“American Songwriter” reviews Savannah Music Festival’s “best” shows

Some really interesting comments about the just-completed SMF by reviewer Daniel Lumpkin in American Songwriter’s The Best Shows at Savannah Music Festival.

Given the publication’s focus, the list of featured artists is no surprise: Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Joy Kills Sorrow, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sarah Jarosz, and Richard Thompson. Clearly, Lumpkin was here for a few days during the festival’s final week.

I did not see Douglas, Tedeschi Trucks, or Jarosz, so I don’t have much reaction to those descriptions — except to say that I wish I had seen them all.

I didn’t post a separate review of Joy Kills Sorrow, but I found the band extremely talented although a bit hard to describe. Vocalist Emma Beaton sounds like she could be singing jazz or pop to me, but the band has a generally bluegrass sound. It makes for an odd combination, at least to my ear. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I was certainly left wanting more — a lot more — of Joy Kills Sorrow mandolin player Jacob Jollliff. As American Songwriter notes:

Jacob Jolliff, the 2012 national mandolin champion, was a bandit single-handedly stealing the show with several brilliant solos while playing in front of a packed house on Thursday.

By contrast, Lumpkin had a pretty awful experience during Richard Thompson’s opening set before Crowell and Harris:

The lengths that this power trio went to for most of the show seemed like a waste, though. The cold audience (Emmylou fans) was disinterested in Thompson, politely clapping after each song and chatting throughout his performance. Thompson valiantly gave the crowd a spectacular performance and after playing “Keep Your Distance,” the audience was brought to life. They remembered “oh yeah, we actually like Richard Thompson too” just in time for the band’s final song that ended with a battling, five minute solo from Thompson’s electric guitar and Michael Jerome’s drums. One of the best shows at The Savannah Music Festival this year for easily the worst audience.

I didn’t notice any such problems with the audience, but — as I said in my review last week — I was seated in the first row of the lower mezzanine. So a) we had few people around us and b) everyone nearby seemed as excited by Thompson as by Harris and Crowell.

That’s not to say that I doubt Lumpkin’s impressions.

Sometimes in complaining about crowd behavior there’s a tinge of the “kids these days . . .” arguments, but it was an old crowd on hand for the show, with relatively few attendees who weren’t into middle age.

Also, the muddiness of the sound at the Mercer can do some really bad things — I’d be curious to know exactly where the reviewer was sitting.

And I’ll also observe that a certain number of people in attendance, including the friend who came with me, did not in fact know Richard Thompson, despite his staggering productivity and the sheer quality of his work.