The Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains, Mo., will celebrate its 26th celebration Saturday, June 5, with outstanding performances on the festival stage from noon till 9 p.m. The annual event in downtown West Plains, Mo., celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free. In this unique year, following the cancelation of festivities in 2020, organizers hope to bring joy and celebration back to the community.
The West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA) started the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in response to input from the traditional music community (mostly musicians from families who had played for generations as well as graduates from the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program of the Missouri Folk Arts Program). At the time, there was not a festival venue locally where that music was showcased. Members of the community formed a planning committee to look at the feasibility of a small arts council participating in a meaningful way to facilitate such a festival. The first years were under advisement, with input, and some sponsorship from the Missouri Folk Arts Program. The festival has always received funding from the Missouri Arts Council under their community arts program.
This year’s headliner is The Creek Rocks, on stage at 8 p.m., preceded by the Shortleaf Band at 6 p.m.
“We’re excited to introduce the full slate of performers who will fill our stage noon till 9PM Saturday. For this post-COVID celebration, we’ve invited back many of those who have performed over the years, as well as some who have been involved with this Festival since its inception,” organizers said. “It will be a great day of old-time music!”
The Creek Rocks are a folk group led by banjoist Cindy Woolf and guitarist Mark Bilyeu. After many years of collaboration, the duo emerged as The Creek Rocks in 2015 with their debut album Wolf Hunter. Cindy and Mark strive to represent their beloved Ozarks region with the right mix of authenticity and their own creative energies.
Wolf Hunter is an album of sixteen folk songs from the Ozarks, gathered from the collections of folklorists Max Hunter of Springfield, Missouri (Mark’s hometown) and John Quincy Wolf of Batesville, Arkansas (Cindy’s hometown). Ozarks’ music has been well documented and preserved by the likes of Hunter, Wolf and others, and The Creek Rocks have a knack for breathing new life into these old songs.
Wolf Hunter has drawn praise and critical accolades, including from heavy-hitting duos like Bela Flek and Abigail Washburn – “The CD has become a favorite for us, and we play it for special friends; and our son loves hearing it in the car, where we all end up getting to know it more and more and all digging it together;” also Molly O’Brien and Rich Moore “We LOVE the CD. I want to order a few more…” The Creek Rocks’ photo graced the cover of Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s September 2017 issue under the headline “The Deep Ozarks Sound”, which also included a feature article on the duo. More recently, they’ve been nominated for “Acoustic Act of the Year” in the 2021 Arkansas Country Music Awards.
November 2019 found them in Nashville recording their second album due for release in 2021. The track listing is evenly split between Cindy and Mark’s original songs and another batch of Ozarks material, this time drawn from the folk song collection of Mary Celestia Parler of Arkansas.
Cindy and Mark most often perform as a banjo-guitar duo but can also draw from a host of talented musician friends to back them up if a full band is preferred. Their repertoire also includes songs from Cindy’s three CDs of original songs and Bilyeu’s tenure in the well-known family band Big Smith.
For more on The Creek Rocks, read this excellent in-depth profile by Kaitlyn McConnell from her blog Ozarks Alive!
Shortleaf – The Shortleaf Band is a duet based in the Southern Missouri Ozark’s. Tenley Hansen and Michael Fraser have immersed themselves into the culture and traditional music of the “Scots Irish” who became the first to settle the region.
Michael Fraser is a founding member of the Shortleaf Band, named after the Shortleaf Pine found in the great southern forests of the Ozark Mountains. He began playing guitar in college and was especially influenced by the new sounds of the Southern Rock Bands, especially The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Moving to the Ozarks to begin a career in Education, he became immersed in the traditional fiddle music of the Scots/Irish who first settled the Ozarks.
Michael was awarded a two-year apprenticeship with Master Ozark Square Dance Fiddler, Bob Holt through the Missouri Arts Council’s Master/Apprentice Program. It was through this experience that Michael understood the communication between music and dance. Bob once told Michael “You may think you’re a hot fiddler, but if the dancers don’t invite you back, you ain’t a fiddler. You’ve got to give the dancers a place to put their foot”.
Tenley Hansen is a former musical stage performer who has moved into the folk music genre. She lived in Kansas City most of her life and has been performing for The Shortleaf Band since 2005. A singer/songwriter with a folksy alto voice; she plays keyboards, guitar, fiddle and mandolin.
Shortleaf will be performing on a variety of stringed instruments including fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and others as they weave a musical tapestry showcasing traditional and contemporary music from the Ozark’s. They will be joined by Lonnie Jones from Rogersville, Missouri on Bass.
