THROUGH THE LENS: Cayamo 2019: ‘Woodstock Without the Mud and Drugs’
Emmylou Harris & Buddy Miller - Cayamo 2019 - Photo by Lisa Costantino
“Everything that happens between this Cayamo and the next is just filler.”
— Tommy Emmanuel (as reported by Brenda Rosser)
I followed this year’s Journey Through Song on the high seas more closely than in years past as its attendees were quite active in using social media to document their comings and goings. Two things became obvious: 1) Collaboration is the essence of the Cayamo cruise; and 2) Steve Poltz, with his boundless enthusiasm, seemed to be everywhere.
We are fortunate to have Brenda Rosser and Boom Baker to share their experiences, along with their photos, and the photos of Larry John Fowler and Lisa Costantino to document Cayamo 2019.
Boom Baker: The Strong Women of Americana
Sixthman’s Cayamo 2019 week-long music cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl was a dreamy reverie, complete with the fellowship of likeminded members of your tribe and inspired musicians. The number of women artists, and the of fans of both sexes who turn out for them, is my primary takeaway. The lineup not only displayed a wide diversity of talent, but they also keep raising the bar for creativity.
An energetic Emmylou Harris looked like she was having the time of her life. Her duet with Buddy Miller on “Love Hurts” was stirring. Carlene Carter, of the famous Carter family, was effervescent with her joyful music and brought a fresh excitement with her playful Carter Family stories.The pioneering Indigo Girls shows were as powerful as they were uplifting. After years of perseverance, Mary Gauthier has been recognized as a vital force. Performing songs from Rifles & Rosary Beads resulted in many goosebump moments.
Seeing Molly Tuttle trade guitar licks with legendary Tommy Emmanuel demonstrated how and why she’s a two-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year winner. She also received standing ovations at every show I caught.
Those who had never seen Kasey Chambers were in for jaw-dropping experiences. Her “Ain’t No Little Girl,” during Emmylou Harris’ Saturday Stardust Show was an epic Cayamo moment that even had the musicians on stage in awe. Jerry Douglas had to collect himself to finish his accompaniment.
Liz Vice, Maggie Rose, and Bonnie Bishop kept the tempo up and offered soul-stirring gospel, blues, and R&B. Red Molly had a grand week with their own shows and jamming with others; their Fleetwood Mac cover of “The Chain” was the best I have ever heard. Dori Freeman, backed by her husband Nick Faulk, took me back to times on the farm in Tennessee singing mountain songs.
Without a doubt my discovery of the week was Ariana Gillis. Her performances were seismic. Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin said, “She will prove through her recordings she is no flash in the pan flavor of the month but a force to be reckoned with now and for a very long time.” Her new album The Maze (produced by Buddy Miller) is organic, real, brilliant songwriting with stunning vocals.
Brenda Rosser: Break out the Champagne, It’s Woodstock without the Drugs and Mud!
The week at sea, filled with joy and laughter, kicked off with an Indigo Girls sail-away show that turned into a giant sing-along, which hinted at the female-focused lineup and celebratory week to come.
Outstanding collaborative shows this year were Shawn Mullins’ “Midnight Variety” set that had his band in pirate garb, with performances by Steve Poltz, Indigo Girls, Red Molly, Paul Thorn, The War and Treaty, and Bonnie Bishop, was so much fun it should be illegal. The “Woodstock” set blasted off with Jerry Douglas’ Hendrix-inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” and was followed by Billy Bragg’s rendition of “Pinball Wizard,” including mic twirling. Then came Red Molly’s sublime version of “Helplessly Hoping” that had everyone singing along. Steve Poltz regaled the audience with a story about Woodstock ’99 that involved leftover Foghat weed and a naked Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, closing with “My Generation,” complete with crowd surfing. Michael Trotter of The War and Treaty led everyone in the closing song, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Brady Blade’s drum workshop included Will Kimbrough playing “Salt Water and Sand” without Blade knowing what Kimbrough would play; Dawes’ Griffin Goldsmith (synchronous drumming); Buddy Miller joined in the first live performance of Emmylou Harris and Blade of Hendrix’s “May This Be Love;” The War and Treaty (a cappella); Eamon McLoughlin, Lillie Mae, and Patterson Barrett (drumming on a mandolin case); and capped off with Dawes and Blade in a drumming duel.
Amanda Shires and Jerry Pentecost’s late night “After Hours” show focused on prominent songs by women, with artists wearing T-shirts featuring women artists. Standouts were Maggie Rose belting out “9 to 5” and some oddball combos: Paul Thorn singing “I will Survive;” Buddy Miller performing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun;” Sadler Vaden, Amanda Shires, and Maggie Rose (“You’re No Good” and “Brass in Pocket”); and an inspiring “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Bonnie Bishop. Vaden also hosted a rocking Cayamo After Hours later in the week that included the Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” featuring Jason Isbell and Jerry Douglas. Watching those two go to work was something else.
Billy Bragg’s Tribute to Woody Guthrie included Mary Gauthier, Justin Townes Earle, Red Molly, Kasey & Bill Chambers, Steve Poltz, Dead Horses, Darlingside, Ariana Gillis, and Penny & Sparrow. It was uplifting.
MVP awards go to Tommy Emmanuel, Will Kimbrough, Eamon McLoughlin, and Steve Poltz. Poltz, who popped up in many performances with technical skills, enthusiasm, and a loving and fun vibe that charmed audiences again this year, was dubbed “Mayor of Cayamo.”