Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Isbell returns to headline 2019 MMF - The Independent

Master Musicians Festival has an early Christmas present for its fans this year.

While the line-up announcement for the coming summer's two-day outdoor musical festival is usually held in the spring, on Saturday, the MMF board held a special "Family Christmas" party to officially unveil the artists who will be performing at the 2019 event, to be held July 19 and 20 at Somerset Community College.

This year's headlining act with Americana favorites Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Isbell, an Alabama singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy winner, has appeared at MMF before, back in 2012. And Bourne noted that it made quite the impression on him, so much so that now that he's even bigger and more well-known, he still chose to return to MMF because of its sterling reputation in the music festival community.

"He loved the non-profit aspect of it, that it's all-volunteer, and that we keep our ticket prices low," said Tiffany Finley, MMF Board president.

"We had a lot of booking agents reach out to us this year and say, 'Our artists want to play your festival because we've heard what a good reputation you have," she added.

That allowed MMF to put together its line-up quicker this time and get it out before the end of the year. FInley said "things fell into place really early" and Isbell confirmed in five to 10 days, "which is the fastest that's ever happened." Then, once the headliner is on board, "it's easy to lock in the rest of the line-up," said Finley.

"You can use it to your advantage when you reach out to other bands, and say, 'Hey, do you want to be on the same line-up as so-and-so?'" she noted. "With my new job and the busy life everyone leads, it's been super easy."

As for Isbell himself, Finley feels fortunate to get him back into the MMF family, something he was already a part of, and said that it shows how skilled the MMF board is at spotting talent that grows even after their time at the festival.

"He was already talented as the lead singer of the Drive-By Trucks when we had him back in 2012, when he wasn't even top billing on the festival," said Finley. "So for us to be able to honor that family aspect of our festival -- since once you play at our festival, we always support you -- it means the world to us."

She added, "One of the most unique characteristics of our festival is the board's ability to find and feature artists just before they make it big. The Avett Brothers come to mind. St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Jason Isbell. We are incredibly honored Jason Isbell is returning to our stage, having risen to the top of the Americana scene and experiencing continued success. It is a wonderful testament to the blood, sweat and tears we put in to this festival."

Finley said the theme for the festival this year is "family" -- fitting for the Christmas announcement party -- and that shows up in other ways on the line-up. Husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty -- made up of Iraq veteran Michael Trotter, who found his voice when he was pulled away from the frontlines to write songs for the fallen, and wife Tanya -- will take the stage before Isbell that Saturday. Another husband-and-wife act is Muhlenburg County, Ky.'s Lost Dog Street Band, bringing a sound described as "dark country."

On Friday night, MMF brings its best blues game with headliner Cedric Burnside, a Grammy-nominated bluesman. The 39-year-old still lives near Holly Springs, Miss., in a home where he was raised by his grandfather, the late singer/songwriter/guitarist R.L. Burnside whom Cedric famously played with, just as his own father, drummer Calvin Jackson, did. Taking the stage before Burnside is Charley Crockett, whose unique approach to American roots music -- a mix of Texas blues, classic country and Cajun soul -- has earned him an audience on both sides of the Atlantic.

Other names appearing on this year's line-up are the Tillers, the Josephines, Nick Jamerson (known for his work with Sundy Best), Johnny Conqueroo, the Bajas Yetis, Jericho Woods, Chelsea Nolan, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, Senora May, Josh Nolan, Wonky Tonk, Mama Said String Band, the Handshake Deals, Eric Bolander, Kevin Dalton and the Tuesday Blooms, John Clay, Tim DeLonjay, Abby Hamilton, Jen Tackett, Tim Lancaster, Laid Back Country Picker, Darrin Hacquard, Lylak, the Winetree, Sean Whiting, Chris and Jen Shouse, Pearlie Jenkins, and Spooky Fox.

Many of the above have played at MMF in the past and are part of the festival's artistic family. Also returning is the Eastwoods Record Stage in Art Valley, sponsored by Citizens National Bank, which joins acoustic music inside the SomerSessions tent, presented by a local recording studio that brings listeners regional music, art and stories from southern Kentucky.

Weekend passes to the 26th annual festival sponsored by Don Franklin of Somerset are on sale now on the MMF website (mastermusiciansfestival.org) and through Eventbrite. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. MMF 2019 is presented by the Don Franklin Family of Dealerships and other sponsors.


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