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, 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.]
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 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 johnfullbright.com. Author and date unknown.]
We imagine greater things to come.