Best Of Lists,  Music

RAILBIRD GUIDE: 21 Must See Artists At The Railbird Festival

Ralbird is a brand new music festival that will take place at the grounds of Keeneland. Which is right here in the very center of our great Commonwealth.

Produced by AC Entertainment, who also produces Forecastle and Bonnaroo, decided to embrace three of Kentucky’s best exports in music, horses and bourbon. They also brought in West Sixth Brewing and our own little Mother Church in The Burl.

I’m guessing that after that last paragraph that you’re now all in. So I thought it would be a great idea to put together a list of artists that we feel simply can not be missed at Railbird.

Now we know all of the headliners like The Raconteurs, Old Crow Medicine Show, Brandi Carlile, and Hozier. So we’re going to focus on the future headliners and one certain Kentuckian we all love.

If you still need tickets, you can purchase those here.

This list is in performance order, so feel free to use this information at Railbird and if you see me, stop me. I’ll have some free stickers on both days.

So here goes!

1. Saturday – 1:30-2:15 – The Burl – Joslyn & The Sweet Compression

Around here, we call Joslyn the “Queen Of Kentucky”, so get there early on Saturday and start your weekend fresh and funky. You’ll be glad ya did.

2. Saturday – 2:45-3:30 – The Burl – Ian Noe

If you’re compelled by great storytelling and music, Ian Noe may just be the one artists that you’ll regret not seeing in five years. Often compared to legendary songwriters, Ian is quickly carving out his niche and the sky is the limit.

3. Saturday – 3:15-4:00 – Elkhorn – Low Cut Connie

As I researched the Railbird Festival lineup, I fell head over heels in love with two artist’s music. The first one is Low Cut Connie. If you enjoy sweaty, sometimes raunchy, sleazy rock’n’roll, meet your new favorite band. Think Bob Seger with an edge, or Billy Joel on a drunken rampage, somewhere there in the middle is Low Cut Connie.

4. Saturday – 3:45-4:45 – Limestone – Mavis Staples

I only have two words that you need to read to compel you take in a Mavis Staples performance. Those two are, “Absolute Legend.” Check out her latest release that features one of my personal favorite artists in Ben Harper.

5. Saturday – 4:00-4:45 – The Burl – Justin Wells

Justin Wells is an artist that I respect very much. His big booming voice will delight ya with everything but a love song. In fact, he’ll tell ya that in his track titled “Love Song.”

6. Saturday – 4:45-5:45 – Elkhorn – Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen was one of the first major artist to recognize what makes Tyler Childers so special. He has now played numerous shows with Childers and Childers is returning that favor at Red Rocks in September. If you bounce around Railbird, you’ll likely hear more than one Robert Earl Keen song being covered. REK is truly a living legend.

7. Saturday – 5:30-6:30 – Limestone – Mandolin Orange

I loved Mandolin Orange before I ever heard a note. What an awesome band name! Then things got real once their beautiful harmonies hit my ear. I had a case of the ole chicken skin for a good week after my first listen. I still do with this song:

8. Saturday – 6:30-7:30 – Elkhorn – Grace Vanderwaal

I generally steer clear of any product from a television competition, but the very first note that I heard from this young lady, I knew she was going to be a star. Grace Vanderwaal will eventually be selling out arenas in the not so distant future, so see her now!

9. Saturday – 6:30-7:30 – The Burl – Billy Strings

If Bluegrass is your thing, or even if it isn’t, you need to witness the talent of Billy Strings. In my humble opinion, there isn’t anyone out there that plays as clean as Billy and his band. I mean, show me another performance where an artist is playing the Opry, tossing in a little headbanging while singing about drugs and prison. Betcha can’t!

10. Saturday – 8:00-9:00 – The Burl – Ruston Kelly

I’ll admit that I didn’t know Ruston Kelly before this article. I focus mainly on Kentucky music, so artists can slip by me pretty easily. I may be a bit late to this party, but you can bet that Ruston Kelly will be a part of the soundtrack from here on out.

