Thursday at Jazz Fest


Yvette Landry performs at Jazz Fest.
  • Yvette Landry performs at Jazz Fest.

The second week of Jazz Fest kicked off Thursday under blue skies and sunshine. While the weather was cause for celebration, Alison Krauss and Union Station started their headlining set at the Gentilly stage on a somber note, opening with the lovelorn ballad “Let me Touch You For Awhile” and followed it with the hard scrabble, high lonesome “Dustbowl Children.” Things picked up as Krauss and guitarist/vocalist Dan Tyminski traded songs, from Krauss’s fiddle tune “Sawing on the Strings” to Tyminski’s tale of “Wild Bill Jones.” The band backed off to make room for dobro picker and bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas, who played the instrumental “Little Medley,” a showcase of slide-guitar pyrotechnics that eased into Tyminski’s cautionary tale, “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn.” The band closed the set with Tyminski’s “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

For an encore, Krauss, Tyminski and Douglas gathered around a single microphone in bluegrass fashion, along with Ron Block on  banjo and Barry Bales on upright bass. Krauss took the lead on the band’s heartfelt rendition of “When You Say Nothing At All,” originally a country hit for the late Keith Whitley. Then they went back to the O Brother well with the lilting harmonies of “Down to the River to Pray” before closing the night with “Your Long Journey” from Raising Sand, the 2007 collaboration between Krauss and Robert Plant.  

Kenny Brown and Alvin Youngblood Hart perform at Jazz Fest.
  • Kenny Brown and Alvin Youngblood Hart perform at Jazz Fest.
Earlier in the day, Mississippi bluesman Kenny Brown turned up the volume at the Lagniappe Stage. Brown was a longtime sideman for the late, great R.L Burnside, who regularly introduced him as “my adopted son.” Brown’s demeanor suggests a laid back country boy, but his playing is loud and reckless. Backed by thumping drums and electric bass (John Bonds and George Sheldon, respectively), Brown attacked his slide guitar on droning, hard-driving North Mississippi hill country staples like “Skinny Woman,” “Miss Maybelle,” “Shake ‘Em on Down.” The band offered a slow grinding take on “You Got To Move,” which Brown introduced as “a Fred McDowell song that y’all might have heard on a Rolling Stones record.” Brown also played a tribute to another mentor and blues legend, Joe Callicott, his next door neighbor from rural Mississippi who first taught him to play blues guitar when he was 10 years old. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today,” Brown said before launching into Callicott’s “France Chance.” Brown also plugged his upcoming gig at the annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. He brought out Alvin Youngblood Hart, also set to play the Picnic, for “a little taste of what you’re going to get up there.” Brown and Hart traded serious licks on Brown’s “You Don’t Know My Mind,” and together they closed out the set with Burnside’s raucous “Jumper on the Line.” 

Another solid set of roots music came from the Yvette Landry Band from Breaux Bridge. The group hit the Fais Do Do stage with a batch of Cajun honky tonk songs focused on drinking, cheating and bad decisions. Landry’s band — Richard Comeaux on pedal steel, Beau Thomas on fiddle, Josef Butts on upright bass and Landry’s son Trevor on drums — combined Texas swing and roadhouse blues on songs like “Hey Mister Bartender,” “Friday Night Special” and the Porter Wagoner classic “Misery Loves Company.” Landry, who fronted the band with equal parts Cajun sass and sweetheart, referred to the song “Can I Come Home With You” as “the happy song of the day.” “Now it goes back to man-killing,” she told the tie-dyed two-steppers in the crowd at Fais Do Do. Landry said she was just kidding, but then the band started in on another swinging number about a cheating lover, “Dead and Gone.” It features the line “I put on my makeup and burned down his house.” Landry couldn’t help grinning at the end of the song, telling the crowd, “That was fun, y’all!”

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