Three Best Things About Day Two at the Newport Folk Festival

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by Kim Ruehl, for FolkAlley.com

1. Hurray for the Riff Raff – This New Orleans-based outfit delivered one of the finest sets of the day, hopping from soul to country, to swamp-folk that was heavy on the dancing fiddle. There are no fancy tricks from this band or any force at work other than purely genuine, excellent songwriting, and honest-to-goodness great instrumentals. They pulled Spirit Family Reunion onstage toward the end, just to make sure they had the largest sound possible. But the crowd of people onstage didn’t cut one bit into the level of earnest authenticity pouring from the vocal mics.

2. Trombone Shorty doing “St. James Infirmary” – Speaking of New Orleans, Trombone Shorty took the mainstage in the middle of the afternoon and unleashed the funk. Their entire set was tight and heavy on the groove. Electric bass solos from Michael Ballard were on fire, and the entire band seemed to be flying on some incredible plane. But it was their delivery of the sweaty old number “St. James Infirmary” which brought out some of the most jaw-dropping horn work of the set, certainly the finest of the festival so far.

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3. The Avett Brothers sing-along – Scott Avett seemed to be on a “singing high and quiet” kick this time around. He closed out a number of the Avett Brothers tunes by taking his voice higher and quieter, presumably aiming for the vocal fade-out. There’s nothing more folky than an audience sing-along, but this one took that tradition in a whole new direction. About halfway through their set, he asked the crowd to come along with him on this odd vocal journey. In “repeat after me” fashion, he got the huge mainstage audience singing at the highest sighs of their voices. Everyone was game and followed right along, like thousands of hissing and sighing balloons.

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