Bluegrass Festival returns to Red River Sept. 13–16

When the Red River Bluegrass Festival kicks off Thursday (Sept. 13), it will be the 5th year for that opening night event, the 6th year for the music festival in Red River and the 44th Annual Bluegrass & Traditional Music Festival sponsored by the Southwest Traditional and Bluegrass Music Association (Southwest Pickers).

In the planning stages of the first event, Mike Owen was asked to chair what he expected was going to be a one day event but the now four-day event wouldn’t have happened without a lot of help, Owens said, including local volunteers, the Red River Community House, Red River Chamber of Commerce, Red River Conference Center, Red River Ski Area, local business owners, and folks from Southwest Pickers.

Mike Owens (with Fritz Davis) at last year’s event (Chronicle file photo)
“From the very beginning they were very helpful in our startup. I was looking for help in lining up talent and I saw their website. It is their mission to promote bluegrass and traditional music in the state of New Mexico.

“They just started helping me by giving me talent names we could contact. They came up and volunteered, whatever I needed. That just continued every year. We got to be friends and in year four they asked me to become a part of their board of directors.”

According to Owens, the Southwest Pickers moved their annual festival to Red River when the venue and lodging in Santa Fe became too costly. “At the same time it was time for us to grow out of the Community House, which had just reached its capacity.

This year’s family-themed event, which features several family acts, opens Thursday with the Taste of Red River event featuring cuisine from nie Red River restaurants 4:40 to 6 p.m. at the Red River Community House. A $15 donation allows attendees to dine on food from Capos, the Dairy Bar, Major Bean Coffee & Sandwich Co., Old Tymer’s Cafe, Red River Brewing Company, Shotgun Willie’s, Sundance Restaurant, T-Bucks and The Way Coffee and More.

A free bluegrass concert by Kitty Jo Creek follows from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Named after a creek in Arizona, the group features bandleader and banjoist James Horn as well as Ross Scroggins on guitar, David Thom on mandolin and Patti Gilman on the upright bass. All band members sing.

The annual continues through Sunday (Sept. 16) with bluegrass, old time and Americana bands, instructional workshops, dancing, food, beer garden and vendors at various venues across town.

2018 Festival Schedule Of Events

  • Thursday (Sept. 13) – Red River Community House
    • 4:30 p.m., Taste of Red River, $15/Person (First Come, First Served. Doors Open At 4:30 p.m.). Note: The meal is a Community House fundraiser and is not included with any Festival Pass. The following concert at 6 p.m. is free to the public.
    • 6 p.m. – Kitty Jo Creek
  • Friday (Sept. 14) – Community House
    • 12 p.m. – Meet & Greet With Travelin’ Jack & Jill (Bring Your Camera)
    • 1 p.m. – Childrens “Sing-Along” And Pickin’ Circle (All Kids, Young And Old)
    • 2 p.m. – Salt And Pepper Shakers
    • 3 p.m. – Nu-Blu; Workshop
    • 4 p.m. – Shawn Lane Family Band; Workshop – “Harmony Singing”
  • Friday (Sept. 14) – Brandenburg Park
    • 5 p.m. – Salt And Pepper Shakers
    • 6 p.m. – Tba
    • 7 p.m. – Higher Ground Bluegrass
    • 8 p.m. – Open Jamming
  • Saturday (Sept. 15) – Brandenburg Park
    • 10 a.m. – The Family Sowell
    • 11 a.m. – Shawn Lane Family Band
    • 12 p.m. – Nu-Blu
    • 1 p.m. – Blue Canyon Boys
    • 2 p.m. – The Merlettes
    • 3 p.m. – Higher Ground Bluegrass
    • 4 p.m. – Hard Road Trio
    • 5 p.m. – Dinner Break
    • 6 p.m. – Blue Canyon Boys
    • 7 p.m. – Nu-Blu
    • 8 p.m. – Shawn Lane Family Band
  • Saturday (Sept. 15) – Community House
    • 9:30 – 10:15 a.m. – Open Mic (All Are Welcome, Come Show Your Stuff!)
    • 10:30 – 11:15 a.m. – Banjo Contest (Bluegrass & Other)
    • 11:30 – 12:15 p.m. – Mandolin Contest (Bluegrass & Other)
    • 12:30 – 1:15 p.m. – Fiddle Contest (Bluegrass & Other)
    • 1:30 – 2:15 p.m. – Hard Road Trio
    • 2:30 – 3:15 p.m. – Flatpick Guitar Contest
    • 3:30 – 4:15 p.m. – Song Writing Contest
    • 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. – Entertainment Duo/Vocal Contest
    • 7:30 – 9:30:P – Barn Dance – Merlettes
  • Saturday (Sept. 15) – Workshops
    • 10 a.m. – Nu-Blu; Workshop
    • 11 a.m. – Blue Canyon Boys; Workshop
    • noon – 3 p.m. – Bob Fisher; Workshop – Cross-Picking For Guitar And Mandolin (All Levels)
    • 1 p.m. – The Family Sowell; Workshop – Single Mic Performance
    • 2 p.m. – Shawn Lane Family Band; Workshop – Bluegrass Mandolin
    • 3 p.m. – Nu-Blu; Workshop
  • Sunday (Sept. 16) – Gospel Sunday – Brandenburg Park
    • 9 a.m. – The Family Sowell
    • 10 a.m. – Shawn Lane Family Band
    • 11 a.m. – Blue Canyon Boys
    • noon – Band Scramble; Build Bands And Practice
    • 2 p.m. – Bluegrass And “Other” Band Contests

For more information and to purchase tickets (including an “Early bird” pass with a 10-percent discount) see


(Courtesy Photo)
Shawn Lane is a three-time GRAMMY Nominee and 27-time IBMA Award winner with Blue Highway. A fan-favorite vocalist, instrumentalist, and songwriter, Shawn co-founded Blue Highway and heralded space-age I-Tone Picks. Shawn is as explosive on fiddle as he is on mandolin, often lending his talents to the Grammy-winning Earls of Leicester when not on the road with Blue Highway. He will also be headlining a select number of events, due to popular demand, with Shawn Lane & Family.

