Kickin’ On The Creek is one of the most difficult festivals that I have ever been asked to describe. Why you ask? Thank goodness! I wasn’t sure how to move forward. So I’ll start here, family.
The Roberts family has turned their beautiful homestead into a music venue. Wait, what? No seriously. Hear me out. Deep in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, part of the Daniel Boone Forest, technically in Lee County, Byron Roberts and his family have seriously turned their home into a music venue. What seems impossible is actually flat-out magical.
Give me another example of such selflessness. I’ll wait…..You have nothing? That’s what I thought.
The idea for Kickin’ It On The Creek was born from a birthday party. No, again, seriously. When Kenton Roberts turned 21, Byron and Kelli threw him a birthday party and invited several local musicians to participate. Just so happens, one of those locals eventually became a household name for us Kentuckians and the rest, as they say, is history. The local? Tyler Childers. Every year since, with this being the fourth year, folks have traveled as from as far away as Oregon to experience such a unique event.
Now before I go any further with this review, I have to back up for just a second. I have said many, many times on this site that Kentucky’s best asset is her people. If you want to fully understand and appreciate the sentiment of what that means, make it to the Roberts farm. I am 100% certain that an event like this could never take place in another state or any other time for that matter. The music, the culture, the people, the Roberts, that’s what makes this possible.
Kentucky is absolutely overflowing with talent and there is, without a doubt, a musical revolution happening and Kentucky is leading the way.
Now back to the actual show. Tyler Childers needs no introduction to the readers of this site, but if you’re new here, Mr. Childers is a resident of nearby Estill County or more commonly referred to as Irvine, Kentucky. Tyler has taken the country music scene by storm and is doing his best to turn the “Americana” label on its ear. More about Tyler later though. Kickin’ It On The Creek ain’t no one-horse pony.
The Festival began on Thursday, but I couldn’t make it until Friday morning. The first performance I was able to catch was singer-songwriter Tim Lancaster. Tim certainly has his own style, but at the core of things, a great story is really all that matters and he delivered those in spades. His early set was definitely a nice surprise.
Next up for me, was Jenn and Chris Shouse. This duo impressed me enough that I included them on my Top 20 Kentucky Artists that you just can’t miss list for KIOTC. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint. Their harmonies were tight, their band was tighter and their voices were very, very clear. Call me nostalgic, but their bluegrass version of the Michael Jackson classic, “Billie Jean” is absolutely brilliant. Don’t be fooled though, that song will hook ya, but their originals are where their money is at.
All the way from Saskatchewan, Canada, Blake Berglund and The Vultures spoke of how their music resonated so well with the Southern U.S. and how they knew their best chance at success was to snag some work visas and do just that. Their set drew a lot of interest and despite the overwhelming heat and zero cloud coverage during their set, they walked away with many new fans, myself included.
Grayson Jenkins and The Resolutions were up next. Grayson is a young man that has made massive improvements over the past year. Now that’s no slight on who was a year ago, but if you saw him a year ago, as I did, and saw him now, you’d wholeheartedly agree. Local legend Greg Austin has been Grayson’s mentor and a damn fine one I must say. Grayson does his own version of a Greg Austin penned track titled “Somewhere In Kentucky”. He also has amazing harmonies that will conjure thoughts of The Eagles. Add in the fact that I’m a sucker for a Don Williams cover and you just wrote the formula for one of my favorite performances of Friday.
Sean Whiting and the Handsome Bastards were next. There isn’t much that can be said about Sean that I likely haven’t already said. So I’m going to throw a strange, yet fitting, description at you. If somehow, somehow the voices of the Jompson Brothers era Chris Stapleton and the classic rock voice of Free and Bad Company legend Paul Rodgers could have a musical baby, it would sound a helluva lot like Sean Whiting. Put that voice with a who’s who of local all-star talent and you have yourself one helluva band to match that voice. Needless to say, they CRUSHED it.
I want to apologize to Belle Plaine. By the time that Sean Whiting finished his set, the heat got to me and I had to take a break. I did listen online and I was looking forward to seeing them, but it’s a long weekend and it was simply in my best interest from a health standpoint.
Short and Company recently played our Cinder & Smoke Fest, as did Sean Whiting, so I definitely knew what I was in for. Apparently many others where unprepared. Maybe it was the shirt. Maybe it was the shorts. Whatever it was, by the end of “Fast Eddie”, Jeremy Short & Company had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Add Chelsea Nolan, Josh Nolan (who played with approximately 97 bands on Friday, dude’s a MONSTER musician) and the harmonies of none other than Mr. John Clay and you have yet another of my personal favorite sets.
