MerleFest, presented by Window World, is proud to announce the next round of artist additions for MerleFest 2020, which will be held April 23-26. Melissa Etheridge, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, The Marcus King Band, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and John Cowan will be joining the annual homecoming of musicians and music fans on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Today’s lineup announcement adds five great artists to MerleFest’s already stacked lineup: Willie Nelson & Family, Alison Krauss, John Prine, The Jerry Douglas Band, Sam Bush, Billy Strings, Jim Lauderdale, Kruger Brothers, The Waybacks, Scythian, Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, Tommy Emmanuel, Colin Hay, Shinyribs, Charley Crockett, Darrell Scott, The Steel Wheels, Kelsey Waldon, Gangstagrass, Robbie Fulks, Amythyst Kiah, Cordovas, Alison Brown, Andy May, “B” Townes, Banknotes, Bill and the Belles, Bryan Sutton, Carol Rifkin, Charles Welch, Chatham Rabbits, Che Apalache, The Cleverlys, Creole Stomp with Dennis Stroughmatt, David Holt, Fireside Collective, Flattop, Happy Traum, Hogslop String Band, InterACTive Theatre of Jef, Irish Mythen, Iron Horse Bluegrass, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little Trio, Jody Carroll, Joe Smothers, Ken Crouse, Laura Boosinger, The Local Boys, Los Texmaniacs, Mark Bumgarner, Mary Flower, Mitch Greenhill, Pete & Joan Wernick, Piedmont Bluz, Presley Barker, Rev. Robert Jones, Roy Book Binder, Sierra Ferrell, String Madness, T. Michael Coleman, Tony Williamson, Wayne Henderson, The Moore Brothers, The Williams Brothers, and Wyld Fern.
Melissa Etheridge: Melissa Etheridge stormed onto the American rock scene in 1988 with the release of her critically acclaimed self-titled debut album, which led to an appearance on the 1989 Grammy awards show. For several years, her popularity grew around such memorable originals as “Bring Me Some Water,” “No Souvenirs,” and “Ain’t It Heavy,” for which she won a Grammy in 1992. Etheridge hit her commercial and artistic stride with her fourth album, Yes I Am (1993). The collection featured the massive hits, “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” a searing song of longing that brought Etheridge her second Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance. In 1995, Etheridge issued her highest-charting album, Your Little Secret, which was distinguished by the hit single, “I Want to Come Over.” Her astounding success that year led to Etheridge receiving the Songwriter of the Year honor at the ASCAP Pop Awards in 1996. Known for her confessional lyrics and raspy, smoky vocals, Etheridge has remained one of America’s favorite female singer-songwriters for more than two decades.
Known for her confessional lyrics and raspy, smoky vocals, Etheridge has remained one of America’s favorite female singer-songwriters for more than two decades. In February 2007, Melissa Etheridge celebrated a career milestone with a victory in the “Best Song” category at the Academy Awards for “I Need to Wake Up,” written for the Al Gore documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. As a performer and songwriter, Etheridge has shown herself to be an artist who has never allowed “inconvenient truths” to keep her down. Earlier in her recording career, Etheridge acknowledged her sexual orientation when it was considered less than prudent to do so. In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, a health battle that, with her typical tenacity, she won. Despite losing her hair from chemotherapy, Etheridge appeared on the 2005 Grammy telecast to sing “Piece of My Heart” in tribute to Janis Joplin. By doing so she gave hope to many women afflicted with the disease.
On October 7, 2016, Melissa Etheridge released Memphis Rock & Soul, her first album since 2014’s critically lauded This Is M.E. Recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, the album received stellar reviews from the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Parade, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter and more. She followed that up with the release of The Medicine Show in April, 2019. For The Medicine Show, Melissa reunited with celebrated producer John Shanks and sounds as rousing as ever, bringing a new level of artistry to her 15th studio recording. The Medicine Show deals with universal themes of renewal, reconciliation, reckoning, compassion and, most profoundly, healing. Melissa Etheridge will perform Saturday evening.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: For ten years running, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real — bassist Corey McCormick, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, percussionist Tato Melgar, and multi-instrumentalist Logan Metz— have been crossing the globe, playing thousands of shows as one of the most talented, in-demand rock and roll ensembles working today. In song after song, on stage after stage, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have sharpened the edges of their singular sound, straddling rock and roll, country, soul, folk and R&B.
