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Two-day music festival Down County Jump returns for its second year at Race Brook Lodge June 28 and 29

The music you can hear at the second annual Down County Jump is “kind of hard to describe,” says artistic programmer Alex Harvey. It is a roots-ish, folk-ish festival, not singer-songwriter or country or bluegrass, but “in between all those forms.”

A Hawaiian steel group that is somewhere between Hawaiian music and 1950s swing. A revival of an “incredibly vibrant Mexican music system” that is not just music, but dance, poetry, chanting, clogging, with indigenous pre-Columbian instruments from the Gulf Coast region of Mexico. Ragtime era songs from the turn of the last century, or, as the band jokes, the songs they were singing on the Titanic while it was sinking.

The music you can hear at the second annual Down County Jump, a two-day music festival coming up at Race Brook Lodge on June 28 and 29, is “kind of hard to describe,” says artistic programmer Alex Harvey. It is a roots-ish, folk-ish festival, not singer-songwriter or country or bluegrass, but “in between all those forms.” It is interested in “the emergence of styles as opposed to the codification of styles,” and the “moments in American vernacular music where the tone or the idea of a music is still kind of discovering itself.”

The first Down County Jump happened last fall, in lieu of the similarly inspired Old Tone Festival when several of its programmers spun off to form the new festival. Harvey, a multi-faceted musician himself, had a strong connection with the Jalopy Theatre and School of Music in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is sponsoring the Jump. The idea was to create “a little bit of an outpost of the Brooklyn Folk Festival, a version of the Jalopy aesthetic up here.”

The Old Tone Festival will resume this year, so Harvey recast the Jump to June, where he plans to keep it. Matt Downing, formerly of Old Tone, co-curated the Jump with Harvey and will play in the lineup with The Lucky Five.

Several of the inaugural performers are returning this time, sometimes in different configurations. Jalopy Records label artist Samoa Wilson, who, according to Harvey, sings “in this textured, grainy, vibrato folk sound,” is returning in her new country project with The National Reserve frontman Sean Walsh. “Wilson and Walsh” will play old-guard, 1970s-style country—“pared-down, beautiful country duets.”

Pulso de Barro, the “Mexican folk system,” is returning to Race Brook for the third time. One of Harvey’s favorite bands in the festival, the Kingston, N.Y.-based group playing Son Jarocho “has just gotten bigger and better and tighter,” he says. He describes their sound as infectious, “ebulliant and floaty.”

Also coming with a bigger band this time is Slowey and the Boats, whom Harvey explains plays a “very particular moment of what’s called Happa Haole Hawaiian-style jazz.” A steel slide guitar combines with American Songbook standards, but in the jazz idiom common to the Tiki world.

One of the reasons the Jump had to have them back is because their guitarist, who, according to Harvey, is also “one of the best stride piano players on the East Coast,” hopped on the piano at the after party last year and “it meant the whole night was never going to end.”

“Probably the most beautiful thing about these festivals,” Harvey says, “is the way in which organic combinations of players just emerge on the property as people are rehearsing. Suddenly styles clash into each other and groups are forming and jam sessions happen.” Artists, he thinks, love to play at festivals like the Jump because of this “potential for collaboration, for cross pollination,” which is “the lifeblood of the tradition.”

Rosy and the Bros at the inaugural Down County Jump at Race Brook Lodge, Sept. 30, 2023. Photo by Kip Beacco.

Harvey plans to follow “the old tradition of rolling up the rug.” Jackson and the Janks, who play “the best party in New York” every Friday night at The Jalopy tavern, play “a very particular sort of shuffled New Orleanian kind of early rock and soul” from the 1950s, but with original songs. “They’re going to close out again this year because they’re just so fun to dance to at the end of the night.”

The headliner this year is Tim Eriksen. As the frontman for Cordelia’s Dad, a “crazy, traditional English murder ballad band,” says Harvey, they toured with Nirvana for perhaps a year back in the 1990s. Eriksen, who went on to write the soundtrack for the film “Cold Mountain,” “opened a lot of the contemporary folk world up to shape note singing,” Harvey explains. In addition to doing a solo set at the Jump, Eriksen is bringing a group that will sing these 18th- and 19th-century New England hymns from the Sacred Harp songbook on Saturday afternoon down at the river pavilion.

Attendees will be more than welcome to join in. “I’m seeing it as sort of an immersive sound installation, inviting people to come participate and witness,” says Harvey.
Also on Saturday’s lineup is Jenny Parrott, an Austin-based artist whom Harvey calls “unbelievably brilliant.” A singer songwriter who “treats the music as poetry,” Harvey found her work to be “so decisive and witty and tragic, and painful and embarrassing and you know, just all the things you want from a great writer.”

Phil Saylor and Stripmall Ballads, winner of 2021 Wammie Award for Best Folk Album “Distant,” will bring his mountain banjo tradition and a “unique guitar style that combines piedmont blues, bluegrass, and psychedelic country influences.”

A Cajun band from the Pioneer Valley, Les Taiauts will get folks dancing to “obscure mid-century rockabilly songs,” a Cajun and honky-tonk two-stepping dance lesson included.

The $70 ticket price includes not only the entire Saturday of music, but, this year, an additional Friday night pre-party. That lineup includes a traditional old-time fiddle duo from Salisbury, Conn., Logan and Jeanette Carruthers; the aforementioned ragtime band Flophouse Follies, which Harvey formed with Heather Fisch; and Harvey’s maritime and ballad band Shinbone Alley.

Adrianna Pericchi of Pulso de Barro will also do a solo set on Friday night that Harvey is very excited about. Her Venezuelan music of the plains, explains Harvey, borrows from the songbook of Simone Diaz, or Uncle Simone in Venezuela, “probably the biggest Venezuelan traditional musician of all time.”

Friday’s program will take place not in the Barn but in the smaller porch space at the Stagecoach Tavern. It will culminate with an Open Ballad Sing, with ballad singers coming in from all over.

Kids are welcome and free at the festival, and during the day there is even a Creative Kids Club with an educator who does crafts with the kids. There will be a little stage with instruments they can play where they can try their hand at forming bands. “The adults can drop their kids off at the Creative Club, where there’s somebody watching them,” says Harvey, “and they can go over and catch a set.”

Go to Race Brook’s website to listen to a preview of some of the artists and get tickets for Down County Jump.

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