William Matheny and the Strange Constellation are a band that I have seen before. William is sort of the Buddy Holly of Huntington. When you see William before hearing him, you will go into his show completely unassuming about what you’re about to witness. He, much like Buddy Holly, doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of what you hear. That’s a total compliment by the way, because once he sneaks up on ya, he’s got ya. None other than Mr. John R. Miller happens to also be his bass player. And when John. R. plays, much like E.F. Hutton, people listen.
Vintage Pistol is a band from Arkansas. I’ve seen their name bouncing around the local scene a bit, so I had checked out a few songs, but those did nothing to prepare me, or anyone else, for their energy. I think the term, “Buck Wild”, is probably appropriate. Those young men left everything they had on that stage and definitely gained my respect, and judging from the size of their crowd, I’m not alone.
Justin Wells is still making a name for himself outside of Kentucky, but within her borders, he is a treasure. As I had hoped, Justin played several new songs from his upcoming album and he debuted his new guitar player, Mr. Robert Frahm. Robert is a blues player by trade and hails from Washington, D.C., but now calls Central Kentucky home.
Justin had several family members in attendance and that was the fuel for his fire. I’ve seen Justin several times over the years, but on all honesty, he has never sounded better. The addition of Robert will hopefully be the little nudge Justin needs to make him a household name. We’re definitely rooting for ’em to make us all proud!
Now we get to the highlight of the night for me, Magnolia Boulevard just keep getting better and better every single time I see them. The band has finally found the right balance between Maggie Noëlle’s vocals, Gregg Erwin’s soulful slide work and Ryan Allen’s work on the keys. I’m certain their recent work with Guitar Maker Paul Reed Smith has a lot to do with arrangements, but whatever it is, you best be watching it local now because they won’t be playing small festivals and local bars much longer.
I recently wrote on my personal Facebook page about a conversation that I had with Gregg Erwin. We were discussing the band, their sound, the direction they’re heading and a few covers. In that conversation, I told Gregg that I felt they had three or four songs that I considered as their signature songs. One of those songs was “Call On Me.” And one of the covers we discussed a bit was one that they had actually played in the past and that was the Bonnie Raitt version of the John Prine penned, “Angel From Montgomery.” I witnessed those two back to back recently in Ryan’s hometown of Jackson, KY. I left there convinced that that pair of songs, simply could not get any better. Guess what…I was wrong. Why? Because they brought Professor Jessie Wells up to play fiddle with them. Mind = Blown.
Next up was The Wooks and I almost felt bad that they had to follow such an epic performance by Magnolia Boulevard, but then, something strange happened. There were Wookies crawling from every nook and cranny and before the fellas ever struck a note, their crowd was at least 3x the size of anyone else’s crowd on Saturday. That tiny bit of guilt was quickly replaced with the realization that KIOTC is their home, just as much as it will be for Mr. Tyler Childers on Saturday.
I love, love me some Wooks and on Saturday they definitely brought their A game. One moment, in particular, was equally awesome and hilarious that I would not be doing my job if I didn’t mention was a moment between Byron Roberts, Arthur Hancock and ole Laid Back. Arthur’s chin beard just wasn’t meeting code, so while held captive by Byron, ole Laid Back trimmed up to spec. Yet another reason why KIOTC is the most unique and wonderful weekend going. Check it out!
Speaking of Mr. Childers, his fiddle player, Professor Jessie Wells, who was once a Wook, rejoined his Wooks for their set and rounded out their sound like I had never heard it. For the first time that I can remember, The Wooks were a six-piece and it was damn impressive to say the least. The fullness of their sound coupled with the absolutely incredible energy the crowd brought was the exclamation point on my first day at KIOTC. It was the Festival’s second day and we still had
two one to go. (Dangit, Mother Nature)
With a new album coming on November 16th, The Wooks are in the zone like never before. The addition of Harry Clark and his mandolin pickin’ has elevated the energy, in particular from C.J. Cain. They feed off of each other’s energy and that in turn gets the crowd that much more hyped. They’ve been working with fellow Kentuckian, J.T. Cure (Bassist for Chris Stapleton), on their second album and I for one can not wait to hear the album. It was recorded just down the road from KIOTC at Rick’s Music in Clay City. So you know it’s gonna have that same mountain mojo that their set had and that my friends, is glorious!
So let’s chat soon. I went to sleep smiling and I hope you did too.
Be sure and check out or coverage of Saturday here.