The Black Lillies will return
to headline Friday night lineup
The East Tennessee band
is back by popular demand
(May 2014) – Cruz Contreras has always wanted to make music. After co-founding two bands and spending almost a decade on the road, he found it was time for a change in 2007.
He worked different jobs but knew only a career in music would make him happy. While traveling the roads of East Tennessee, he decided to return to music and began to form the nucleus of what would become his current band, The Black Lillies.
The Black Lillies band includes founder Cruz Contreras (sitting) and Tom Pryor, Robert Richards, Bowman Townsend and Trisha Gene Brady.
With the help of a few friends, The Black Lillies recorded their début album, “Whiskey Angel,” in Contreras’ living room. It was released in April 2009. Contreras, who plays guitar and mandolin, wrote and arranged all of the songs on the album. For him, it was a very personal project, one he would come to share with thousands of listeners.
The album caught the ear of listeners and “Whiskey Angel’ was ranked in several Best of 2009 lists. Many could make a musical connection to the heartache and regret Contreras wrote and sang about so well.
The Black Lillies will be the Friday night headline act May 16 at the RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival in Madison, Ind. They are scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m.
The first album for The Black Lillies was made up of Billy Contreras on fiddle, Taylor Coker on bass and Leah Gardner on backing vocals. Current members of this Americana band from Knoxville, Tenn., include Tom Pryor (guitar/pedal steel), Robert Richards (bassist), Bowman Townsend (drummer) and Trisha Gene Brady (harmony vocalist).
Together, the band provides a unique sound. Its influences range from rock, country, blues, bluegrass to jazz. With the first album, Contreras surprised all who knew him in East Tennessee with a voice reminiscent of Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski.
The Black Lillies made a huge impact on Knoxville’s music scene from the very start. Within just a few weeks of releasing “Whiskey Angel,” they were chosen to play the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a four-day music festival held in Manchester, Tenn.
The band signed a management and booking deal with Chyna Brackeen of Attack Monkey Productions and launched its first national tour in October 2009. The tour kicked off in a big way at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Black Lillies went on to play 38 shows within 40 days.
Photo courtesy of Stacie Huckeba
The Claire Lynch Band includes
(from left) Bryan McDowell,
Claire Lynch, Matt Wingate and
Mark Schatz. They are set to
perform at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 17.
The band played two national tours in 2010, and has been ranked as the “Best Americana Band” in the Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville poll every year since it began performing together. The band has appeared multiple times on live radio shows, including The Grand Ole Opry, National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage and Music City Roots.
A highlight of their young career includes performing at the Country Music Association’s Festival & Fan Fair in 2011. The band made their debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry the same year. The Black Lillies were the first independent artists from the Knoxville area to be featured on the Grand Ole Opry.
The rest of the musical lineup is full of surprises:
• On Saturday, May 17, the band, Elephant Revival, will take the stage at 7 p.m. This quintet is originally from Nederland, Colo. Their Facebook page states best their reason for coming together to make music: “Where words fail…music speaks.”
Their music is comprised of an eclectic mix of gypsy, rock, Celtic, alternative country and folk and has been described as “progressive edge.” Formed in 2006, Elephant Revival is made up of Sage Cook (guitar, banjo, tenor banjo, mandolin, bass and fiddle), Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle), Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox), Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, bass, banjo) and Dango Rose (banjo, double-bass, mandolin). Each member contributes vocals and writes songs for the band.
• The Claire Lynch Band is slated to perform before Elephant Revival at 5 p.m. Saturday. With a high-pitched voice comparable to Nanci Griffith and Alison Krauss, this Kingston, N.Y., native at age 12 moved with her family to Hazel Green, Ala., where she pursued her love of music.
She began to sing for the Alabama-based bluegrass band, Front Porch String Band, which brought her a wide audience. After years of success with the band and releasing solo albums, she formed the Claire Lynch Band in 2005. Her 1995 album, “Moonlighter,” was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Bluegrass Album.
• At 3 p.m. Saturday, St. Paul and the Broken Bones will perform. Hailing from Birmingham, Ala., the band includes a three-piece horn section that often blends with a Delta blues vibe on certain songs.
Front man Paul Janeway, who trained to become a preacher, has a soul-filling voice that doesn’t quite match his looks. Once he opens his mouth, the crowd is usually hypnotized.
The band is known for their roof-raising live shows throughout the South. Their debut album, “Half the City,” was released in February 2014 and produced by Alabama Shakes keyboardist Ben Tanner.
• Mike Mangione and the Union will kick off Saturday’s lineup on the Main Stage at 1 p.m. This is a touring group that combines vocals with folk-rock and an orchestrated string section. Their début album, “Tenebrae,” was released in 2008 and well-liked everywhere it was played. It was an All Music Guide Album Pick.
The band has been described as having a “tearstained folk, Memphis-styled gospel and bluesy-flavored pop” sound. Mangione grew up on the north side of Chicago and sings vocal and plays guitar harmonica. Other band members include Thomas Mangione on electric guitar, John Leo Collins on upright and bass guitar, Patrick Joseph Hoctor on cello and guitar, and Kristina Priceman on violin.
• Entertainment on the Main Stage for Friday includes the Spirit Family Reunion. Taking the stage at 7:30 p.m., this band is comprised of East Coast natives with a homegrown Americana sound. Some of their first performance stages were street corners, farmer’s markets and subway stations in New York City.
The six-member band is known for stomping, clapping and hollering while playing traditional instruments such as the fiddle, washboard and acoustic guitar. Their distinctive sound is equally at ease in a bar, grand music hall or barn dance
Member Nick Panken said, “A lot of people call us a bluegrass band, which is false. Some people call us an old-time band, which is also false. But we definitely are vey inspired and take a lot from these traditional bands.”
In addition to Panken, band members include Mat Davidson (fiddle), Peter Pezzimenti (drummer), Ken Woodward (bass), Maggie Carson (banjo) and Stephen Weinheimer (washboard). They often travel across the country in a beat-up Chevy conversion van with their instruments in tow.
• Indianapolis-based Jennie DeVoe will hit the stage at 6 p.m. Friday. While her writing style and sound are unique, her true inspiration comes from everyday experiences.
Her band lineup includes John Wittman (drummer), Brett Lodde (guitar), Jeff Stone (bass), Greg McGuirk (keyboards) and Nicole Proctor (backing vocalist). Her latest album, “Strange Sunshine,” was recorded in Bath, England.
In her live shows, DeVoe performs mostly original music. “Live shows allow me to talk to the audience, to connect to them,” she said.
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