The crickets, frogs and birds provided the soundtrack for a peaceful nights rest and it was once again time to do some kickin’ on the creek.The music started early on my day two and the fact that Mr. Childers would be playing later on Saturday night, I fully expected the crowd to be much thicker.
The Wine Tree Band began the day for folks, but I have to admit they didn’t start mine. So my apologies to those folks. The sirens song that the frogs and crickets sang kept me in bed until about 9:15. As I awoke and scanned the schedule for the day, I suddenly realized that Saturday was going to be a who’s who for Kentucky and regional music.
Luna and The Mountain Jets, Senora May, Josh Nolan, Geno Seale and the Porch Front Gospel, Prison Book Club, Laid Back Country Picker, John R. Miller, Wayne Graham, Brother Smith, The Tillers, Arlo Mckinley and The Lonesome Sound, Town Mountain, Tyler Childers, and The ‘Lectric Wooks. Are you flipping kidding me? I’m equally excited and exhausted at this point, just from reading that monster list.
Luna and The Mountain Jets were my first show of the day. David and Teresa Prince make up Luna and when they’re not across the pond, the Miles Brothers round out the band. For me, Luna and the Mountain Jets are one of my personal favorite local bands. Sure the music is amazing, but if you tell me that you can introduce me to two finer people, I’ll call ya a liar. After a long Friday and a little late night nip, I couldn’t imagine a better start to my day.
Next was Senora May. Senora just released a brand new album that features the aforementioned Miles Brothers. Much like the Wayne Graham sound, Senora creates an earthy atmospheric experience on ‘Lainhart’.
Many folks were buzzing, hoping for an appearance from a certain husband, but I was eager to see Senora, as I love her tone and her songwriting is top notch. Chivalry isn’t dead and said husband did not take away her spotlight. I particularly enjoyed “Semper Fi”, “Lainhart”, “Elusive” and “Family Tree”. I will definitely be at several more future shows.
Josh Nolan was up next. It feels like I could start every paragraph with Josh Nolan. The man has no fear and an abundance of talent. If there were an MVP award for KIOTC, Josh Nolan would win it hands down. I’d even go as far as to call Josh the glue of the music community. Armed only with an electric guitar, Josh sang songs old and new and made more noise than a few bands on the weekend. It was also awesome to see Chelsea Nolan front and center watching her big brother. That will forever be one of my personal favorite moments.
Geno Seale and the Porch Front Gospel were the biggest surprise of the weekend for me. I hadn’t really been able to dig too deep into Geno’s music. Just because I haven’t been able to make it to a show, so I was somewhat clueless as to what expect, especially with a full band behind him. I was absolutely blown away, but that’s not what I want to dedicate this section to.
Geno is a friend of Byron Roberts and when Byron introduced Geno he told the story of how he nudged Geno into writing songs and then giving him a stage. At that moment, I saw myself in Byron’s shoes, because I too have a similar story and in that split second, I made the decision that I will never miss another Kickin’ It On The Creek. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel entitled to be here, but I rather feel that it’s my duty to be here. We’re all in this together and if Byron is going to be Batman, I wanna be his Alfred and help him at every opportunity possible.
Enough of the sappiness, back to music! Prison Book Club is a band that I discovered a couple of years ago, through Tyler Childers actually. They hadn’t played a show together in a few years, so this was a wonderful place for a reunion.
Led by the Hemingway of West Virginia songwriters, John R. Miller, Prison Book Club has had a large impact on many of the musicians we saw throughout the weekend, including Tyler. I could write another chapter of the Prison Book Club here, but only two words are needed to adequately describe their performance….Holy Shit!!
You already know that I dearly love Mr. David Prince. He is one of the coolest people on the earth. Actually, he is two of the coolest people on earth. If you aren’t aware, David has an alter ego known as Laid Back Country Picker. He’s a simple man with a simple mantra. All he wants to do is play some good country music and treat everybody right.
As part of the Laid Back band, Teresa assumes her alter ego, Honey. Now Honey doesn’t have a lot to say. She doesn’t have time to care either. That’s why she shows up in hair rollers and a bathrobe. Those pesky Miles fellas pop up again to fill out the Laid Back band.
Now I have the honor of telling you about something that happened that may have just stolen the weekend. Two young ladies, Kisha Justice and Angela Oldfield, as well as Geno Seale dressed up as Honey, and did their best to get Teresa to break character. I’ll just let this video help you decide who won that battle.
I took the opportunity to visit with some folks during the sets from John R. Miller and Wayne Graham. I had plenty of photos of them all from previous performances. I was certainly listening, but the sun got to be too much. So I stepped back by the Roberts home to rest up a bit.
