Unity Magazine’s AMERICAN ROOTS FEST 2011


Unity Magazine recently held their first American Roots Fest at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids MI. Unity Magazine is a component of the non-profit 501 C-3, Operations Resources Inc.

The American Roots Fest was inspired by Unity Magazine’s mission to promote diversity and unity between the many different cultures that make up our great American landscape. The American Roots Fest was conceptualized as a living example of the different cultural contributions and traditions that form the foundations of our unique national music styles.

It was with this history, and a sense of community through shared love of music that led to the Unity Magazine American Roots Festival. The goal is to make this event become an annual event that showcases what values we as a community hold in common together, despite our perceived differences. We believe we have had a respectable start to this mission, thanks to a little help from our friends:

Black Cat Bone, who opened the show, carry a heavy blues sound that is inspired by the music that sprang up from the Mississippi Delta. Heavy on the harmonica and slide bottle, they write and perform original tunes inspired by the classic themes of blues and country; broken hearts,time in jail, drinking, and deals with the devil.

Roosevelt Diggs performed their bluegrass and traditional string band inspired music, delving deeply into their cultural heritage with tunes from their album (currently in the works) focusing on American folklore. Songs about John Henry, Casey Jones and Rip VanWinkle were delivered with little more than guitar, mandolin, upright bass and a washtub full of attitude.

Representing the voices of the African influences on American music was Badenya, a tightly woven group of friends deeply passionate about the djembe and dun dun drum music of the Malinke people.  Several of the band members have visited Africa multiple times to learn first-hand from the masters of this ancient form of music. What they bring to the audience is a respect for the tradition, blended seamlessly with new material that helps evolve the music as it carries on into new territory. Badenya is a powerful musical experience to witness first hand.

Hannah Rose and the GravesTones expressed more of a Chicago blues feeling in their music, with a little gospel inspiration in the mix.  The GravesTones is a band that is in constant flux as members come and go between projects, and new friends jump into the mix to lend a hand as needed. This has the effect of giving Hannah Rose the opportunity to shift her sound and choice of songs to fit the mood of each show. With a constantly evolving sound, she is never as tightly categorized into one slot as many other singers would be. This becomes one of her many strengths as a performer.

Closing out the evening, was an excellent blend of jazz inspired blues from Blue Molly, who carries something of a tightly knit jazz vibe about their tone, somewhat intellectual yet accessible. They have a very strong  “New York City” sound. The energy of Molly B having such a great time performing, emanating a tangible enthusiasm while fronting the band, only serves to engage the audience on a personal level. You can’t help but like her when you see how much fun she is having singing for you.

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About analogmutant

art, music, food, movies, citizen journalism, activism, and whatever else i am into at the moment...
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