Alvie & Friends – Experienced string band musicians from south-central and southwest Missouri – Alvie Dooms, , Ashley Hull Forrest, Kim Lansford, Nathan McAlister, and David Scrivner – will bring an old/new sound to our stage…. Old-time music, new sound from this group that rarely plays together, gathered this year to reinforce the traditions.
90-year-old Alvie Dooms has been performing at our Festival since its inception. This is only a small segment of the contribution he has made to old-time music over the years. A standard at the McClurg Jam Monday night festivities, he works hard to keep the traditions going for future generations. And dances – more dances than you can count!
Ashley Hull Forrest has been playing the fiddle since she was 6 years old and loves to play old-time fiddle music any chance she gets. A wife and mom to two girls, Ashley works as a school nurse for a local school district.
Kim Lansford has lived in the Ozark Mountains since the 1970s. As a rock-solid back-up guitarist capable of keeping up with the breakneck speed of square dance fiddlers in the Ozarks, or a piano player well versed in the Missouri Valley fiddle tune repertoire, Kim has accompanied old-time fiddlers at dances, festivals and functions across the country. Years of perfecting her craft provided ample opportunity to play and learn from many older master musicians in the Ozarks and Missouri Valley music traditions including Art Galbraith and Gordon McCann, Bob Holt and Alvie Dooms, Fred Stoneking, and Dwight Lamb. Kim is also an accomplished singer with rich repertoire of songs collected from mentors and Ozarks folksong collectors W.K. McNeil and Max Hunter. Music of the Carter Family, the brother duets and string bands of the twenties and thirties, and the musical memory her late husband Jim, remain as enduring sources of inspiration.
Nathan McAlister resides in the small mining community of Granby Missouri and has spent the last 25 years studying traditional Ozark banjo and fiddle playing.
David Scrivner began playing Ozarks music when he was just six years old. A native of Mansfield, Missouri, David’s family ties in the Ozarks go back generations with roots in Douglas and Taney counties. David has been playing traditional Ozarks fiddle music for 25 years, including several years as a student and apprentice of renown Ozarks fiddler Bob Holt. Focused on preserving Ozarks dance and music traditions, David also won the 2019 Arkansas State Old-Time Fiddling Grand Championship. He has his master’s degree in English and is currently employed in the marketing field in Springfield.
Bona Fide String Band – an old-time group based in Hardy, Arkansas. Band members Jeff Kamps, Debbie Kamps, Lisa Culver, and Greg Cox definitely turn back the clock for some old-time string band music and vocals.
Jeff Kamps brings an old-time sound to Bona Fide with the clawhammer banjo. Jeff is a two-time Arkansas State Senior Clawhammer Banjo Champion. His introduction to traditional music came in the 1970s when he first encountered the music of Doc Watson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Soon, he was playing music and building mountain dulcimers while working as an electrician. Today, he is a retired luthier and businessman, who owned and operated the Flat Creek Dulcimer Shop in Hardy from 1988-2016, building and selling a variety of traditional instruments. In fact, he built one of the banjos he regularly plays.
Debbie Kamps plays rhythm guitar and sings lead and harmony vocals in her warm soprano voice. After seeing Jean Ritchie in a live performance, Debbie developed a love for ballad singing and the mountain dulcimer. Husband Jeff built his first mountain dulcimer for her, and she was soon on the road to many years of singing and performing. Debbie retired from teaching English and history in 2015. Jeff, Debbie, and family were also performers at the Arkansas Traveler Dinner Theater in Hardy for many years.
Lisa Culver plays the fiddle and hammered dulcimer and contributes lead and harmony vocals. Her family moved to the Hardy area from Blytheville, and she has had a deep love for all things musical throughout her life. As a teen she learned to play the fiddle from local fiddle legend, Ralph DePriest. Lisa has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Arkansas State University and has been recognized as a master gardener.
Greg Cox is regarded regionally as a gifted musician and songwriter who continues the tradition of passing along music. His musical roots are deep and began with his family in southern Indiana, so much so, that he is not quite sure when he started playing music. Greg adds to the group’s traditional vocals in both lead and harmony and plays the mandolin and fiddle. Greg, a retired electrician, also enjoys gardening, cooking and “making music” with his neighbors and friends.
Colbert Brothers – Old-time music has been a family tradition for generations for Colbert Brothers Leon, Van, and Vernon, all of whom hail from Willow Springs, Mo. “Mom and Dad instilled in us the love of their music, and to this day we play, sing and remember,” said Van, who is known for his unique “two-finger” roll style on banjo.