If you missed it though, we were honored to premiere the new album from John R. Miller (Listen Here) and we reviewed the Wayne Graham album (Listen Here). We love them dearly and if you didn’t pick up their album on the creek, I hope you’ll take a listen here and buy them online. Because as I always say, support the artists or lose the art.
After finally cooling off a bit, my appetite kicked in, so my apologies to Joseph Huber, as I wasn’t able to catch much of his set. Instead I had some delicious pulled pork from our good friend Justin Taylor’s food truck, Roll ‘N’ Smoke. Justin is a big supporter of the local scene, so whenever you see his truck, make sure to stop by and support him. Try the redneck egg rolls and you can thank me later.
What I did catch of Joseph Huber was a damn good foot-stomping romp. A three piece band consisting of an acoustic guitar, fiddle and a standup bass. They were flat-out awesome and I strongly encourage you to check his music out. He was also a really cool fella that seemed to love his time in Kentucky.
Brother Smith are a band that I love supporting. They were a part of Cinder and Smoke, but when we had to reschedule, they were unfortunately not available for the new date. These folks are just such great people and they’re so dang talented. I have zero complaints about them, but I do struggle with how to describe the band to people. Are they funk? Are they rock? Are they country? No one knows for sure, but what we do know is that they know how to put on one helluva show. Their biggest song to date is “Happy Song” and it would seem that most in attendance truly love that one. Another great set from more great people. Kind of a running theme here, huh? That’s why KIOTC is so damn perfect.
The Tillers were up next. They’re a bluegrass outfit based out of Cincinnati. Their sound leans a bit more towards traditional bluegrass, but there are definitely elements of a more modern progressive bluegrass, particularly in their melodies, harmonies and the way they attack their instruments. The biggest compliment that I have for them, much like Vintage Pistol, is their aggressive energy. To prove my point, check out the broken strings in the photo. These boys play the shit outta their instruments and their energy is contagious. Shoot, one young lady was dancing with a 1.75 of Old Barton. That lady knows how to have a good time and so do The Tillers.
Arlo McKinley has been called the King of sad songs and that’s absolutely accurate. Arlo brought the band with him to KIOTC and they did their damndest to burn the stage down. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but what did happen was nothing short of amazing.
This was my first time seeing Arlo Mckinley and The Lonesome Sound. I have seen Arlo as a solo act before, but never the full band. All I’ll say is that you can bet your ass that it won’t be the last time I see the full band. What an incredible experience.
In my humble opinion, Arlo is the next star to rise from our region. He has a lifetime off songs and experiences and he has crafted his sound to where it is tailor-made for his voice. As one may say, Arlo is ready, and I predict that by this time next year, much like Mr. Tyler Childers, Arlo will be headlining a night not only at KIOTC, but at venues all across the US and likely England. If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but after seeing Arlo in several different settings over the past few months, including witnessing the incredible connections he made with the folks here at KIOTC, I’ll be SHOCKED if I’m wrong.
Arlo split his show into three sets. He sung a few older songs, like “This Town” and some newer songs before beginning a bit more of an acoustic setting, including two piano only songs that totally blew my mind. I’m unsure of the titles but my guesses are “I’m Guilty” and “Our Songs Are Born.”
Arlo ended his set with “Wild Horses”, but not before he sent a good ribbing at his ole buddy Tyler “Child”ers. In case you missed it, Tyler won the Emerging Artist award at the Americana awards in Nashville and the presenter screwed up his name three times. So just trust me when I say everyone in attendance was definitely in on that inside joke.
Town Mountain were up next. These folks, much like The Wooks, are absolutely beloved by the bluegrass community. They’re from Asheville, North Carolina, but I can’t help but think of the actual Town Mountain in my original hometown of Hazard. So as random as that is, I do thank them for bringing back some great memories.
As The Tillers proclaimed, “Town Mountain is probably the best bluegrass band going.” That’s a valid point and a hard one to argue, although I’ll throw my boys in The Wooks into that argument, even after seeing Town Mountain’s performance and the amount of dancing their songs evoked.
I really enjoyed their high energy, rump shakin’, foot stompin’, music so good ya could slap ya Grandma for, but I am going to cut this section a little short and once you read it, you’ll understand. A few of the crowds favorites were actually covers. Bruce Springsteen’s classic, “I’m On Fire” and a new reworked version of the Bob Segar classic, “Get Out Of Denver” were spectacular, but there was one particular moment that every single person in attendance could not hush about. That would be the last song in their set and a brand new single called, “Living That High Life, Better Keep It On The Downlow” which if you aren’t aware features none other than Tyler Childers.
By this time, the alcohol was flowing, the night was cooling down and the anticipation was building. So when Tyler popped out on stage at the last second, something strange happened. From an instant roar to an almost hush happened in a matter of seconds. That was because folks were super excited, but quickly realized that they had enough respect to be quiet and enjoy. That was the essence of the folks that are at KIOTC. Sure there were plenty folks partying, but they were there for the music. I’ll leave this section with something I heard from a fan afterwards. When asked by his buddy if he was having a good time, he responded perfectly with, “Dude, this is f*cking spiritual.” Preach on, random dude. Preach on.
