Fayetteville Roots Festival, now in its 8th year, has grown to over 10 music stages and multiple culinary stages and events. The Experience Fayetteville & KUAF Main Stage is housed at the Fayetteville Town Center on the square, and it is the center of the festival. The festival’s music schedule – as well as George’s Majestic Lounge‘s schedule Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – is packed with nationally known acts as well as regional standouts in the roots-Americana genres.
Though many of this weekend’s Fayetteville Roots Festival headlining acts are sold out (and most have been for months; but we’ve got a full, updated schedule here, with ticket links for those events that are not sold out), there are still many great live music events that are not sold out OR are totally free and don’t require a ticket. So what are you waiting for? Read our full preview below, with snippets of every act not sold out already – and then get out and enjoy some impressive talent around Fayetteville this weekend.
The festival kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 23, with some sold-out concerts at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, followed by a number of oustanding national acts in sold-out shows at Pratt Place Thurdsay; but it really takes off Friday starting a 9 am film screening of a Will Rogers-focused documentary, culinary classes, live radio broadcasts and live music (some free, listed here at bottom, and some paid, with tickets still available) all afternoon and late into the night at varying locations around the downtown Fayetteville area.
Get Your Tickets Now for These Great Fayetteville Roots Fest Shows – The Concerts Not Yet Sold Out
Although Friday and Saturday tickets to the Main Stage performances are sold out, there are still limited tickets available for Sunday at $49 each, which will include performances by outstanding headlining acts such as Rodney Crowell, John Fullbright, The Stray Birds, The Brother Brothers, Jack Williams, and Dana Louise & the Glorious Birds.
Also still available are tickets for most of the concerts at George’s, including Ray Wylie Hubbard Thursday at 9 pm ($20-$25, ages 18+); Amy Helm with Earl & Them, followed by 2 Shakerz featuring Jamie Oldaker and Mark Carpenter, Friday at 6 pm, ($10, 18+); and Arkansauce with National Park Radio kicking off with Dylan Earl at 9 pm Saturday, $10-$12, 18+.
Each of these events is expected to sell out, so get your tickets asap! Keep reading for a preview of each of these acts (in chronological order), along with a video/song to check out to help you decide!
If you’re looking for free outstanding live music, there’s plenty of that to go around as well – though most of them have late start times. Check out our extensive guide to the Roots free music events. (For the comprehensive schedule of free and paid events, including locations, start times, and ticket info, see our full schedule.)
1. RAY WYLIE HUBBARD AT GEORGE’S THURSDAY
Red Dirt country stalwart Ray Wylie Hubbard – even though he’s released 17 albums, many of which were favorites of music critics, and the more recent of which have topped Americana charts – may be best-recognized by a song he didn’t sing first. A number of his songs have been covered by bands who enjoyed more “commercial success,” starting with Jerry Jeff Walker, who found a hit with the Hubbard-penned “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” in 1975. Rolling Stone praised Hubbard’s brand new album in a feature story last week, writing:
“On his new LP, ‘Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can,’ released August 18 on Bordello Records, Hubbard conjures a dark, funny and predictably profane cast of characters, from tattooed ladies to ghosts to obscure bluesmen and recovered alcoholics. Built around the interplay of the gritty guitar work between him and his son Lucas, it’s an album of dark and light, good and evil, with God and the devil offering equal measures of provocation, ridicule and temptation.”
The record includes guest spots by Eric Church, who name-dropped Hubbard on his 2015 song “Mr. Misunderstood,” as well as Hubbard’s longtime friend Lucinda Williams, Bright Light Social Hour, Patti Griffin, and others.
Watch Hubbard unleash his classic “Snake Farm” on an unsuspecting audience at the Music Fog Showcase during SXSW 2010:
2. AMY HELM WITH EARL & THEM AT GEORGE’S FRIDAY
Amy Helm, daughter of infamous Arkansas native and The Band drummer Levon Helm and singer Libby Titus, is a longtime member of The Levon Helm Band, the Dirt Farmer Band, the Midnight Ramble Band, Ollabelle, and her own touring group Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers.
Although 2015’s personally charged, organically soulful “Didn’t It Rain” was her first release under her own name, Helm has been making music for most of her life. She’s earned widespread praise as a singer, songwriter and live performer, first as a member of the celebrated alt-country collective Ollabelle and subsequently for her extensive work with her father, who passed away in 2012.
