The last day of Kickin’ It On The Creek has a strange effect on ya. You have been anxiously awaiting the experience for months, or all year if this wasn’t your first time on Ross’ Creek.
When you wake up on the last day, you’re met with many waves of emotions.
- Excitement, knowing what’s headed your way.
- Joy, as you recount all the wonderful memories you’ve already made.
- Guilt, what did I do to deserve to be here?
- Inspired, you want to hug as many necks as possible and tell your friends you love them.
- Thankful, for every conversation and bear hug you have already been given.
- And finally, peace. You were likely greeted with a “welcome home” by a Roberts family member when you arrived, now you know exactly what that means and you absolutely can not wipe the smile off your face.
I’ll start the performance part of this article by saying, Abe Partridge is out there. I think Abe should have a t-shirt emblazoned with the latter half of that sentence. That is totally a compliment by the way and definitely correct. Ask Abe, he’ll tell ya.
Abe’s stories and Appalachian styled art were definitely a welcome addition in 2019 and if he makes it back again, I hope to have ’em as my camping neighbors again. Good Alabama folks right there!
Once Abe finished his set, I took a different strategy on the last day. I knew what a difficult task was ahead of me. When Arlo and Tyler play, everyone there would be crammed into the front yard of the Roberts home. That makes for an adventure as you constantly are trying to find angles and shoot above the cell phones and taller folks.
So I decided to go ahead and eat early. I visited my buddy Justin Taylor’s food truck, Roll ‘N’ Smoke. If you see him next year or in Lexington, stop and get ya some BBQ egg rolls, or a BBQ taco, or a wonderfully tasty pulled pork sandwich. Justin will treat ya right, I promise ya.
I was told that the “Hillbilly Hibachi” was also delicious. I believe they even sold out on a day or two.
Now with a full belly and an attack plan in place, I headed back to the stage for Brother Smith. I got there right as Sean Whiting joined the band for a few songs. If you don’t know Sean Whiting’s music, just go listen.
Brother Smith are not easy to describe, so let’s just go with really, really good. You’ll hear rock, funk, country, pop and a little bluegrass twang to make it shine.
With music, you will always find that the best harmonies come from siblings. Brother Smith has, well two brothers with the last name Smith. Simple enough, so you’re probably thinking I’m going to say, “Their harmonies are really good.” You’d be close, but their harmonies are flawless.
For me though, the reworked version of “Happy Tune” was jaw-dropping. They took an already great song, smacked some dynamite on it and blew the roof off!! I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the Aretha Franklin cover, “Chain Of Fools” got the party started and by their last song, most of the swelling crowd were shakin what their Momma gave em.
I love Wayne Graham. There, I said it. Their vibes, their songs and show. Wayne Graham often reminds of a band that I used to enjoy, in Marcy Playground. There is definitely a Wilco vibe as well. Just really solid songwriting and layered with many sounds that create an entire atmosphere unlike anyone else.
I’m also drawn to them as a fellow Eastern Kentuckian. The Miles brothers are from Whitesburg, Kentucky. I spent a good chunk of my youth as a Letcher Countian, and my son was born in Whitesburg. So I’m incredibly proud of what Wayne Graham are accomplishing. Watching their recent tour across the big pond was so joyful to see as they shared their journey with us. If you’re new to Wayne Graham, be sure and check out their social media to see that journey. They know how to make ya proud to be a Kentuckian.
I did get to see my two favorite Wayne Graham songs performed, “Don Williams” and “Joy!” Oh! And Lee is very underappreciated as a guitarist. Dude always wails away in the most beautiful way. Every. Single. Time.
William Matheny and The Strange Constellations were up next. I stepped back to my tent for a bit to transfer and backup my photos. On my return I was stopped a couple times for conversation and I completely missed snagging photos. Saturday was my fifth time seeing William, out of those five, this was by far and away his best performance sonically. So my apologies to William and his stellar band for not making it out sooner.
Last year, I did say, that William Matheny is the Buddy Holly of West Virginia. It’s been a year and I still haven’t come up with a better description.
Much like Buddy Holly, William writes songs that draw references from many different wells. The foundation is rock, the walls are Country, the roof is Bluegrass and the brick is trimmed with pop to build the Matheny House of Music.
So sit down on the Matheny porch and try ya some tasty tunes, they go down great with a good ole glass of iced tea or any tasty beverage of your choice.
Taking the stage next, was Senora May. Senora is a local around Ross’ Creek and she has known the Roberts family for some time. I tell you that because Senora’s songs are born in the mountains of Estill County, and her songs are cut from the same cloth as Kickin’ It On The Creek and many of its patrons.
Senora’s popularity has seen great gains since last year. Knowing that, I expected her to play to a good size crowd, thankfully though, it was even bigger than anticipated.
Her set was absolutely beautiful. She delivered it to a sea of admiration and the folks standing around the stage became her backup singers on many songs. Once she finished her acoustic set, she welcomed the Miles brothers from Wayne Graham onto the stage as her band. The Miles Brothers also helped produce Senora’s album.