It was finally time for one of our favorite Kentucky Colonels to take the stage, Mr. Tyler Childers. Tyler is a young man that I have written volumes about on this site. My hillbilly education is running out of colorful adjectives to describe this young man and his music, but that ain’t gonna stop me from trying.
Before we get into Tyler’s performance, I do want to remind you that KIOTC did start out as a birthday party. So as the tradition stands, Tyler coaxed the crowd into singing Happy Birthday to Kenton. I assure you that it didn’t take much of a nudge to get em going. No one has or likely ever will have a bad word to say about the Roberts.
Now Kickin’ It On The Creek takes place in Tyler’s backyard, so to speak. We were in his home territory, surrounded by his people. My people. People who are truly there for the music. KIOTC has also been a huge part of helping Tyler kickstart his career, so we all knew going in that this show would be something we would all talk about for years. He just has too much pride to let anyone down and those assumptions were met with absolutely amazing results.
Tyler also chose to split his sets up. He sang a few songs, just him and his acoustic as sort of a thank you to those in attendance. He then brought out the Professor Jessie Wells to accompany him before he finally introduced the full band. Now you don’t have to a rocket scientist to figure out that this night was special, not only for the fans, but for Tyler himself.
This will sound like BS to anyone that wasn’t there, but Tyler started the night with the Willie Nelson classic, “Time Of The Preacher” and as I fought my way in and around the crowd to take photos, the crowd were almost completely silent. I’m gonna say our Preacher was home and it was his time.
Tyler followed that up with a trio of songs that were all sang back to him. He started with “Banded Clovis”, “Nose on the Grindstone” and he capped it off with “Follow You To Virgie”. By the time he finished “Virgie”, the fans were packed in tighter’n a tick.
By that time there were seemingly as many folks in the backstage area as there were in front of the stage. All three sides of the stage were elbow to elbow. Hell, Arlo was even standing in the door to the stage for most of the set with Byron. Anyone still on the farm was right there around that stage.
Jesse Wells then accompanied Tyler for a new song called “Matthew”, as well as “Lady May” before bringing out the full band to finish the night. Every single song seemed to have a moment that I could write about, but I do realize this is an already lengthy article, so I’m going to touch on a few moments that stood out the most.
“Whitehouse Road” was obviously a big sing-a-long, but believe it or not, it wasn’t the loudest song of the night, but more on that in a bit. Although the line, “Especially a fella from Eastern Kentucky” was pretty darn loud. Tyler was particularly chatty on Saturday night. I suppose that had a lot to do with his surroundings, but he told some great stories and as always, I enjoy his literal sense of humor.
We were treated to “Redneck Romeo” and “Going Home” before tearing into “Messed Up Kid”. I was so happy to see that one live, because I had fallen in love with The Wooks version a couple months back and man, did that performance rekindle my love for that one.
Then came a song that I had waited a long time for until he played it at his Manchester Music Hall gig, “Song While You’re Away”. There is something about that song that sends my heart into overdrive. As someone who takes a lot of photos and used to draw quite a bit, symmetry is important to me and for whatever reason, that song feels right to me. Maybe it’s the simple repetitive melody that is repeated lyrically, sonically on both the guitar and fiddle, or maybe I’m just weird. Either way, I will always get excited to hear this one!
A Tyler Childers show in Kentucky or West Virginia is more unique than any other spots on earth. Why? Because the crowds can almost always sing the lyrics back to Tyler, even on songs that have never been recorded. “All Your’n” is a perfect example. It’s also a song that only Tyler Childers could write and get away with such a country song title and hook.
The next two songs featured the two loudest crowd interactions of the night. As the band tore through “I Swear to God” and approached the drop out section, things kept getting louder and louder before eardrums shattered as the crowd unleashed, “G*d D*mn, FIRE IN THE HOLE!”. I hope what I heard after all that is accurate, I had to write the rest of this article based on watching Rod’s feet! Y’all loud!
Next came the biggest, prettiest, loudest, most perfect song in the set. Simply saying, this is a song about West Virginia, Tyler and the band were treated to a nearly 2000 member choir for “Feathered Indians” and it was magical. So much pride, love, effort, work and miles went into making that moment happen and it could not have been more beautiful. Watch my video below and see for yourself.
Two newer songs were mixed in with two covers before Tyler told a cool stort. “Ever Lovin Hand”, which probably isn’t a good one to research if the kids are in the room (hehe), the Shel Silverstein classic, “I Got Stoned and I Missed It”, then another newer song they’ve been working on called “Gemini”.
