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MerleFest Begins in Two Days: Things To Know, Band Announcements and More

Compiled by Jesse Wood

MerleFest is now less than two days away. The festival officially begins on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in on the Wilkes Community College campus in North Wilkesboro. From then and until late Sunday, more than 80 musical acts will perform on 13 stages.

The Americana Stage provides a relaxed atmosphere for fans of the groove and rhythm of Americana music.
The Americana Stage provides a relaxed atmosphere for fans of the groove and rhythm of Americana music.

Like always, attendees should expect the unexpected – special surprises, spontaneous jam sessions and one-of-a-kind musical collaborations.

Once again the caliber of talent at MerleFest this year is amazing: The Marshall Tucker Band, Lee Ann Womack, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Hot Rize, Scythian, Chatham County Line, The Del McCoury Band, Robert Earl Kean, Dwight Yoakam, The Waybacks, Willie Watson (formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show), Avett Brothers, The Honeycutters and so much more.

Below are some bullet points to help make your festival experience an enjoyable one and further down are announcements or releases on some of the bands performing at this year’s MerleFest:

Early-Bird Tickets available through Wednesday. Tickets for MerleFest may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. Tickets will also be available at the gate.

The Weather: It’s April, so some showers and late-night chill are expected in the mountains. RaysWeather.com publishes an hour-by-hour weather forecast for the days of the festival, which definitely helps festivalgoers plan. See the forecast here.

– Download the 2015 MerleFest App to have all the info you need in the palm of your hand. It includes schedules, artist info, maps and much more to help you navigate through the festival. Just search Merlfest 2015 in Google Play Store or at the Apple iTunes Store.

Camping is always fun at MerleFest, and there are plenty of spots for individuals of all kinds – whether you like to stay up late and party or head to bed with the kids early. See this story on camping at MerleFest for more details on the camping options.

– This link includes an exhaustive list of tips to make the most of your MerleFest experience, tobacco policy and festival rules.

Of course, click to the MerleFest website or follow the festival on Facebook or Twitter.

Scythian To Release Album at MerleFest

Scythian, a headliner on the Celtic festival circuit that is equally at home at Americana gatherings and rock venues, is releasing fan-funded album Old Tin Can on April 23 at MerleFest.

Old Tin Can is the companion album of 2014 release Jump at the Sun, which was funded entirely by Scythian fans. The album features Scythian’s take on favorite Celtic and Americana tunes that helped form their musical palette.


Featuring stirring ballads made known by the likes of Doc Watson, the Carter Family and Christie Moore, spirited jigs, soulful waltzes and even a Ukrainian Kozak love song, Old Tin Can reveals the roots of the tree that is now Scythian. With one listen to this eclectic album one can trace the outlines of a show, which transcends musical and ethnic boundaries.

Danylo Fedoryka on rhythm guitar, accordion and vocals, said that Scythian sought to strip things down and go back to their roots with Old Tin Can.

“Whereas our other albums focus on our original music, this album focuses on paying tribute to the greats that have inspired us. Losing the drum kit and adding hand percussion really opened up new avenues of expression for us and we had a lot of fun making the album,” Fedoryka said. “We are excited to debut the songs at Merlefest where we have Watson Stage, Hillside, Dance Tent and Americana Stage sets.”

Scythian has played a MerleFest for seven years and is always a fan favorite. While they play festivals across the country and the world, Fedoryka, said that MerleFest holds a special place in their hearts.

“It’s here that our eyes were opened to the living tradition in music: we got to actually meet the greats that up until then had been beyond reach – almost mythical,” Fedoryka said.

“There are many things that give you a sense of accomplishment in a musical career, but to meet the greats, to shake hands of Doc Watson, Levon Helm and others is something that stays with you and makes a difference in how you move forward as a musician. This respect for tradition is palpable and seeps into the audience. After seven years at Merlefest, we can say that we feel like family with the attendees and have seen many children grow up before our eyes: a truly unique environment which just can’t be found anywhere else.”

For more info about Scythian, click to www.scythianmusic.com.

Nashville’s Down Home Band to play Merlefest on Saturday, April 25

Nashville’s Down Home Band, winner of the Belk Southern Musician Showcase, will be playing the “Cabin Stage” at Merlefest on Saturday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. http://www.merlefest.org/pdf/schedule-sat-pm.pdf

For more information, check out http://www.downhomeband.com.


Americana music pioneer Andy May will once again host his Acoustic Kids Showcases at MerleFest 2015. Featuring about 85 young musicians under the age of 17 in four “Opry-style” showcases, the program will celebrate its 14th year at MerleFest. Through the years and across the nation, hundreds of talented youngsters have appeared in Acoustic Kids Showcases, including Nickel Creek, EmiSunshine, and up-and-coming regional acts like Liam Purcell, Kitty Amaral, Presley Barker, Ruth Shumway, and many others.

“We are gearing up for another fantastic MerleFest! We have a record number of great young performers in our Acoustic Kids Showcases on Friday and Saturday,” said Andy. “I am also looking forward to playing for the wonderful MerleFest audience in my own sets. I’ll have a bunch of new songs this year!”

Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases are festival-based non-competitive performance opportunities for young musicians and singers of any skill level. As a show, they are not just for kids – they are an opportunity for music lovers of all ages to see and applaud the next generation of musicians. Talent categories in this year’s showcase include guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, Irish dance and more.

“Andy has a remarkable ability to make kids feel welcomed and valued as a person and musical contributors,” saidSara Watkins of Nickel Creek. “I’m so glad Acoustic Kids has stayed involved in the community, because not only does it help kids make wonderful memories, but as they grow up they’ll remember that their contribution is important.”

In addition to MerleFest, Andy May hosts his Acoustic Kids Showcases at festivals across the nation such asWalnut Valley Festival (Winfield, KS) and Guitar Town (Copper Mountain, CO) and is a regular educational workshop presenter at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

The Spinney Brothers Make MerleFest Debut

The Spinney Brothers
The Spinney Brothers

Canada’s International Bluegrass Band, The Spinney Brothers will make their MerleFest debut this year with shows on Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25. The Spinney Brothers’ album Tried & True is currently #5 on the National Bluegrass Survey’s Top 15 albums chart

They have 2 songs currently on the National Bluegrass Survey’s Top 30 Songs chart: “Gonna Catch a Train” at #9 and “My Music Comes From Bill” at #12. In 2014, the band had two IBMA nominations: Emerging Artist and Song of the Year for “Grandpa’s Way of Life”

MerleFest is among the 100 gigs The Spinney Brothers will play in 2015. See their performance schedule at MerleFest below:

Friday: 10:45-11:30 a.m. at Walker Center; 1:15-2:15 p.m. at Creekside (Jamgrass with Pete Wernick); and 4:00-4:45 p.m. at Americana Stage.

Saturday: 11:15 a.m. – 12 noon Watson stage

For more information on The Spinney Brothers, click to http://www.spinneybrothers.com.

Bellamy Brothers Lineage To Perform Two Shows at MerleFest

Jesse and Noah Bellamy, who are related to members in the famed Bellamy Brothers, will perform two shows at MerleFest. In addition, Jesse is a judge in the Chris Austin Songwriting Competion.

This month, Jesse and Noah have an EP coming out titled “Brethren.” It’s an acoustic covers project that explores the dynamic of brother harmony in country and bluegrass music. It’s their latest effort with the band’s goal of bridging the gap between country and Americana.