Johnny Nicholas is what Folk Music is about. He's genuine and he is a great ambassador for the perpetuation of true root music. He doesn't just pay lip service to keeping the music alive but rather actively makes opportunity to bring the music alive while keeping it real.
I had a chance to talk with Johnny about his thoughts on the Rhythm and Roots festival held on Labor Day weekend each year in Charlestown, RI. Originally from Westerly RI, he is quite familiar with the Charlestown area so being there is like coming home. He believes that the Rhythm and Roots festival is important because of the "spirit of what they do" and that is to keep root music alive. What appears on the Rhythm and Roots stages is real music and an important alternative to the over done Rap and Rock that is played on the nation's radio stations, music that Johnny deems to be harmful. He describes Root music as being "authentic from the heart with passion." I, personally, couldn't agree with him more. In my search for something more real in music, a whole new world opened up when I found root music. It is a field of music that is so rich and alive that once I stepped into it, I became totally immersed in all of the facets of it. There is so much to explore. A great place to start your exploration of root music is the Rhythm & Roots Festival.
Johnny will be participating in a collaborative effort with Marcia Ball, Steve Reilly, and Joel Guzman. I asked Johnny what we can expect from this set. While time will not permit a formal rehearsal, per se, this group of top musicians has been planning the hour set. Johnny has worked with these musicians in other venues around LA and Texas so with planning, the set will be cohesive. Johnny told me that he dislikes the idea of a free for all jam session. So it's important to him for the group to have agreed on the set list prior to taking the stage on Saturday night at 7:30pm. The set will likely include pieces from Marcia Ball's new CD, House of Love – lead by Steve Reilly, Boogie Highway 190 – lead by Johnny Nicholas plus some all in Southwest Louisiana Swamp Pop, and some rocking piano tunes.
I also asked Johnny what to expect from his band's set at 8:15pm on Friday night. He indicated that the set will include new materials from an upcoming CD still in the recording process. He also mentioned that he's planning on doing a medley of Gatemouth Brown tunes. Most importantly expect to hear deep rooted traditional blues. His mission is to preserve the music so expect to see a passionate performance from Johnny and his Texas All Stars.
Talking with Johnny was a treat for me because of his commitment to root music. I look forward to hearing his set and particularly the collaborative set. Both Johnny and I agree that Chuck Wentworth has done an amazing job at assembling a well diverse selection of artists for Rhythm & Roots 2009.