An emergent and vital force in American music, their latest album, the critically-acclaimed (Turn Off The News (Build A Garden), was released in June 2019, and planted itself at #1 on the Americana album chart for 10 consecutive weeks.
In the past year alone, the quickly rising quintet have been wowing audiences and gaining fans with their headlining tour and blistering television performances, and have turned in star-making sets at major festivals including Stagecoach, Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz Fest and dozens of shows as part of Willie’s traveling Outlaw Music Festival. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will perform Thursday evening.
The Marcus King Band: Songwriter. Guitarist. Singer. Bandleader. At only 23 years of age, Marcus King has been writing songs and performing onstage for half his lifetime delivering a blistering fried brand of Americana and blues inspired by rock n’ roll. All five members of the band – drummer Jack Ryan, bass player Stephen Campbell, trumpeter/trombonist Justin Johnson and sax player/steel guitar player Dean Mitchell create a blistering yet soulful unit that has honed their synergy through endless touring. King is a Blue Ridge Mountain boy born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. A fourth-generation musician, he traces his lineage back to his fiddle playing great grandfather. While his grandfather was a fiddler and guitarist, his dad, Marvin King is a singer/guitarist who has toured nationally since the ’70s with various artists as well as his own group Marvin King and Blue Revival. Marcus King doesn’t strive for authenticity he never had to; it’s busting out of his DNA in every note he plays and every word he sings. The Marcus King Band will perform Friday evening.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Once a generation, a blues artist comes along who not only reminds mainstream audiences how deeply satisfying and emotionally moving the best blues music can be but shakes the genre to its core. With both eyes on the future and the blues in his blood, 20-year-old guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram took the music world by storm. Sprung from the same earth as so many of the Delta blues masters, Kingfish comes bursting out of Clarksdale, Mississippi, just ten miles from the legendary crossroads of Highways 61 and 49. A student of the Delta’s musical history, he is acutely aware of the musicians and the music that emerged from his corner of the world. Kingfish has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Robert Randolph, Guitar Shorty, Eric Gales, and many others. He has performed at festivals around the country, including stops at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, the Bonita Blues Festival in Florida and at San Francisco’s famed Biscuits & Blues. He’s also performed in Europe multiple times. In addition to making music and touring the world, Kingfish donates his time and talent to two causes important to him. Through his work with various local Blues in the Schools programs, he visits with students around the country while he’s on tour. He’s also an official ambassador for United by Music North America, a program helping people with developmental challenges, such as autism, to express themselves through music. “Treat everybody right and anybody can do anything,” says Kingfish. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram will perform Saturday.
John Cowan: John Cowan, also known as the Voice of Newgrass, has been singing his heart out for thirty-five years now, and his soaring vocals have only improved with time. A true innovator, John applies his powerful pipes to genres from country, bluegrass, and gospel to soul, jazz, and rock-and-roll – often within the space of a single concert. His ability to move fluidly through multiple styles, and carry mesmerized audiences on the journey with him, has set him apart as one of the most loved and admired vocal artists of his generation, not just by fans and critics but among fellow musicians as well.
With his distinctive, rock-tinged tenor vocal and heart-thumping electric bass, John, along with fellow New Grass Revival band mates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, and Curtis Burch, and later Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn, introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental and ultimately, eponymous brand of bluegrass. The “newgrass” sound spawned popular jam bands such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band in addition to shaping the sensibilities of country megastars Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, the Zac Brown Band, and Darius Rucker.
After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990, John went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums including Soul’d Out (Sugar Hill, 1986), the self-titled John Cowan (Sugar Hill, 2000), Always Take Me Back (Sugar Hill, 2002), New Tattoo (Pinecastle, 2006), 8,745 Feet, Live at Telluride (2005, re-released by E-1 Entertainment, 2009), Comfort & Joy (E-1 Entertainment, 2009), The Massenburg Sessions (E-1 Entertainment, 2010) and Sixty (Compass, 2014). For the past 10 years, John has been a touring member of The Doobie Brothers. John Cowan will perform Friday.
Tickets for next year’s festival are on sale now and may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. MerleFest offers a three-tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take advantage of the extended early bird discount. Early Bird Tier 1 tickets may be purchased until February 16, 2020; Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from February 17 to April 22. The remaining tickets will be sold at the gate during the festival.