The Colbert’s grandfather, Hall Colbert, moved the family from the Buffalo River region of Arkansas during the Depression years. He and his wife, Ethel, their four boys, Leon, Bob, Truett and John, and their four daughters, Geneva, Gladys, Jewell and Marge, traveled by horse and wagon to the Howell County community of Amy where they established new roots and Hall preached as a Baptist minister and sang.
The Colbert’s father, Joseph Truett, who was named for a famous turn-of-the-century minister, taught himself to play a banjo he built by stretching a groundhog skin over the hoop for a head. He taught Van’s older brothers to chord the guitar and enjoyed playing along once they could carry a tune. Mother Vernieca May (Easley) Colbert also was a beautiful singer and lady, Van said, and before she passed away, they could always encourage her to sing “Beautiful Brown Eyes,” “Red River Valley,” “Maple on the Hill” and “Wildwood Flower” to their accompaniment.
McAlister & Lansford – Kim Lansford and Nathan McAlister bring together fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocal harmonies to tell the story of the Ozark hills through song.
McAlister resides in the small mining community of Granby Missouri and has spent the last 25 years studying traditional Ozark banjo and fiddle playing.
Kim Lansford has lived in the Ozark Mountains since the 1970s. As a rock-solid back-up guitarist capable of keeping up with the breakneck speed of square dance fiddlers in the Ozarks, or a piano player well versed in the Missouri Valley fiddle tune repertoire, Kim has accompanied old-time fiddlers at dances, festivals and functions across the country. Years of perfecting her craft provided ample opportunity to play and learn from many older master musicians in the Ozarks and Missouri Valley music traditions including Art Galbraith and Gordon McCann, Bob Holt and Alvie Dooms, Fred Stoneking, and Dwight Lamb.
Kim is also an accomplished singer with rich repertoire of songs collected from mentors and Ozarks folksong collectors W.K. McNeil and Max Hunter. Music of the Carter Family, the brother duets and string bands of the twenties and thirties, and the musical memory her late husband Jim, remain as enduring sources of inspiration.
Kim and Nathan join together to offer a unique and raw approach to Ozarks and traditional southern mountain music.
One More Dollar –There is a sound that brings a region into your thoughts. So unique to its location and inseparable to its culture, it is difficult to name. One More Dollar, has that sound and its focus on original and depression-era and earlier music provides an opportunity to build its own sound on the foundation of this difficult name. We believe we know what to call it, Ozarkana.
Local multi-instrumental folk musicians, Robert Adkison, Alisha Thomas, and Jeremy Myers are no strangers to the Ozarks music scene. Having performed all over the Ozarks throughout the years, crossing paths and enjoying each other’s music, they have decided to team up for that full band sound focusing on roots folk music.
Sisco&Alexander – Drawing on their parallel experiences of growing up in musical families in the Ozarks Hills and rural New England, folk gospel singer Mary Alexander joins acclaimed singer-songwriter-storyteller Marideth Sisco, the singer from the Oscar-nominated film “Winter’s Bone,” in a program of stories and songs ranging from the early American frontier to the 1950s – on an American Front Porch.
This program, gathered from numerous sources, features period tunes and a colorful history of the time rural Americans spent singing, weaving tales and shelling peas or husking corn out of reach of the radio and far from the summer heat of the wood cookstove. Both Sisco and Alexander spent significant portions of their childhoods on these porches, soaking up the music and the tales that colored their picture of the world to come. The experience of that earlier world was cut short for most by the arrival in the early 1950s of the television and the air conditioner. The experience of that unique culture has not vanished entirely but is no longer the shaper of memories and culture it once was.
Sisco&Alexander return us to those rich, sweet memories of home.
The performance schedule will soon be available online at www.oldtimemusic.org
“The overall mission of the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is about preserving traditions, and there are few traditions as close to people’s hearts as music,” said festival organizer Paula Speraneo. “Our artists this year were chosen for their long-standing artistic excellence, career milestones and legacies that span ages and tradition. It is a combination that will be special for audiences of all ages. These performers truly exhibit that great music rooted in storied traditions transcends generations. We are thrilled to have these outstanding performers this year at the festival.”
The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is the signature event for West Plains. The festival seeks to celebrate, preserve, pass on and nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands.
2021 Festival partners include the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains, the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, West Plains Civic Center, and Missouri State University-West Plains. Partial funding for this event was provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
For more information on the festival e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website at http://www.oldtimemusic.org, or “like” the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Old.Time.Music.Festival