Blessed with a commanding, deeply expressive voice and songwriting skillS that instinctively draw upon a deep well of American musical traditions, Helm delivers a timelessly powerful statement with her music. “Didn’t It Rain” also marked the final recording sessions of Levon Helm, who acted as the project’s executive producer and added his unmistakable drumming on three tracks; his distinctive count-off can be heard kicking off Amy’s rousing take on Martha Scanlan’s “Spend Our Last Dime.”
Helm will share the stage with openers Earl & Them, which is an outgrowth of the Cate Brothers Band, which longtime fans know also performed with Levon. Earl & Them is led by Earl Cate on lead guitar; Earl has played and toured with The Band, Crosby Stills and Nash, Bo Diddley, Little Feat and many others. Another notable Earl & Them member is drummer Terry Cagle, who bears an uncanny resemblance in both physical appearance and vocal stylings to his uncle, Levon Helm. Cagle, a Springdale native, first joined the Cate gang after Levon’s departure at the ripe age of 15.
Lead singer and guitarist “Baby Jason” Davis has, over the years played with a number of national standout blues acts such as Magic Slim, Sue Foley, James Harmans, Jimmy Thackery, Tab Benoit, and Indigenous.
Earl & Them bassist John Davies, originally from Camden, played bass for the Cate Brothers Band for 10 years during the 1990s and on several of their albums. During the early 2000s Davies toured as a member of Son Seals, Guitar Shorty, Dr. Hector and the Groove Injectors, and The Michael Burks Band.
As an added bonus, 2 Shakerz featuring hot-shot drummer Jamie Oldaker and Mark Carpenter will perform around 9 pm after Helm and crew finish.
All three acts are included in one ticket, on sale now for just $10-$12. Show begins at 6 pm and is open to ages 18 and up.
Here’s a video of Amy Helm and her band doing one of her dad’s most famous songs:
3. ARKANSAUCE WITH NATIONAL PARK RADIO AT GEORGE’S SATURDAY
Arkansauce, the state’s most successful touring bluegrass band of late, headlines an outstanding lineup at George’s Saturday, beginning with opener Dylan Earl at 9 pm. Just before Arkansauce will be Harrison-based indie-folk up-and-comers National Park Radio.
It’s hard to put National Park Radio‘s banjo-and-strings-driven acoustic sound into a category; call it Americana, roots, indie-folk or simply music to get up and dance to, but think The Band by way of neo-revivalists Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers.
No Depression magazine has said NPR “may be America’s newest musical treasure,” while Popmatters called their music “joy filtered through the lends of Americana.” American Songwriter has named frontman and singer/guitarist Stefan Szabo it’s Writer of the Week.
Arkansauce, which released its third album, “If I Were You,” this past April, is a genre-hopping, four-piece,supercharged-energy string band based in Fayetteville; its music bends the rules and blurs the lines between bluegrass, newgrass, folk, Americana, country, blues, and funk.
The band’s roots go back to 2011 when founding members Ethan Bush, Zac Archuleta, and Stephen Jolly began writing together after becoming acquainted through mutual connections in the close-knit Fayetteville music scene. After a couple of years of building a repertoire of original music and releasing their first album (“Hambone”) as a trio, they welcomed to their group Tom Andersen on the upright bass and Adams Collins on the five-string banjo. (Jolly has since left the group.)
An Arkansauce show is riddled with improvisational guitar, banjo, and mandolin leads, paired with powerful harmonies and heart-felt songwriting, all held together by deep, foot-stompin’ bass grooves. There’s an undeniably intimate connection between the band and their fans that’s contagious and leaves everyone present wanting more. The group has grown its touring schedule and imprint, this year performing in the 44th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition in between shows all over the country, from Colorado to Iowa down to Mississippi and places in between.
Tickets to the Arkansauce, National Park Radio and Dylan Earl concert are on sale now for $10-12. The show starts at 9 pm and is open to ages 18 and up.
Here’s a video of Arkansauce performing a crowd favorite at the inaugural Homegrown on the River festival in Ozark last year:
4. FAYETTEVILLE ROOTS FEST MAIN STAGE SUNDAY TICKET
There are a very limited amount of tickets still available for Sunday at the Roots Fest Main Stage at Fayetteville Town Center, $49 each. The lineup includes performances by outstanding headlining acts such as Rodney Crowell and John Fullbright, with earlier sets by The Stray Birds, The Brother Brothers, Jack Williams, and Dana Louise & the Glorious Birds.
Main Stage doors open at 1 pm.
At 1:30 pm, Dana Louise & the Glorious Birds kick things off. The Fayetteville-based band’s music is a blend of indie folk and jazz – alternately melodious and hard-driving – and often unexpected with its unusual mix of instruments and influences.