That’s when Tyler took the time to tell the story about his old band called ‘High Wall’ and to give a good plug for a cool local series called ‘Red Barn Radio’. Tyler, Jesse Wells and Arthur Hancock made up the band High Wall, which is where the song, “Charleston Girl” originates. He then spoke about how Red Barn Radio generously gave him his performances to release as an album. It was great to see him use the huge local spotlight he had in front of him to tell folks to go support something that is so helpful to so many artists.
The performance of “Tulsa Turnaround” was absolutely blistering and honestly the best version of the Kenny Rogers classic I’ve seen from the band. It would have been my personal favorite performance of the entire weekend, I’ll get to that in just a second.
“I wrote a song about my bus route, it’s called ‘Bus Route'”. Ahhhhh, there’s that dry humor again.
Tyler is never one to ignore those in his life that have always been behind him. He seemingly always finds a way, even if it’s minimal, to make folks feel special. Tyler spoke about bringing up a special guest and how this man was a mentor to so many in Kentucky, himself included. Y’all may know him better as Laid Back Country Picker, but David Prince is his name and if I had to name the one person that is most influential to the current musical movement in Kentucky, it would be David. Tyler brought David up for the Charlie Daniels classic, “Trudy”. If you’ve ever seen the band play this you know just how badass it is. Well, take what you know and add two solo sections where ole Laid Back dazzled and you’ll get the picture. Insanely good.
I’m a lucky individual to be able to call a ton of musicians my friends. I usually keep my interactions to myself, but shortly after coming off stage, I congratulated Tyler and had a brief interaction that I know you folks will enjoy. I told Tyler that if he keeps at it, he may just have a future in this music thing. His quick wit immediately responded, “Pray for me, would ya?” I love that feller and I know y’all do too.
The ‘Lectric Wooks are the Wooks on steroids and ‘lectrified. They take their passionate, well structured bluegrass songs and plug em into electric guitars and amps. You already know that their level of musicianship is immeasurable, but what you don’t realize is just how much rock n roll is crammed into their songs. That is until you hear it plugged in and soaring, as ole Jerry Clower would say, like one of them suped-up wildcats.
With fresh takes on old songs and old takes on fresh songs, the ‘Lectric Wooks absolutely kicked my ass (admittedly from my tent because I’m old and exhausted) but I can say confidently that I was far from the only one that was handed a good ole ass-whoopin’.
The highlight for me, from the tent, was when they let my boy Roddy sing. He usually takes the lead on the Beatles classic, “Dear Prudence” during their regular set and it was no different for the ‘Lectric Wooks, but what was different was the absolute POWER delivered from the band being plugged in. I used two words to describe Prison Book Club’s performance, those two words were 100% applicable for “Dear Prudence” and those two were once again applicable. What? You forgot the two words? Oh, my bad, let me refresh your memory…HOLY SHIT!!!
Satisfied, I rolled over to catch some shut eye and low and behold they busted out what is likely my absolute favorite version that I have ever heard of the classic by The Band, “Up On Cripple Creek.” Damnit boys, I’m trying to be old and you just won’t let me go to sleep! Guess what though, I still love ya!
Damn you!! You’re gonna play “Wild Nights” by Mellencamp?! I take it all back. I hate you guys. Naaaaa, ya’ll know better. 😉 But I’m crashing, unless you play something amazing.
You sons a bi….Skynyrd?! You bastards!! I’m a sucker for Skynyrd, ESPECIALLY “Gimme Three Steps”! How dare you?! Respect your elders, man!!
Just kidding. Arthur, C.J., Roddy and the boys know I love ’em and I sure hope you folks love ’em as much as I do. Time for me to wrap this thing up.
For most folks, a music festival is an escape from the mundane routines we all call life. For me though, it is an opportunity to perform, just like those on the stage. I know how elusive these tickets are and I feel that I have a responsibility to allow all those that couldn’t get in, the opportunity to at least feel as if they were a part of something so unique. Needless to say, I don’t take this responsibility lightly. So as I wind up my coverage of the 2018 Edition of Kickin’ It On The Creek, I hope you enjoy my art, even a small sliver as much as you did all those wonderful folks who performed. And let me say this now, do not wait to see who is on the lineup of the 2019 Edition, when those tickets go on sale, buy em. Just do it and enjoy the most unique music festival in the land that is way more like a homecoming or a family reunion. You will not regret it. That’s a promise that I will hang my reputation on.
Before I go though, I want to also take a moment to thank Byron Robert’s and his family for their incredible selflessness and hospitality. I feel an incredible kinship to this family and I am so incredibly grateful that the good Lord saw me fit enough to be blessed to get to know them. Oh and happy birthday, Kenton! Love y’all and I can’t wait to see y’all next year!
Did you miss our coverage from Friday? No worries! You can find that right here.