Darrell Scott Returns to Folks Fest for 22nd Year of the ‘Summit on the Song’

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:: Rocky Mountain Folks Festival ::
:: Planet Bluegrass Ranch :: August 18 ::
:: (Festival runs August 17 - 19) ::

By Timothy Dwenger

Every summer, in late August, there’s an idyllic little meadow by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, Colo. that becomes home to thousands of folk music lovers. Musicians and fans rub elbows as they rush from soaking their feet in the river to catch one of their favorites perform what will undoubtedly be a special set of music. While performers from Jackson Browne to Ben Harper to Randy Newman have showered praise on the venue and the festival from the stage, it is often the lesser known artists that leave the biggest impression in the memories of festival goers. Joe Pug and Dan Mangan recently played break-out sets at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival (aka Folks Fest), but there is one man who has been playing the festival every few years for the last 15 who never fails to leave audiences spellbound, and that man is Darrell Scott.

“When I’m sleeping and I dream of playing music it is on that stage in Lyons that the dream is set,” Scott told The Marquee after a day of pub crawling on a narrow boat through canals just outside London, in the midst of a tour of the U.K.  While reactions like this aren’t uncommon from younger artists, the 53-year-old Scott has played on stages large and small all over the world with artists ranging from Emmylou Harris to Bill Frisell to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Scott went on to share other reasons why the stage at Folks Fest is one of the best places to play in the world.  “You are heard there via the great crew and sound system and you are listened to by the great, soulful, fun audiences that the fest brings,” said Scott.

Though his stellar career has largely flown under the radar of many music fans, Scott recently got some very high profile exposure when Robert Plant tapped him to be a member of Plant’s project Band of Joy, where Scott was credited as performing on vocals, mandolin, guitar, accordion, pedal and lap steel, and banjo. In Band of Joy, Scott played alongside accomplished musicians such as Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and, of course, Plant himself. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience and Scott had high praise for the former Led Zeppelin frontman. “He is a lifetime artist. He is always seeking, reaching towards the music he has not done yet,” Scott said.  “I love being around lifetime artists.”

One might argue that Scott himself is a “lifetime artist” by his own definition. In addition to releasing nine albums, he has been nominated for Grammy awards, been named “songwriter of the year” by several different organizations, and penned songs for artists like Travis Tritt, Brad Paisley, and Keb’ Mo’. While he has always walked a fine line between folk and country, Scott recently released what he defines as a true country album by the name of Long Ride Home.

The album features 16 songs that Scott recorded with the intention of “setting out to sound country. As in old country, pre-video country,” he said. “I have heard some cultures have 40 words for snow — it’s the same with country music.” Though they may have the twang of a pedal steel, shuffling beats and images of trains, these songs are most definitely not the mainstream or WalMart country music that you think of on the radio and TV today. These are the kinds of songs that might have graced the stage of places like The Grand Ole Opry fifty years ago in the hands of artists like George Jones, Merle Haggard, or Buck Owens.

Of the 16 tracks on this record, Scott wrote two of them with his father, Wayne Scott, back in the early ’70s when he was just 16 years old. “It was a grand, elevated thing to do with my Dad,” Scott remembered. “He had rented a cottage at Big Bear Lake in California just so we could write together,” Scott said. Both of those songs, “You’re Everything I Wanted Love To Be,” and “The Country Boy,” are early indicators of the kind of songwriting prowess that Scott would go on to exhibit in adulthood.

This year, Scott is taking a week out of his busy schedule to share some of the secrets he has accumulated over 40 years of songwriting with the eager group of students who will be attending the Song School that takes place during the week leading up to Folks Fest. Having done this in the past, Scott spoke fondly about the week as he remembered what previous Song Schools have taught him. “I love to talk to students about this mysterious process of writing song. I listen and speak up when I have something to say that may help or guide,” he said. “I love seeing lights come on in their faces when they sense what they are capable of or when they get some aspect that was sitting there but had not been fully realized yet in a song.”

Scott’s had a long and rich career so far and he is sure to go on and mesmerize countless more music fans around the world with his soulful voice, masterful playing, and thought provoking lyrics. He is a treasure of American music and I’m sure there are many Folks Fest faithful who dream of Darrell Scott up on that stage in Lyons when they dream about their next trip to the meadow by the St. Vrain.


:: Darrell Scott ::

:: Rocky Mountain Folks Festival ::

:: Planet Bluegrass Ranch :: August 18 ::

:: (Festival runs August 17 – 19) ::

 

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• Guy Clark

• Buddy Miller

• Steve Earle

 

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