help but feel the Spirit moving through the entire room when Annika throws herself into the heart of a song. But it was during her two tours of duty in the US Army that Chambers realized the gift she had. “One of my colonels heard me singing, and he said, ‘Why don’t you sing the Anthem for one of our ceremonies?’” She was an immediate hit and became their first choice for all their music events, joining the gospel choir and even winning the talent show on her base. From there, Chambers became part of a touring band making the rounds through Kosovo and Iraq, providing a welcome lift for the troops’ morale. She also planned special events, concerts, dances and karaoke nights, always doing her part to infuse the good time music into their lives.

Returning to Houston in 2011 led to the creation of Annika Chambers and The House Rules Band. Audiences loved their combination of blues and soul and started paying attention to that powerhouse voice behind the microphone. Among her admirers was bassist Larry Fulcher (2012 inductee to the Blues Hall of Fame) and producer/musician Richard Cagle of Montrose Records. By the end of 2014, Chambers’ debut album “Making My Mark” was climbing blues charts across the US and Europe. Her meteoric success and rising attention brought Annika Chambers the coveted nomination for 2015 BMA (Blues Music Award) Best New Artist 2015. Her second release, Wild & Free did not disappoint, with a debut at #7 on the Billboard Blues chart. Building on her success, Chambers used this opportunity to showcase her ever-improving abilities to sing across multiple musical genres. The word continues to spread on this rising star as festivals from South America, Europe and right in her own backyard (Minnesota Bayfront Blues Festival, Las Vegas Blues Bender, Gloucester Blues Festival, Mississippi Delta Blues Festival) race to feature Chambers in their lineup. A full-time music career can keep a person busy and yet Chambers always finds time to give back to her community. Chambers has a deep passion for supporting and inspiring the next generation of musicians. When performing, she’ll often shift the spotlight to local youth musicians and she also donates time speaking in classrooms about the legacy that is the blues.       




Wilkesboro, NC

ShadowGrass is a group of young musicians from Western North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia.  Holding to their bluegrass roots, fast picking, and fresh arrangements have earned the band numerous awards in youth and adult competitions across the region. Among other accolades, they were honored to be chosen as a featured youth band for the IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival in 2016.

ShadowGrass has been called “one of the most thrilling bluegrass bands to emerge from the musically rich Crooked Road area in recent memory.” 

The band includes Presley Barker, guitar; Kyser George, bass; Luke Morris, mandolin and Clay Russell, banjo.  At the Montana Folk Festival, ShadowGrass will be joined by accomplished bluegrass fiddler Daniel Greeson.

Presley Barker, 13, has been playing acoustic guitar for six years. Living in the North Carolina mountains and listening to Doc Watson on the radio inspired Presley to begin picking fiddle tunes and bluegrass music. He has been influenced and mentored by Steve Lewis, Wayne Henderson, and Bryan Sutton, quickly emerging as an astonishingly gifted flat-picker. In 2015, Presley won first place in the prestigious Adult Guitar Competition at the 80th Annual Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention and released his first solo album,JUST-TEN, that fall.  In 2016, he was named West Virginia State Flatpicking Guitar Champion and followed up by winning the Wayne Henderson Guitar Competition in 2017.

Luke Morris, 17, has grown up in Galax, Virginia, surrounded by bluegrass music. When he was 12,  he got his hands on a mandolin while taking a guitar class and quickly fell in love with the instrument. He enjoys playing and singing anytime and he is also passionate about teaching traditional music to other students. 

Clay Russell, 17, has lived in Grayson County, Virginia his entire life. He received his first banjo when he was four years old and learned to pick out song melodies using his thumb. At around age ten, he began using the three finger method. A few years later he started entering local competitions and collaborated to help form ShadowGrass. Clay will be the first to admit his favorite part of any festival or competition is getting to play at various venues and meet and pick with other musicians, many who have become great friends.

Sitting in on his father’s band practices from the week his parents brought him home from the hospital, Kyser George, age 13, of Westfield, North Carolina, grew up steeped in the musical heritage of Stokes County. Kyser received his first instrument, a mandolin, at the age of 6 and it quickly became evident that the rhythm section was Kyser’s niche. After receiving instruction from his father, David George, Kyser discovered his love of bass at age 9.