“Audience demand has always been an unstoppable force in the music business… Such is the story of Shawn & Gracie Lane.. who developed a following without ever intending to on Facebook. Shawn is well familiar to bluegrass fans for his 23 years with Blue Highway … He is widely understood to be one of our most gifted songwriters as well as a powerful tenor vocalist, on top of his mandolin, fiddle, and guitar playing….” ~ John Lawless, Bluegrass Today

Nu-Blu’s heart and soul is husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Carolyn Routh. Carolyn’s caramel-coated soprano is one of the band’s defining traits, at times a tender lullaby, at times a freight train headed straight for you, but always unwinding a surprising tale. Daniel is the group’s backbone, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who also handles band management. TJ Honaker on vocals and banjo, and Clint White on fiddle/mandolin round out the quartet’s warm, layered, American roots sound. Together they deliver upbeat, blazing-fingers pick work just as well as gentle, heartwarming ballads, and they do it all with a natural togetherness that can’t be faked, forged over hundreds of shows on the road. Band website.

(Courtesy Photo)
Blue Canyon Boys. Ever since founding members Jason Hicks and Gary Dark launched the Blue Canyon Boys in 2006, the Blue Canyon Boys have raised the bar for bluegrass bands. They bring it all: seamless brother-duet style, crisp instrumentation, unvarnished lyrics and subversive humor. After winning first place 2008 Telluride Bluegrass festival band contest, the Blue Canyon Boys went off at full tilt, taking the bluegrass circuit by storm, performing in illustrious venues across the country as well as internationally.
Their distinctive sound, honed from over a decade of performing together, moves easily from instrumental wizardry to playful ribbing. Ultimately and repeatedly, they hit a high note—the rare confluence of harmony that leaves the soul ajar.

The seasoned quartet features Gary Dark on mandolin, Jason Hicks on guitar, Drew Garrett on bass, and Zach Daniels on banjo. Their latest album, eponymously called The Blue Canyon Boys, is perhaps their most polished and poignant yet. Classic bluegrass, clean and raw, blends effortlessly with the band’s homegrown compositions, then peppered with a judicious cover or two, such as the band’s riveting take on Pink Floyd’s “Time.”

Whether calling on their old timey musical roots or reconnoitering the future, the band’s musical prowess never wavers. This is high lonesome sound at its best: a driving pulse that weaves through harmonies and and fierce rhythms, always with the reminder that as long as the music plays we are never quite alone. VIDEO

The Family Sowell (Courtesy Photo)
The Family Sowell. “We were walking down the hall at IBMA and we heard a very excited, noisy crowd coming from one of the concert rooms. We walked down the hall and into the room to investigate, and we saw for the first time, this little kid tearing up the fiddle, the banjo player wearing it out, and everybody was playing and singing with great enthusiasm and amazing talent! The audience was on fire and completely amazed! Not only do they have great talent and super showmanship, the whole family is dedicated to bringing glory to God through their music. They aren’t your typical, boring family band, they are alive, on fire, and grinning with terrific enthusiasm as they tackle difficult music, including “The Devil Went Down to GA.” They spend a great deal of time perfecting their songs, and the love and joy they share comes through on stage in a fantastic way. We guarantee you will have a blast, and they will brighten your day, because there is a Greater Power behind the music.” — Timothy and Bethany Kelley, The Band of Kelleys

(Courtesy Photo)
Hard Road Trio. Life-long musicians Steve Smith (vocals, mandolin, mandola and guitar) and Chris Sanders (vocals and guitar) are joined by emerging artist Anne Luna (vocals and bass), capturing audiences across the country with the depth of their songwriting and the power of their distinctive voices. Their music grows from Steve’s love of bluegrass rooted in his native Virginia, the beauty of choral singing ever-present in Chris’ Minnesota childhood and the tradition of music in Anne’s New Mexico family. Together, their Southwestern blend of Roots and Bluegrass music provides a unique heartbeat and lilt underscored by Anne’s driving and elegant bass. Their “perfect harmonies” ( are “…delivered with a sense of connection and joy, both in the music and in sharing of it.” (Kerry Dexter, Wandering Educators) VIDEO

(Courtesy Photo)
The Merlettes “are all about the twang. And the girls: five sassy, up-to-date honky-tonk ladies fronted by vocalist Kristina Jacobsen on rhythm and lap-steel guitars, with mandolin and fiddle leads, a slap-happy upright bassist, and a deep-pocketed drummer. Featuring the tunes of Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, and Tammy Wynette, along with Jacobsen originals in a classic C&W vein, they’ll have you scorching the sawdust on the dance floor one minute and crying in your beer the next. Their air-tight, high lonesome harmonies captivate the ear and the heart as they celebrate the strength of our connections and the gritty twang of the human spirit.”

(Courtesy Photo)
Salt and Pepper Shakers. Tyler Hilton doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t know the Vigil brothers — Anthony, Alex, and Andrew. “We grew up playing music together,” he said. Now Tyler, Alex, Anthony — and sometimes Andrew — play bluegrass, rock, and traditional Americana together as The Salt & Pepper Shakers.