John Fullbright at the Keyboard — 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018

Woodyfest 2018: Randy Crouch, Johnny Irion, & John Fullbright

Closing Night

Closing Night

This writer [Sidenote: Welcome to part thirty-three of The Bureau’s Woodyfest 21 cov­er­age. This final post wraps up with Randy Crouch, Johnny Irion, and John Fullbright.] had only one offi­cial assign­ment (cov­er­ing gritty soul-singer Opal Agafia) at the big out­door stage on fes­ti­val Saturday. Red Dirt leg­end Randy Crouch pre­ceded her. Unfortunately, his set coin­cided with my only chance to eat din­ner before I had to be back in front of the stage. I snapped a cou­ple of pic­tures of Crouch from upstage and trusted the other pho­tog­ra­phers to get some decent photos.

After Agafia’s set I stayed to doc­u­ment the goings-on back­stage and lis­ten to the clos­ing acts, Johnny Irion and home­town hero John Fullbright. [Sidenote: Although Fullbright attended Okemah High School, he hails from nearby Bearden.] I did wan­der out front for some of Fullbright’s set, as evi­denced by the photo gallery. I even man­aged to snap a rare image of him with his eyes open.

Fullbright was joined by reknowned song­writer Willis Alan Ramsey at the begin­ning of his set. Ramsey per­formed “Boy from Oklahoma” [Sidenote: The song pays trib­ute to Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie.] from his epony­mous album.

Thanks for stick­ing with me through this look back at Woodyfest 2018. I’ll see you at the Pastures of Plenty in six months!

Randy Crouch

Randy Crouch, known as the World’s Best Rock ’n’ Roll Fiddler, [Sidenote: Wright, Leif M., “Greatness wears a big beard: World’s best rock fid­dle player also inspires,” (OK Weekend​.com 20 July 2007). Archived at the Internet Wayback Machine.] had an unbro­ken streak play­ing Woodyfest until 2014, when ill­ness pre­vented him attend­ing. The Oklahoma Music Awards Red Dirt Hall of Fame inductee lives in Tahlequah where he holds court over reg­u­lar jam sess­sions fea­tur­ing some of Oklahoma’s best folk, coun­try, and rock musi­cians and songwriters.

Crouch is a vir­tu­oso multi-instru­men­tal­ists. I once saw him play where he’s over a steel gui­tar and a piano while he’s play­ing fid­dle. In the mid­dle of the song, he wants to tune up the fid­dle, so he hits the A note on the piano with his fid­dle bow and tunes the string and keeps on playing. [Sidenote: Jim Blair, quoted in Ibid.]

Johnny Irion

Sometimes com­pared to Harry Nilsson because of his vocal tim­bre, folk-rocker Johnny Irion made his Woodyfest début in 2003. He’s been back five time since, often join­ing forces with Sarah Lee Guthrie, to whom he is also mar­ried. His songs evoke both California rock and Guthrie-esqe folk, prompt­ing Bernie Sanders to invite Irion to sing at a polit­i­cal rally in 2016. Irion released his most recent album, Driving Friend, two months before Woodyfest 2018.

John Fullbright

John Fullbright released his 2012 album, From the Ground Up, to crit­i­cal acclaim — gar­ner­ing praise from National Public Radio, American Songwriter, Rolling Stone, and The Wall Street Journal. The album received a Grammy nom­i­na­tion for Best Americana Album, which went to Bonnie Raitt for her album Slipstream.

His star keeps ris­ing: in 2014 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Stage as musi­cal guest for The Late Show with David Letterman. That same year Fullbright released a third crit­i­cally acclaimed album.

If you were lucky enough to hear the Okemah high-schooler try out his songs around the Woodyfest camp song-cir­cles a dozen-or-so years ago, you prob­a­bly knew Fullbright was some­thing spe­cial. But even he didn’t forsee his rapid ascent. I never came into this with a whole lot of expec­ta­tions. I just wanted to write really good songs, and with that out­look, every­thing else is a perk. The fact that we went to LA and played “Gawd Above” in front of a star-stud­ded audi­ence […], never in my life would I have imag­ined that. [Sidenote: “Who Is John Fullbright?” Press kit biog­ra­phy from john​full​bright​.com. Author and date unknown.]

We imag­ine greater things to come.

Gallery: Crouch, Irion, & Fullbright

Gallery: Crouch, Irion, & Fullbright

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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