The "old man" of the group, Daniel Greeson, 20, is an accomplished bluegrass fiddler,  At his young age he has already won many prestigious competitions throughout North Carolina and Virginia, competing in both youth and adult divisions, but Daniel’s resume holds more than just contest wins.   He released his first solo CD by Patuxent Music in 2014. John Lawless of Bluegrass Today wrote of that project,  ”Every track is full of life and excitement, and some mighty fine picking. If you like to hear young artists embracing the traditions that have been handed down, you can’t go wrong with Daniel Greeson.” He now has released his second solo project-"Done Gone" also by Patuxent Music.  From playing his first fiddle at six to winning at an abundance of fiddler’s conventions, Daniel Greeson is a seasoned musician in the bluegrass world.


Wylie & The Wild West

Cowboy/Western Swing

Conrad, MT

They're back!  Long-time festival fans may remember one of the first performances of the festival was Wylie and the Wild West in 2008.  A decade later, Wylie is back to perform on the stages of the Montana Folk Festival.

Wylie Gustafson is a native Montanan singer/songwriter with more than 20 albums and 4 decades of performing, writing, and recording under his belt.  Wylie has matured into a dynamic talent, and has become one of the few authentic voices of the American West.  One critic called him, “…the coolest cowpoke around. Forget everything you hate about modern country, this guy is old-school cool without being a tired period piece."

Wylie is a Montana and an American Original.  Over the last 30 years, he and his band, The Wild West, have performed their blend of cowboy, western swing, old school country, and yodeling music worldwide. Stateside, they have performed at such prestigious venues as the National Folk Festival, MerleFest, the Bumbershoot Festival, The Stagecoach Festival, A Prairie Home Companion, The Conan O’Brien Show and the Grand Ole Opry (with over 50 guest appearances).  Worldwide, their universal appeal has taken them to China, Russia, Australia, Europe, South America, and Japan.  

Wylie’s music has been baptized with a hardy dose of trail dust and horse hair.    As an accomplished cutting horse and roping enthusiast, he has claimed several hard won regional and national titles within the National Cutting Horse Association astride his super-horse, “Whiskey”.  

Despite his successful career in music and yodeling, when not touring he still gets up every day and tends to the livestock on his Cross Three Quarter Horse ranch near Conrad, Montana. It grounds him and is the backbone of his art.

As a seasoned singer/songwriter, Wylie has etched his presence onto the American music scene and is the originator of the High Plains Yodeling style which evokes the loneliness of his northern Montana home. His voice echoed in millions of homes as the prominent yodel in the successful Yahoo! Advertising campaign with his trademark “Ya-hooo-ooo!”  His top selling book “How to Yodel- Lessons to Tickle Your Tonsils” is the number one selling book of its genre.  Wylie has become a nationally renowned voice-over artist for the advertising, movie and TV world.

The band members, guitarist Clayton Parsons, drummer Tim Lashley, and bassist Johnny Pope, are all virtuoso players. Wylie and the Wild West will be bringing along new tunes from their latest CD, 2000 Miles from Nashville.


C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band


Houston, TX        

Clayton Joseph (C.J) Chenier was born  in Port Arthur, Texas on September 28, 1957 - the son of the great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier.  C.J.'s father was the first Creole musician to win a Grammy Award. C.J. spent his childhood in the tough tenement housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas. His earliest musical influences were an eclectic mix of funk, soul, jazz and Motown, and his first musical instruments were piano, tenor saxophone and flute. It wasn't until his 21st birthday, after winning a scholarship and studying music at Texas Southern University, that C.J. first performed with his famous father and the legendary Red Hot Louisiana band. 
On the road his father showed him how to front a world class touring band - teaching C.J. how to run the family business and how to develop his lifelong passion for music into a career. When Clifton died in 1987 his son adopted the Red Hot Louisiana Band and recorded his debut album for the great American independent label Arhoolie Records. As he told a journalist at the time, he does not try to imitate his father's playing: "I play it the way I play it. All my father really told me was to do the best I could do with my own style." In the following years C.J. would record albums Slash Records and the legendary Chicago label Alligator Records. 