My favorite performances from Senora were “Family Tree,” “Dogs In Mexico” and then she brought Mitchella Phipps from Slut Pill to play guitar for the rest of her set. Mitchella, was a very welcomed addition on my personal favorite song, “Milk & Honey.” I even spotted Senora’s Mother-In-Law singing along on side stage to that one. A wonderful moment that I’ll store in the ole memory banks.
Senora thanked her husband Tyler Childers for letting her play his guitar. Once she said that I noticed the cheetah print heels she was wearing. Reckon ole Tammy Chiggers might’ve let Senora borrow those. Speaking of Tammy Childers…
As the sun sunk behind the ridgeline, the crowd became closer and deeper. Senora’s time slot is usually my favorite performance at KIOTC. Everyone steps out from their tents and canopies and you really begin to feel the anticipation in the air. As the night begins to cover us up, the lights fill the stage and the Festival comes alive. I like to call it the rumbling hour, you can feel the party train coming and it’s time to get onboard.
This was the second performance that I have seen of Ona. I caught a lot of their set at Railbird a few weeks ago.
Their vibe is very chill and I dig their sound, but I really haven’t had the opportunity to dig into their music. I definitely enjoyed their sets both times, but I’d be lying to ya if I wrote much more than that. I am looking forward to diving down an Ona rabbit hole to give them the coverage they deserve next time.
Before The Wooks took the stage, Byron brought Hargett Fire Department Chief Robert Forehand onstage. Through donations made at Kickin’ It, the department was able to purchase a brand new truck to help them fight brush fires.
That’s one of a billion wonderful things the Roberts have done for their community.
I’d say it’s pup approved! Whatcha think?!
I had to miss the ‘Lectric Wooks on Friday night, so there was no way that I was going to miss The Wooks twice.
The folks in the Wooks are greatly talented, but what I love most about them is they’re all wonderful people that truly care. They often donate their time and help the Can’d Aid Foundation continue to do their wonderful work.
As for their set, it was a helluva foot-stomping good time that featured former Wook, Professor Jessie Wells.
They kicked off their set with the Tyler Childers penned “Sang” and that’s all it took, they hooked everyone in attendance and the party was on.
We were treated to favorites like “Out Of Mine”, “White Lines And Neon Signs”, “Union Pacific”, a flat-out amazing version of Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly”, and they finally let Roddy sing! It’s always wonderful to hear Roddy singing the Beatles classic, “Dear Prudence.”
My personal favorite though, was “Wookie Foot Shuffle”, that’s my jam right there!!
Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound. Where to begin? I oftentimes listen to Arlo just to feel. I find myself calling Arlo, the King of Sorrow McKinley. The man has fought his share of demons and they’re ever-present in the songs he has written.
There’s no flash, no bells, no whistles, no gimmicks. There is just grit and honesty at an Arlo McKinley show and that will never change. It’s exactly who he is.
I love seeing Arlo perform. His voice penetrates your heart, grabbing the strings on the way in and holding it captive until the performance is over.
My absolute personal favorite Arlo tune is “Time In Bars”, so when they opened the set with it, I nearly lost my $hit, as the kids say. Good grief, what a wonderful time to be alive!
My favorite performances are usually the stripped down portion of the set where Arlo and pianist David Faul play a few songs mid-set. Not this time as Dave was unable to attend on Saturday night. That’s fine though, Arlo and The Lonesome Sound were absolutely on fire!
They tore through favorites like “We Were Alright”, “Bag Of Pills” which was a massive sing-a-long for the crowd, as was “I’ve Got Her”, “Wild Horses”, and the moment that ended Arlo’s set, was a moment we won’t soon forget. Arlo invited both Larry Keel and Jeremy Short to join him for a total badass performance of “Wrong Side Of The Street”. Unbelievable.
One thing that both Angela Oldfield from WSKV (Pick Up Country) and I noticed, was that the crowd was incredibly quiet for both Arlo and Senora’s sets. They sang with both artists during the chorus’, but listened intently. I feel that not having cell service on Ross Creek is a huge part of that. People can actually focus on just the music and it is absolutely incredible. I wish the world would take notice.
Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound have grown into a regional powerhouse. This train is ready to start rolling and the only thing that could derail it, is themselves.
Before we get to our Tyler Childers recap. I want to bring your attention to something that you may not be aware of.
Mr. Jim Webb came to his first Kickin’ It On The Creek last year. He had just spent five days in the hospital with walking pneumonia. He felt a little rough, but he had heard so much about KIOTC, that he wanted to attend.
We unfortunately lost Mr. Webb October 22nd, 2018. Roughly one month after his visit to Ross Creek.
Mr. Webb was a wonderful poet, a radio personality, and he was just a wonderful man. He gave us his hopes and dreams for KIOTC and Kentucky Music in general when he said, “Let The Mountains Ring Forever.” I believe the folks in Eastern Kentucky will carry that sentiment on and will continue to make Mr. Webb proud.
Mr. Webb’s words were then memorialized forever, as the name of the documentary about KIOTC by Zach Curry and Joe Whalen.
You can watch “Let The Mountains Ring Forever” below. We highly recommend it.
Rest Easy, Wiley Quixote.
The time had now arrived. Our prodigal son returned home to play at the festival that helped him launch his career.
Kickin’ It On The Creek has come along way and Tyler Childers’ success has drug everyone else with him. That is by far my favorite thing about Tyler. He never forgets his roots and I highly doubt he ever will.
First, let’s take a moment to recollect how we got here though. Byron Roberts threw a birthday party for Kenton. Next thing ya know, there’s a Hilljack sneaking in the back door and sitting on top of the Billboard charts. Got it? Good! Lol
I have covered many shows in the past, many home shows for artists, but I’m not sure I’ll ever cover one as special as Tyler returning to Ross Creek. A man with a number one record comes home to play in a holler in Estill County to 1000 fans and countless other artists on-site to share in the experience. Man, that’s f-ing poetic!
I’m taking a different approach on the section of Tyler this time around. Hopefully it’ll all make sense.
I tried my best to get a complete setlist for ya. If I missed one or two, lemme know! With that out of the way, I’ll pick it back up after the setlist.
White House Road
I Swear To God
Shake The Frost
Nose On The Grindstone
Bibles And Bottles
Follow You To Virgie
A Song For You
Honky Tonk Flame
Long, Long Time To Get Old
The reason behind this approach is that I want you to take notice of how specific the setlist is. Most every song mentions someone in attendance or is about our region. This was as much of a celebration of our home and her people, as it was a celebration of Tyler and the Foodstamps.
Oscar Wilde once said that, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” On Wolfpen Branch, you get to see both. We imitate Tyler’s art in singing along about his life. You’re surrounded by the very hills he roams, the creeks he fishes, you’re standing in a man’s front yard and celebrating art. There is no equivalent and you will never change my mind.
Tyler’s music has now reached far beyond his dreams and being able to help document his journey thus far, has been one of the biggest honors of my life.
I’m proud of Tyler and the Food Stamps. He is doing it his way and he is constantly lifting others up and it’s absolutely beautiful.
As for the show, my personal favorite performance of the entire weekend, was Tyler performing “Creeker”. Hearing his voice echo through the holler was simply incredible and I just got chills again as I typed that.
It was really special though. With his Dad in attendance, Tyler sang “Nose On The Grindstone” with his entire heart. He sang “Lady May” with Senora May gazing lovingly through the stage door. He sang “Matthew” while Matthew and Maya were watching through the same door as Senora. It was love and we were all surrounded by it. I hate to use the term magical, but it truly was.
There were moments where the crowd became deafening. You can likely still hear the echo from “Fire In The Hole” or “All I Know Is That When I Am Good And Sober I Am Leaving West Virginia For Awhile”, and of course, “Well My Buckle Makes Impressions On The Inside Of Her Thigh.”
And in all honesty, I truly believe that if Tyler were to just play a song, he could’ve let the crowd sing it. It was just that kind of night.
See for yourself with this video by the one and only Billie Jo Caskey.
If you can ever get ahold of a ticket to KIOTC, you’ll walk away with an entire new outlook on life. You’ll be reminded that the world really isn’t as bad as the media and politicians want us to think. You’ll walk away with a heart full of love that was filled by total strangers. It is truly, truly unforgettable.
If you missed out on KIOTC, but you will be in Denver for Tyler’s Red Rocks show, you have the chance to attend a show that features Geno Seale, Josh Nolan, Ritch Henderson, Eric Bolander, Chelsea Nolan, The Local Honeys, Laid Back Country Picker, and The Wooks.
“Appalachia On The Rocks” is a concert put together by Darren Byrd. The show takes place at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom. (Google images of the venue, it’s amazing.) Tickets are just $15 in advance or $20 at the door. You must at least 16 years old to enter.
Pick up your tickets here and come join the party with a room slap full of Kentuckians!!
Also, I just found out that Hope In The Hills is now sold-out. That makes me incredibly happy, as I know that means the world to Tyler. Healing Appalachia is a charity that helps people recover from the opiod crisis and most other addictions.
You can check them out here.
Last, but not least, The Larry Keel Experience took to the stage to close out the 2019 edition of KIOTC. I watched a couple of songs, snagged a few photos and my body told me it was time for bed and there was no arguing. Lol So my apologies to Mr. Keen and band for not writing more about his set, but what an incredible way to drift off to dream.
As I wrap this up, I want to take a moment to say thank you. Capture Kentucky has grown into something that I always hoped for, but never expected. I have somehow been blessed to became a small piece of this magical, musical family. So I want you to know that every hello, every bear hug, every Capture Kentucky shirt I saw, every print sold, every sticker I gave away and every conversation I had in my three days on Ross Creek means the absolute world to me.
I love y’all and I can’t wait to see ya again at the show!