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895 Fest Lives, Rocks and Rolls on Day 1

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Photos by Val Hoeppner
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Great music festivals have a personality, a trusted spirit that is refined over years. As 895 Fest sang itself to life yesterday afternoon, we asked ourselves what is this thing, and what will it be? Then Robbie Fulks, the wry veteran of alt-country, led a band that included arguably the best banjo player in the world. And Molly Tuttle blew minds with her guitar, her voice and her range of material. All this while the sun bathed the grounds of Hop Springs Beer Park in a perfect late May golden hour glow.

The open-air beer hall and a vendor village made a comfortable enclosed area while rolling hills and forest defined the backdrop. The sound was crystalline. After immense amounts of work and much negotiation and thought by so many, this was happening and it was working. Day Two starts at 11 am. Full schedule HERE.

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Robbie Fulks was and will always be the first-ever artist to perform at 895 Fest, and that's a pretty stellar way to start, given that he was on one of the very first ever covers of No Depression magazine in the 1990s and has been a true stalwart of Americana ever since. He could have killed it solo, but no, he brought O Brother bass player Dannis Crouch, mandolinist/hat maker Scott Simontacchi and IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Noam Pikelny. 

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Molly Tuttle got the best natural lighting of the day in the 6 pm slot. And she lit things up herself with her innovative clawhammer guitar style and a band that included fiddler Christian Sedelmyer on fiddle and a banging rhythm section.

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The Roots gang has always turned to the McCrary Sisters for transcendence, joy and belonging. They performed "Let It Go," a tune that's always helped us dwell on what matters most.

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If you are a man who likes to sing, you will always have to do so wishing your voice could be more like Delbert McClinton's - that perfect balance of rasp and blue croon. He was in fine form and he brought Nashville veteran Heidi Newfield up for a fiery duet.

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A kind of brother from another mother to Delbert, Lee Roy Parnell embodies the Texas roadhouse sound plus some smooth touches drawn from soul and classic R&B. He and his gold top Les Paul guitar were joined on stage by his soulful sweetheart Lisa Stewart.

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The War & Treaty blew up a couple of years ago as a leading act in American music because of their staggering voices and songs, but also their personal chemistry on stage. Husband and wife Michael and Tanya have taken that to a new level, and they were able to share with the crowd that they've been newly signed to Rounder Records.