28th Annual Claremont Folk Festival

Posted May 1, 2008 in

It’s going to be a hell of a weekend in the Inland Empire. While the redneck, white socks and Pabst Blue Ribbon set swarms Stagecoach at the Empire Polo Field, the 28th edition of the annual Claremont Folk Festival is gearing up for a more cerebral, conscientious exercise in California cool. With a solid line-up of diverse folk music styles—the intense West African rhythms of percussion maestro Leon Mobley and Da Lion, high lonesome bluegrass courtesy of the Blade Runners, veteran folk singer Joel Rafael’s sharply etched observations and the exotic Middle Eastern sounds of Yuval Ron—the festival has assembled a kaleidoscopic range of varying sonic textures. Big it’s the day’s big three—classic rock philosopher Jackson Browne, folk-blues favorite Taj Mahal, and the Inland Empire’s number one son, Ben Harper—who bring not only an impressive collective pedigree but also their singular, respective catalogs of individualistic material. While their approaches vary, the trio shares an artistic commonality, one based on a staunch sense of independence, that in each case reaches from thought-provoking social statements to contemplative self-examinations to spirited, rousing doses of groove mongering. In a way, too, this is part family reunion: Harper’s family roots are ineluctably bound to the Claremont Folk Music Center, and his earliest professional exposure came through an alliance with Taj Mahal, who took the 20-year-old the road with him and subsequently collaborated on the Follow the Drinking Ghourd album. Expect a heaping helping of richly satisfying original music, informed equally by blues, folk, rock and reggae traditions, all of it distinguished by the nobility of spirit and penetrating social conscience that lies at the core of all folk music. (Jonny Whiteside)

28th Annual Claremont Folk Festival, at the Sycamore School, 225 W. 8th Street, Claremont, (909) 624-2928; www.claremontfolkfestival.org. Doors at 9AM, show runs until 9:30PM. Tickets are $50 for general admission; kids under 12 are free



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