11. Sunday – 12:30-1:15 – Limestone – Yola

Yola is the second artist that I fell in love with. There is something about a soulful voice that captivates me and will not let go. Yola has that in excess and she’s also responsible for this article being delayed. I mean, I had to hear more, ya know? Turns out that Yola’s debut album was produced by Dan Aurebach of The Black Keys.

12. Sunday – 12:45-1:30 – The Burl – Ona

Ona is a band. Their merch will tell ya that. So I’ll tell ya that the West Virginia based band recently signed with Tyler Childers label, Hickman Holler Records. Their sound is closest to what has been labeled as shoegaze. Basically a big open indie sound with lots of effects and layers. Very atmospheric and trippy, ya may say. They’re loads of fun and much like Childers, they’ve cut their teeth in and around Kentucky. So be sure and see what all the fuss is about.

13. Sunday- 2:00-2:45 – The Burl – Kelsey Waldon

Kelsey Waldon is a young lady that completely embodies what it means to be a Kentuckian. Kelsey has worked hard for many years at her craft and she is now poised to break out in a big way, as she was the first artist signed by John Prine’s Oh Boy! Records in twenty years.

14. Sunday – 3:15-4:00 – The Burl – Johnny Conqueroo

Raw energy. That’s a guarantee whenever Johhny Conqueroo is involved. I’ve described them before as a band that is built to handle any soundtrack for a Tarantino film. These young men deliver rock’n’roll marinated in punk rock, garnished with some country, and washed down with some bourbon. Just hit play, you’ll get it. Promise!

15. Sunday – 3:15-4:15 – Limestone – I’m With Her

If you enjoy great harmonies, beautiful melodies and strong women, you best be at the rail for I’m With Her. They’re amazing, and seeing Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek again will be the cherry on top!

16. Sunday – 4:15-5:15 – Elkhorn – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors bring a soothing, sensual experience as Holcomb utilizes his beautiful tone to bring us a calm before the storm of our next act,

17. Sunday – 5:00-6:00 – Limestone – St. Paul And The Broken Bones

I’m a HUGE Otis Redding fan. The fact that I will never be able to experience his voice in a live setting, really bums me out. Thankfully though, his spirit lives on through artists like Anderson East, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. I spent a New Years Eve with St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Louisville Palace and it moved me like a spiritual event. DO. NOT. MISS. St. Paul and the Broken Bones. You can thank us later.

18. Sunday – 5:45-6:30 – The Burl – The Wooks

Ahhhhh, The Wooks! Bluegrass from right here in the Bluegrass. These guys are a ton of fun and some of the best musicians around. If you’re a casual fan of bluegrass, get ready to love The Wooks and tell ’em to let Roddy sing!

19. Sunday – 6:45-8:00 – Limestone – Gary Clark, Jr.

Gary Clark, Jr. needs no introduction, but I included him here for one reason. His guitar tone. When Gary hits the opening chords of his version of the Beatles classic “Come Together”, you’ll completely get what I’m saying. Thick, nasty, heavy, iconic and did I mention badass?

20. Sunday – 7:00-7:45 – The Burl – Blackfoot Gypsies

Fun. That’s the only word that matters when it comes to the fine folks in the Blackfoot Gypsies. I saw them on New Year’s Eve with Tyler Childers. For a song or two their vocalist/guitarist played wearing a huge honey badger, from what looked like a full-on mascot head. Oh, they rock pretty hard as well.

21. Sunday – 7:45-9:00 – Elkhorn – Tyler Childers

Yes, yes, yes. We all know and love our Kentucky Colonel, but with a new album arriving JUST before Railbird, this is me telling you to snag your copy and study it like it’s a final that you must pass to earn your degree. Why? Because this is likely the biggest stage that will be filled with the folks that helped him get where he is. It will be special for Tyler and the Food Stamps, so educate yourself and be prepared for a flat-out inspiring performance. Lucky number 21 is gonna burn down that stage!

Purchase your tickets now and we’ll see you at Keeneland!