WEST PLAINS, MO. – The 19th annual Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival will feature the “founding fathers” of Americana music and one of its newest generation of performers when the two-day celebration of Ozarks culture takes center stage June 14 and 15 in downtown West Plains, Mo. The event will take place in and around the West Plains Civic Center at 110 St. Louis St. and along East Main Street. Admission is free.
Headlining this year's festival will be one of the groups credited with starting modern Americana music, The Flatlanders, on Friday, June 14, and one of the genre's new up and coming groups, Nora Jane Struthers Y The Party Line, Saturday, June 15. Both performances start at 8 p.m. on the main stage just east of the civic center. "We are excited to have The Flatlanders with us this year," said Kathleen Morrissey, a member of the festival organizing committee. "They are renowned as one of the originators of the folk and roots sound that was prevalent in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and their music serves as the basis for the work such groups as Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line bring to the airwaves today. To have representatives of both ends of the spectrum on our stage this year is truly a treat."
The Flatlanders - Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and butch Hancock- developed their unique sound on the cotton-growing plains near Lubbock, Texas, in the early 1970's, combining the traditional sounds of country music with their own creative touches. The lifelong friends became known for their poetic lyrics and superior musicianship and quickly developed a cult following, thanks in part to their 1972 appearance at the Kerrville Folk Festival, where they were named one of the winners of the festival's inaugural New Folk Singer/Songwriter Competition. Although they performed publicly several times and made two album-length recordings later that same year, their songs received little attention and no airplay. The group agreed to disband, and each went on to have successful solo careers.
They were brought together again in 1998 when they were asked to write a song for the motion picture "The Horse Whisperer" starring Robert Redford. The collaboration worked so well, they decided to reunite to record three more albums of new material in the 2000s.
In August 2012, after 40 years in storage, one of the 1972 album-length recordings were rediscovered and released as The Odessa Tapes in honor of the small Odessa, Texas, studio where they were recorded and in recognition of the group's 40th anniversary. The pristine recordings of that first session capture without any polish the special blend of country, folk, roots and cosmic energy The Flatlanders pioneered.
NORA JANE STRUTHERS & THE PARTY LINE
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line is a traveling "carnival" of acoustic Americana. The high-energy, Nashville-based quintet performs Struthers' original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies over a sound bed featuring fiddle, clawhammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass and drums. The group was catapulted into the spotlight in 2010 when they won a blue ribbon for their performance at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition. Now, the group is touring heavily in support of their April 16 album release, Carnival. “When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” Struthers said in press materials from the group’s publicist. “That’s what I’m trying to do with this album – craft vignettes and, in some cases, more developed narratives about imaginary people’s lives.”
Virginia-born Struthers was educated at New York University's Steinhart School of Education. She taught at a charter school in Brooklyn while cutting her teeth as a folk-rock perofrmer in New York clubs. In 2008, she decided to perform full time and made haer recording debut in "Dirt Road Sweetheart," a duo with her father. Her 2010 solo debut, Nora Jane Struthers, received ecstatic reviews.
Joining these two acts will be blues musician King Clarentz of Springfield, who will take the stage at 6 p.m. Friday, and The Franz Family of northern Arkansas, who perform at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Clarence Brewer, aka "King Clareentz," is one of the last old time African American "stomp and moan" Delta style blues players native to southern Missouri. In the tradition of Robert Johnson, "Homesick" James, Son House, Lead Belly and John Lee Hooker, King Clarentz performs depression era and early 20th century "race music blues," which serves as the root form of much of today's popular music, including jazz, rock, R& B and modern country.
Known throughout the Ozarks as a blues musician, sculptor and painter, King Clarentz, spent years honing his musical skills in the Ozark hills and the San Francisco Bay area. His 2008 release, Day of the Supermodel, remains true to the Delta blues style that first garnered him attention in 1999, but it also branches out into rawer, grungier terrain. His unique punk twist on the traditional genre appeals to rock fans and blues purists, both young and old. Because home state concert performances are rare for King Clarentz, there will be a small exhibit of visual arts, including sculpture, paint and printed works, addressing a range of agrarian and rural themes at the festival, Morrissey said.
THE FRANZ FAMILY
The Franz Family, who joined Colin Elmore on stage at last year's festival, is comprised of four siblings who grew up playing music together in the hills of the Ozarks and performing on stages in jBranson. They've developed a deep respect and love for the nature of music-the way it draws hearts together and expresses emotions never uttered in conversation. Their roots are dipped in bluegrass, yet they have created their own style over time, adding touches of the rock and folk genres to create a truly unique sound. The Franz family toured the U.S. full time for 20 years and in 2011 decided to settle down and start their own families. While no longer touring, the family still holds tightly to their love of music and making it together. The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is the signature event for West Plains. The two-day festival seeks to celebrate, perserve, pass on an nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands.