Roots On The River Returns To Bellows Falls

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Check out VPR’s 2010 Summer Music Festivals page

(Host) This weekend marks the eleventh annual Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls.

The four-day music marathon features country, rock, folk music and blues — and celebrates the raw, down-home sound of original singer songwriters.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Eaglesmith, music) "Comin out of Corpus Christie Texas, three o’clock one Sunday morning. We’re in the old blue bus. We got pulled over by the Texas State Troopers because one of our running lights was out."

(Keese) That’s Canadian singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith, the perennial headliner at Roots on the River.

He isn’t the kind of star who plays stadiums and concert halls. For years he toured the U.S. and Canada in an old blue bus that provided plenty of grist for his songs and on-stage monologues.

And he has a group of hard-core fans, known as "Fred Heads," willing to travel seemingly ridiculous distances to see him.

Rockingham lawyer Ray Massucco is the festival’s producer. He’s expecting 1,600 or 1,700 people. That’s how many turned out last year.

(Massucco) "They come from California, Michigan, Utah, Texas, New Orleans, all over Canada. The first two tickets I sold this year were to a couple from Australia who built their trip to the states around the festival because they’re big fans of Fred Eaglesmith."

(Keese) Massucco says a Hudson Valley band called Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams will attract its own cadre of fans.

Folk artist and multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg will be performing Saturday night.

Massucco says the festival also makes a point of inviting artists people haven’t yet heard about.

(Massucco) "We’ve got this incredible young blues guitarist from England named Jane Shaw Taylor from England. She’s playing Friday night. Her heroes are Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Rae Vaughn. We’ve also got Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles back from Boston."

(Keese) Australian singer-songwriter Alison Auld got her introduction to Roots on the River when she played the festival with Eaglesmith several years ago. She’ll be back this year.

She describes the festival as a sort of family reunion of people from all over who care about a certain kind of music.

(Auld) "It’s not just kind of manufactured or made up to try to sell records. It comes from true life stories and experiences and feelings. It‘s got a big dose of humor. And I think that’s what draws people to artists like that. They’re just looking for something that’s got integrity and a lot of truth to it."

(Keese) Most of the festival happens in a big field near the river north of the village. Most of the work is done by volunteers.

There are also free performances in town, and a final, unplugged concert Sunday at the Rockingham Meeting House. Eaglesmith plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

Check out VPR’s 2010 Summer Music Festivals page

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