When Paul Simon recorded his 1990 album Rhythm of the Saints, he handpicked C.J. Chenier to play accordion (alongside Ringo Starr on drums) then asked him to join his “Born at the Right Time Tour”.
C.J,‘s 1995 appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and CNN brought C.J.’s music to even wider audiences. But all this attention didn’t change his philosophy toward his music. “You go to a gig by a jazz band,” he says, “and everybody's sitting down, sipping drinks. You play zydeco and you see shoes flying off. You can’t come to my show and stay unhappy all night long. You’re going to break a smile and stomp your foot before too long. This is happy music, and it makes you dance.” 
Nowhere was this more evident than the band’s 1996 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where their raucous performance caught the attention of VH1, which featured Chenier in a segment on the event. 

Caution Ahead: CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band's performances at the Dance Pavilion at the Montana Folk Festival may result in a massive dancing frenzy. 


Iberi Georgian Choir

Popular singing has a highly valued place in Georgian culture. Polyphonic singing, in the Georgian language, is a secular tradition in a country whose language and culture have often been oppressed by invaders. There are three types of polyphony in Georgia: complex polyphony, which is common in Svaneti; polyphonic dialogue over a bass background, prevalent in the Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia; and contrasted polyphony with three partially improvised sung parts, characteristic of western Georgia. The Chakrulo song, which is sung at ceremonies and festivals and belongs to the first category, is distinguished by its use of metaphor and its yodel, the krimanchuli and a cockerels crow, performed by a male falsetto singer. Some of these songs are linked to the cult of the grapevine and many date back to the eighth century. The songs traditionally pervaded all areas of everyday life, ranging from work in the fields (the Naduri, which incorporates the sounds of physical effort into the music) to songs to curing of illnesses and to Christmas Carols (Alilo). Byzantine liturgical hymns also incorporated the Georgian polyphonic tradition to such an extent that they became a significant expression of it. Having previously suffered the drawbacks of socialist cultural policies, traditional Georgian music is now threatened by rural exodus as well as by the increasing success of pop music. In many archives one finds recordings of polyphonic songs from the beginning of the twentieth century; these recordings are, however, not secure enough to guarantee the long-term preservation.

Georgian Folk Choir “Iberi” was established in 2012 by singer Buba Murgulia who from 1994 to 1996 was a member of the State Ensemble for Song and Dance.  He was a member of “Kapela” as well as vocal group Ensembles under Technical University of Georgia from 1995 to 2000 and in 2010 he was a member of the Group “The Shin,” participating at that in European and Georgian concerts. Murghulia is also a member of the Ethno Jazz Band "IRIAO".

“Iberi” aims to popularize folklore of Georgia, a country that is famous for its rich cultural traditions, not only throughout Georgia but beyond its borders as well, preserving and sustaining ancient Georgian singing traditions.

The Group searches for ancient Georgian songs, including pagan era compositions aiming at including them in their repertoire to bring them to life in modern times. The repertoire of the Group also comprises songs from all regions of Georgia. Moreover, "Iberi” seeks to popularize the ancient Georgian folk musical instruments as number of compositions are performed on them.


Fairfield Four

A Capella Gospel

Nashville, Tennessee

The initial iteration of the Fairfield Four was under the direction of the Goodlettsville, Tennessee Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church's assistant pastor, J. R. Carrethers, and consisted of his sons Rufus and Harold plus their neighbor John Battle. In 1925, the group became a quartet when South African immigrant Lattimer Green joined the congregation and then joined the group. During the 1930s, Green left the group and William Malone and Samuel McCrary joined, but they retained the name of Fairfield Four, although it had expanded its membership beyond a quartet.

In 1942, the group won a contest that resulted in an appearance on 50,000 watt radio station WLAC, with a hook-up to the CBS radio network. This performance was so successful that the group continued to perform on WLAC for the next decade.

