The Montana Folk Festival’s three day gathering of musicians and singers under the big sky has just wound down and what a celebration it was! A jubilant romp featuring diversity of culture, sound and life stories, it was a joyful noise raised up at 5600 feet in downtown Butte, Montana. Six stages with music playing simultaneously presented the traditions of the people musically.
What diversity! From Nakoa Heavy Runner, an Assiboine Blackfeet man, playing a hand drum and chant/singing about life and love to a ten women mariachi band playing everything from traditional Mexican folk (with superb fiddle playing, singing and horns) to Patsy Cline and the Orange Blossom Special – and yes, I said all women! – the only all woman mariachi in the United States. Mariachi Reynas de Log Angeles are pictured below in their stunning traditional purple mariachi outfits.
There was the glorious, soulful expression of gospel by Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes. Speaking of service, family and love between songs, with the matriarch sitting on stage bearing witness to this testament of song, these women brought such love and passion to the stage. What harmonies and voices! What belief!
Swamp Dogg was a favorite with his rhythm & blues, soul sound, and witty, profound repartee about politics, wars, and being on the wrong side of things (and the cost of those stanches). This man has experienced so much in the world and his music exhibits much of these years of trouble and promise. He later shared the stage with musicians and singers from West African Highlife and The Dardanelles for a talk on how they each created their music called “Song Masters”. Such diversity here, but still as one of the excellent singer/musicians said at the conclusion of the workshop: “we’re not that different after all.” (Matthew Byrne from Dardanelles, a traditional Newfoundland band made up of superb, young musicians.) *Swamp Dogg is pictured below in canary yellow – he wore it well!
This festival is Free! and allows all ages to absorb themselves in the stories of myriad cultures told in song. The festival proved to be a beautiful coming together of music and people played against the backdrop of an old copper mining town, magnificent architecture and mountain views! Sharing the experience with the closest of friends made it all the better!! Hope to go back some day….