The 2011 Cayamo music cruise featured performances by John Prine, Patty Griffin, Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright, Brandi Carlile, the Indigo Girls, and numerous other artists who could be considered the best folk and roots artists at work these days. Here's a look at some of the highlights from Cayamo 2011.
John Prine - Stardust Lounge
I'd never seen John Prine before this performance, so there was a lot of anticipation for this one. Prine proved to be one of the best performers I've ever seen, though, and this set was easily a live music highlight. He pulled Cayamo darling Brandi Carlile onstage for turns on "In Spite of Ourselves" and "Angel from Montgomery."
Buddy Miller (with Patty Griffin and Steve Earle) - Stardust Lounge
Buddy Miller has long been hailed as one of the giants of the Americana movement, and his performance on Cayamo's final night was simply more proof as to why. Backed by an all-star band (most impressive among them, drummer Cody Dickinson from North Mississippi All-Stars), he played much of the show with Patty Griffin singing back-up for audience favorites and a selection from his forthcoming Majestic Silver Strings record (due out Mar. 1). He also welcomed Steve Earle for a turn on Johnny & Jack's "Oh Your Poison Love Has Stained the Life Blood in My Heart and Soul, Dear."
Indigo Girls and Brandi Carlile - Stardust Lounge
The Indigo Girls were pretty much on fire for the whole week, but this show they played with Brandi Carlile was nearly unbeatable (if Buddy Miller hadn't been on the ship, I'd have called this one the best set I saw all week). They did a few songs separately, but mostly played collaborations with Carlile and her impressive band. Steve Earle joined in for a harmonica part on "Shame on You." Carlile and Ray did an unforgettable cover of Roy Orbison's "Cryin'," and backing band members Phil and Tim Hanseroth, Josh Neumann, Allison Miller, and Julie Wolf proved to be a formidable combination.
Loudon Wainwright III & Richard Thompson (Loud & Rich)
Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson are, without question, two of contemporary folk music's greatest singer-songwriters. Wainwright spent a good time of his career being called the "next Bob Dylan," while Thompson's tenure in Fairport Convention (and his long career after that) have moved him to "legend" status in the minds of fans everywhere. Both have an impressive catalog of story-songs, and they were in full swing this night, with plenty of humorous banter to boot.
Enter the Haggis - Pool Deck
Enter the Haggis bring together an intriguing blend of Scottish folk music and modern rock. Bagpipes and electric guitars; the occasional sax solo. Though they played several sets all over the ship, this band was best suited for the raucous dance-invoking sets they delivered a few times on the pool deck. Their performances there often kicked off a night of party atmosphere, as folks crowded around the pools and slide to celebrate setting sail from a port of call.
Will Hoge - Pool Deck
I'd seen Will Hoge once or twice as a solo artist, but had yet to catch him with the full band. Earlier in the week, he'd done a song swap with the incredible Scott Miller (whose own shows were always set against a mainstage performance to which I had tickets). But, this night, Hoge delivered a remarkable rock set on the pool deck which brought to mind classic Elvis Costello. Certainly a show worth catching if and when Hoge and his band are in your town.
Patty Griffin - Stardust Lounge
Patty Griffin is, in my opinion, one of the best songwriters at work these days. Her last few albums have been remarkable from start to finish - the latest, Downtown Church, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album the day the cruise took off from Miami. So, for this trip, she had producer Buddy Miller on hand to lend guitar and vocal backing. Together, these two make some of the best music available in the folk/roots/Americana realm, and they were on a roll from the minute they got on the ship. Griffin is working on a new album, and so had a few unreleased tunes to work out. She also pulled largely from Downtown Church and the farthest reaches of her catalog for what was a steallar back-to-back show block on Thursday night.
Lucy Wainwright Roche - Atrium
Lucy Wainwright Roche is another in the long line of Wainwrights and Roches who have proven to have something in their blood when it comes to great musical prowess. Unlike the dramatic, ambitious work of her half-brother and half-sister (Rufus and Martha Wainwright, respectively), Lucy's work is more aligned with the clever, stripped-down story-songs her father Loudon Wainwright III comes out with. Her music is haunting and beautiful, often heartbreaking, more often insightful. And her sets in the atrium were charming easy highlights of the week.