“The sun’s about to come out!” That was Jayhawks keyboardist Karen Grotberg’s joking promise as darkness had fallen on Old Settler’s Music Festival in Driftwood, along with the first steady rain of the day, just past 8 p.m. on the Bluebonnet Stage.
It wasn’t an outright downpour, though, and most of the Minneapolis alt-country band’s fans seemed plenty happy to stick it out to hear old favorites such as “Nothing Left to Borrow” along with a few fresh tunes from the band’s new album coming later this month.Also check out our Friday Old Settler’s report
The sun actually did tease briefly in the late afternoon, almost peeking through the clouds as dobro master Jerry Douglas and his all-star Earls of Leicester played songs of the iconic bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs on the Hill Country Stage. Most of the day consisted of cool temperatures beneath overcast skies that dropped a few sprinkles every hour or so, but the rain rarely lasted more than a few minutes.
One great place to duck away from any wetness was the Discovery Stage, where several artists played intimate “workshop” sets throughout the afternoon. We caught two great ones from Wimberley-raised Sarah Jarosz, now living in New York City, and bluegrass kingpins the Del McCoury Band, whose leader wisely observed of the roof overhead, “Well it don’t matter if it does rain now!”
Joined by his sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) plus fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, Del reminded that there is simply no better act in bluegrass today. He took requests from the audience — “Nashville Cats” was a highlight — as well as plucking a tune from their just-released “Del & Woody” album of Woody Guthrie lyrics set to new melodies, which they promised to explore more deeply later in their main set on the Hill Country Stage.
Earlier, Jarosz was simply wonderful performing solo on acoustic guitar and her large octave mandolin, giving folks a sneak preview of her upcoming album “Undercurrent” (due in June) along with a few from her first three albums. She also took questions from the audience and discussed what life was like for her in New York, where she moved after graduating from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music a couple of years ago.
“I still feel like a Texas girl, though,” she assured her fans. “It’s always good to go back home and remember where you come from, so this festival is doing that for me.” The audience returned the appreciation, turning out in large numbers for her full set on the Hill Country Stage later.
Indeed, locals are always part of the mix at Old Settler’s. Following Jarosz on the Hill Country Stage was fest veteran Shinyribs, who’ll also play Sunday’s campground finale at 4 p.m. at nearby Camp Ben McCulloch (weather permitting). Earlier in the day, the Bluebonnet Stage featured exemplary performances by blues firebrand Carolyn Wonderland and indie-rock singer-songwriter David Ramirez.
Following Ramirez was the Jay Farrar Trio, whose set concentrated on the recently reissued 1995 album “Trace” that Farrar made with Son Volt shortly after leaving alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. Later, after the Jayhawks’ rainy-day music, the indie-folk duo Milk Carton Kids helped to bring the night to a close, along with Austin’s own Bob Schneider in the final headlining slot.