One of the unique aspects of Newport Folk Festival, which this year celebrated its 60th anniversary, is the interconnected community of the artists who perform each year; there is a sense of musical camaraderie there among both the artists and the fans.

A good percentage of performers in any given year are returning alumni, and many artists pop up unannounced on each other’s sets throughout the weekend. Emerging artists making their Newport debut are embraced by the curious and attentive Newport audience, who make the trek to Fort Adams to catch the earliest sets of the day. Whereas summer festival headliners typically blot out the attention paid to smaller bands, at Newport, an artist like Yola, who played the 11:30 a.m. set on Friday, also performed as a guest singer on Saturday’s closing set, curated by Brandi Carlile, that also featured Dolly Parton.

We sought out some of this year’s performers to get a sense of the familial atmosphere at Newport Folk Festival.

On their just-released second album, By & By, the Ohio trio Caamp shifts effortlessly between charming lo-fi rock ditties to heart-on-sleeve, banjo-driven anthems.

Cedric Burnside, the grandson of Mississippi blues musician R.L. Burnside, takes the DNA of his electric blues heritage and slightly transforms it into hypnotic, minimalist grooves. 

Liz Cooper propels her soulful voice, swaying melodies, and advanced guitar fingerpicking into psych/prog territory as the leader of her trio, Liz Cooper & the Stampede. 

Rayland Baxter is a songwriter who successfully rides the line between sincere and subversive. Following his 2018 release of the polished Wide Awake, he released Good Mmorning, an EP of covers of songs by the late Mac Miller. 

I’m With Her is the collaborative trio of accomplished, progressive folk singer-songwriters and instrumentalists Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan.

Our Native Daughters is another high-profile collaborative project, featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Allison Russell, Leyla McCalla, and Amythyst Kiah, who together righteously reclaim and recontextualize the African roots of American folk music.

Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent (who we profiled earlier this year for On The Road) returned to Newport with his layered, abstract music.

Billy Strings returned to bluegrass with a slightly psychedelic perspective to virtuosic bluegrass guitar music and songwriting. Billy performed at Newport with Molly Tuttle, another gifted bluegrass guitarist and songwriter. Both have albums due this fall. 

Bonny Light Horseman—a new project comprising songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, who also composed the Tony-award winning music for Hadestown; Eric D. Johnson of indie rock band Fruit Bats, and producer/guitarist Josh Kaufman—explores the spacious and atmospheric territories of British folk music. 

Over the course of many years busking in Texas and Louisiana, Charley Crockett has whittled an approach to blues, honky-tonk country, and hillbilly music down to an unvarnished, convergent nub, writing original songs that pair well with Jimmy Reed and Hank Williams. 

Singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews delivered soaring, churchy ballads on her 2018 release, May Your Kindness Remain, which held its own against breakout albums from heavy-hitters like Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves. 

Illiterate Light—Jeff Gorman (nephew of Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman) and Jake Cochran—makes sweet, high-energy rock music that elicits both wide smiles and headbanging. They release their debut album on Atlantic Records in October. 

Incredibly sensitive and receptive to the world around him, Lonnie Holley describes himself as a “universal artist.” He is renowned for sculptures made from the detritus of unseen America and creates improvisatory music around the incantations of his poem-songs.

The young British singer and musician Nilüfer Yanya skirts around genre categorization with an idiosyncratic, home-brewed mix of crunchy, handcrafted beats, pop-punk guitar hooks, and intimate sing-speak vocals. She released her first full-length album, Miss Universe, earlier this year.

Tennessee native Erin Rae coaxes cinematic drama from within the intimate spaces of her finely crafted songs.  Her second album, Putting on Airs, was released last year and has added to her growing reputation as an artist of consequence among her Nashville peers. 

After several years lending her powerful vocals to pop projects, British vocalist and songwriter Yola Carter dropped her last name, and she confidently proclaimed herself the “Queen of Country Soul” as Yola with her debut solo album Walk Through Fire, produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach. The Queen was in high demand as a guest singer at this year’s festival, performing with the Highwomen, Dawes, and Brandi Carlile’s headlining set billed at the Collaboration, which also featured Dolly Parton.

This photo essay is part of On the Road, a series of visual essays that explores the creative lives of notable musicians, onstage and off.


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