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The New London Americana Festival returns

By Rick Koster

Publication: The Day

Published October 04. 2012 4:00AM
Sandy Dyas
Jeffrey Foucault performs Saturday.

Ours was a spookily humid summer, one in which the very air frequently seemed clogged with visible germs. Truth told, the constant humidity sort of cast a wheezy pall on many of the season's sterling outdoor music shows.

Oh, they were still uniformly fun, but still ...

New changes in meteorology - which is to say the delicious dawn of autumn, as opposed to the melting of a polar ice cap - is just one of the great aspects of the annual New London Americana Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday in the Hygienic Art Park.

There's also a lot of great bands and music in store, including Friday's headliners, The Wiyos, and Saturday's Jeffrey Foucault.

The Wiyos, based in New York but trained in the streets of New Orleans, twirl Tin Pan Alley, swing, folk, punk and ragtime - all delivered in a spectacular live show honed as the opening act on Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson's immortal "minor league baseball stadiums" tour. Their latest CD, "Twist," is loosely based on "The Wizard of Oz."

"We had The Wiyos play at the Traditions festival here at the Hygienic a few years ago, and we are really excited to bring them back. They put on an exuberant, full-throttle, foot-stompin' show," says Rich Martin, general manager of the Hygienic and festival co-organizer along with local roots musicians Preston Frantz, Ken Atkins, Daphne Lee Martin and Jim Carpenter.

As for Foucault, he writes simple but marvelously evocative songs, working traditions that range from Mississippi John Hurt to Chris Smither and Townes Van Zandt. His most recent CDs, "Horse Latitudes" and "Cold Satellite," have placed him at a new level of accomplishment.

Martin is a huge fan of Foucault and describes his musical persona: "He plays understatedly beautiful, desaturated working man's folk that could be from any year in the last hundred - set in any town in America."

Along with its stylistic cousin, Traditions, the New London Americana fest is healthy testimony to the fact that that once antiquated but indigenous music forms are coming back in a big fashion.

"There's been a definite return to the roots of our American music over the past decade that's pronounced and dramatic," Martin says. "This is especially true with groups like the Avett Brother, Fleet Foxes and Bowerbirds working with rock labels and garnering Grammy-sized attention in the marketplace."

Obviously, this resonates on the local level, too. Martin says, "Our own scene has seen a great many of the original punkers from 30 years ago find their way to Americana and roots music over time - even trending ahead of this national charge."

Martin's remarks are particularly reflected by the quality and variety of the regional acts on the bill this weekend.

The festival schedule:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5 (gates at 6 p.m.)

6:30 p.m. - Eric Lichter

7:30 p.m. - The MacLeans

8:30 p.m. - Preston Frantz Hellbent & Heartbreakin'

9:45 p.m. - The Wiyos

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6 (gates at 2 p.m.)

2:30 p.m. - Dirt Road Radio

3:30 p.m. - The Rivergods

4:30 p.m. - Dogbite

5:30 p.m. - Jeffrey Foucault

6:30 p.m. - Jim & Jake Carpenter

7:30 p.m. - Vince Thompson & Friends

8:30 p.m. - Full Moon Jamboree

10 p.m. - Ken Atkins & The Honky Tonk Kind

The New London Americana Festival 2012, 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, Hygienic Art Park, 79-82 Bank St., New London; $7 Friday, $10 Saturday; (860) 443-8001

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