During the 1940s, the membership of the group continued to evolve. Their first recording session was held in 1946 at Nashville's Bullet Records and over the next 15 years, the group released over 100 recordings on several record labels. By 1949, Sam McCrary assumed leadership of the group and they continued to record and tour, with various membership changes. In 1954, McCrary left the group to become a minister. More personnel changes ensued, but by the late 1950s the group's popularity had waned, along with the decline of interest in a cappella gospel singing. The group disbanded in 1960.

In 1980, the group re-formed to participate in a special "Quartet Reunion" program in Birmingham, Alabama  The revitalized group has continued to perform since the 1980s.

John Fogerty loved Fairfield's rootsy sound so much he decided he had to feature them on his second comeback album, Blue Moon Swamp singing on the track "A Hundred and Ten in the Shade." Later, after its release, he had the group open for him on many tour dates in support of his new CD.          

In 2003, they performed with Dolly Parton on the song There Will Be Peace in the Valley for Me from her album For God and Country. They were later featured on the song Rock of Ages by Amy Grant and Vince Gill on Grant's 2005 album Rock of Ages...Hymns and Faith.

The Fairfield Four's own album Still Rockin' My Soul! was released in 2015, and won the Best Roots Gospel Album at the 58th Grammy Awards.

Known best for their appearance at the end of the film O Brother Where Art Thou?, and on the subsequent soundtrack release, the Fairfield Four are alive and well and still singing in the traditional African American a cappella gospel style they have been known for since the group's inception nearly  100 years ago.


Heron Valley Band

Celtic Ceilihd

Glasgow, Scotland

The Heron Valley Band is an energetic, young traditional ceilhd band from Scotland.  Cèilidhs are Celtic social gatherings that bring the community together highlight cheerful and lively music, poetry, storytelling, and dance.

While discos and nightclubs have largely displaced Cèilidhs, they are still an important and popular social outlet in rural parts of Scotland, especially in the Gaelic-speaking regions. Cèilidhs are sometimes held on a smaller scale in private or public houses, for example in remote rural hinterlands and during busy festivals.  In Scotland, privately organized cèilidhs are now very common in both rural and urban Scotland, where bands are hired, usually for evening entertainment for a wedding, birthday party, celebratory or fundraising event. These may be more or less formal, and very often omit all other traditional Gaelic activity beyond the actual music and dancing.

About half of the dances in the modern Scots Cèilidh are couples' dances performed in a ring. These can be performed by fixed couples or with the lady moving to the next gentleman in the ring at or near the end of each repetition of the steps. In Ireland, the similar style of dance is called céili dance or fíor (true) céili dance. 

The appeal of the Scottish cèilidh crosses generations and dances vary in speed and complexity to accommodate most age groups and levels of ability. Most private schools in Scotland will also often hold cèilidhs.  Universities in Scotland hold regular cèilidhs, with the University of Edinburgh providing a number for students throughout each term, especially the long-running Highland Annual, the oldest cèilidh in Edinburgh and the largest in Scotland, organised by the Highland Society ('An Comann Ceilteach').

In performance, Heron Valley Band tries to convey their unique Scottish sound and energetic performance to ensure their audiences are absorbed by the enthusiasm. This will comprise of a lineup of Bagpipes, Fiddle, Vocals, Whistles, Banjo, Guitar, Piano, and drums.  The five-piece group comprises banjo player/drummer Nick Hamilton, guitarist/piper/whistle player Euan McNab, pianist Arlene Mackechnie, guitarist/vocalist Abigail Pryde and bassist Callum Cronin. 
Since forming in 2011, Heron Valley strives to convey the highest amount of energy to every crowd they play to, ensuring that people who come to see them perform live have a fantastic experience. Heron Valley has made a massive impact on the folk scene in Scotland, and 2017 has seen them tour, playing on stages all over Europe.

With the positive reaction they have received on tour, and the demand for more recordings of their music, the Heron Valley Band is now focused on supporting their new album, ROAM.  With their debut album ROAM out and a tour that starts in the US with the Montana Folk Festival in Butte in July.


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