Cayamo’s First 24 Hours
One day, and my head is already spinning in a rhythmic whir of sunshine and great music. In the past 24 hours since we left port in Miami, I’ve seen Shawn Mullins (with Brandi Carlile sitting in for a song) on the pool deck. His set was a pretty even selection from his several albums, closing with his big radio hit “Rockabye.” Mullins has come a long way since that pop hit, and his songwriting has become much more lyrically complex. His voice and Carlile’s blended well – a lovely soulful blend – and proved to be an early crowd pleaser. Indeed, it was the first set of the whole cruise, so it set a well-defined bar for everything which followed.
Later last night, I caught Sarah and Christian Dugas in a room that looked like it was waiting for a belly dance and a hookah party. Beds draped in crushed velvet line the walls, “golden” dragon statues thrust out from the bar. To the left and right of the room, there are bowling alleys (of course). Not the kind of space you’d typically camp out for an outcropping of siblings from the Duhks to alternate between soulful introspective songwirterly tunes and Cajun classics, but the whole thing worked.
Later, WPA played what was – for me – the closing set of the night. It wrapped around 1 am (2 am if you’re counting the time change), and saw songs by WPA members Sean Watkins, Glenn Phillips, and Luke Bulla, as well as some guesting spots from Dan Williams, who sat in on keyboards. The four-part harmonies were much more than ear candy, with instrumental breaks leaving plenty of room for Watkins and Bulla to duke it out. Easily one of the early highlights of the trip.
Today, I kicked things off with Lee Zimmerman from Blurt, as we counted down our favorite love songs in front of a live audience. Later on the pool deck, Enter the Haggis brought the dance party – bagpipes and all. I’ve enjoyed their recordings, but can now firmly say they’re enjoyed best on a pool deck with a bucket full of lager and a crowd of new friends. There was impromptu (if imperfect) riverdancing going on. A mid-afternoon party, before retiring back to the would-be hookah lounge for a World Café special Valentine’s Day song swap from Will Hoge and Scott Miller (which I would count as Early Highlight Number Two).
In about an hour, I’ll catch Dar Williams for a quick minute before finally seeing John Prine for the first time. He seemed to have been sound checking while we were conducting interviews with Sam & Ruby and David Ryan Harris (more on those when I get my land legs and some time to transcribe). But, from what I could hear through the doors, Prine will be worth the wait.
As for the experience itself, we’re only one day in. But, the lineup is even more incredible than last year – if that’s possible. Even the jam sessions happening in “Bar City” are worth stopping to listen to. Yesterday, a crowd of acoustic guitars and mandolins played a rousing version of “The Weight”. Meanwhile, slightly later in that space, I happened upon Toby Lightman – whose name I’ve only heard, but whose music I had not. The couple of songs I caught as I stopped to listen were enough to seek out more, and I’d recommend her to anyone into the singer-songwriter thing.
We’re on a smaller ship this year, and so feels a little more crowded. Finding a seat at shows has proven to be a bonus for those who plan ahead and show up early. Still, that’s a minor glitch in what is still shaking out to be one of the finest festivals I’ve experienced.
It’s been a pleasure to at last meet some long-time ND members and frequent commenters, and I look forward to the No Depression party tomorrow.
I recognize this blog post reads mostly as a series of names, but internet is a rare luxury while at sea. I promise to have more interesting things to say as the days go on. I’ve seen Annaliese Moyer on the ship a few times, and trust she’ll follow behind me with some of her beautiful photos. Until next time…