Acoustic guitar virtuoso and singer/songwriter Jack Williams performs at 2:30. Williams is known for wowing audiences of all sizes in all types of venues, and frequently ends his sets with a rambling, off-the-cuff sentimental journey through his musical past. As an improvised piece, it is different every time he does it and has been known to last as long as 45 minutes. Here’s a little taste on YouTube of one such medley.
At 3:40 pm, The Brother Brothers bluegrass-folk duo take the Main Stage. Often leaning toward the darker, moody elements of Appalachian folk and bluegrass traditions, their songs are laden with near-perfect sibling harmonies and unison singing, compelling writing, and imaginative arrangements. They tour as an acoustic duo: David on cello and guitar, and Adam on the 5-string fiddle.
At 4:40 pm, The Stray Birds begin on the Main Stage. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, The Stray Birds started as a duo of acoustic buskers in early 2010, and, shortly after with the addition of a third unique and powerful voice, the group began to define its captivating sound. Seven years, three original records, and some 600 performances all over the globe later, the band is best known for its songwriting, its tight and forthcoming vocal harmony blend and its commitment to an impassioned delivery of original material. Their 2016 release ”Magic Fire” was produced by Grammy-winner Larry Campbell and earned much praise, including being named by NPR as one of Folk Alley’s Top Ten Records of 2016.
Starting at 5:30, Austin-based “sideways soul folksinger” Raina Rose performs on the Main Stage. Rose’s unique voice and exceptional guitar playing transcend age, gender, generation, and even catch the ears of those who aren’t typically into acoustic guitar-driven songwriting. With a naturalist’s eye, an artist’s pen, and a lion’s attack, Raina lays everything she has on the line. Her heart-grabbing perfomances have earned her spots on stages across the US and Europe, including the High Sierra Music Festival, Vancouver Island Music Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, The Cactus Cafe (Austin), The Kessler Theater (Dallas), and many more.
Redefine Magazine’s music critic had this to say: “Raina Rose’s third full-length album, ‘When May Came,’ will surprise you with its cohesion and simplicity. Between her big voice, with its unusual blend of twang and jazziness, and her whimsical sense of storytelling, Rose is definitely not just another boring indie folk songstress.”
From 6:30 to 7:40, Grammy-nominated Americana star John Fullbright performs. The Oklahoma native has enjoyed incredible success and high praise from critics all over the country since the 2012 release of his debut studio album “From The Ground Up” to a swarm of critical acclaim. The LA Times called the record “preternaturally self-assured,” while NPR hailed him as one of the 10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012, saying “it’s not every day a new artist … earns comparisons to great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, but Fullbright’s music makes sense in such lofty company.” The Wall Street Journal crowned him as giving one of the year’s 10 best live performances, and the album also earned him the ASCAP Foundation’s Harold Adamson Lyric Award as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album.
His second full-length record, “Songs,” from 2014 received similar praise, and he continues to be in top demand in venues near and far. Here’s a clip of him performing “High Road” live on Willie Nelson’s Ranch at the Heartbreaker Banquet with Jam in the Van.
From 8:15 to 9:45, Roots Sunday headliner Rodney Crowell closes out the Main Stage for the weekend. Crowell has been a top name in the music business for a long time. His music career started with the record-making, which dates back to 1978 (when he released “Ain’t Living Long Like This”); grew outrageously over the next decade as he became known in the late ’80s as a talented sideman and an impressive songwriter while he played guitar and sang in Emmylou Harris‘ band for several years, and scored credits on hits for Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger and the Oak Ridge Boys; shortly after, his career peaked commercially (with “Diamonds & Dirt,” which yielded five No. 1 country hits); and, in recent years, has grown in sophistication and power. But he’s also well-known for his fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger (who famously covered “Shame On the Moon”) to Keith Urban (who had a No. 1 hit with Crowell’s “Making Memories of Us”). And then there’s the autobiographical writing, which extends beyond the music world to a memoir, “Chinaberry Sidewalks,” published in 2011.
His new record, “Close Ties,” includes 10 brand new songs with performances by Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, and John Paul White. On “Close Ties,” Crowell demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter as he also illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. It’s his most intimate record and his most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter – and be entered by – life.
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them, he says on his website. “The interesting thing about that garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to ‘Honky Tonkin’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas, those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Cream. That was the beauty of it.”
Crowell now finds himself going back to that music, but also going even further back. “Recently, I think – I hope – that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music. Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players, connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get back there.”
Check out this new video of “It Ain’t Over Yet” off the new record, featuring Rosanne Cash and John Paul White:
Here’s a younger Rodney Crowell singing one of his fan faves, “Earthbound.”