When: Tue., Aug. 1, 8 p.m. 2017
As far as present-day, folk-influenced American music goes, it's pretty impossible to beat this bill at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It's packed with some of the best working roots-inclined musicians—and perhaps even the finest contemporary musicians of any genre.
Punch Brothers, who headline, have always been an intriguing band that transcends whatever borders of genres its instrumentation—banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, double bass—suggests. But over the past decade, the band has continued to unfold and one-up itself with every record, marrying lofty virtuosity with catchy hooks and boatloads of charm. Its most recent album was 2015's The Phosphorescent Blues, so it's high time for some new songs from this crew.
In the middle of the bill is another roots music power trio: I'm With Her, which combines the talents of Aoife O'Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Sara Watkins. I'm With Her released its first official recording, "Little Lies" just a few weeks ago, and it puts the trio's talents on full display. Jarosz and O'Donovan's voices make for soft, smoky complements, and with Watkins, their harmonies border on divine.
And though they take the first opening slot on this stacked bill, the acoustic guitar duo of Punch Brothers' Chris Eldridge and child prodigy turned pro Julian Lage is nothing to be trifled with. The two use their disparate backgrounds—Eldridge a blistering bluegrass flatpicker, Lage a broad-minded jazz player—to unearth gorgeous new territory. In Feburary, the duo issued Mount Royal, a marvelous collection of intricate songs that range from the patient and delicate instrumental "Bone Collector" to the compact and deeply delightful rendition of John Hartford's "Mississippi Valley."
If individual sets from all of these ensembles weren't enough, the tour also promises rotating collaborations among the acts throughout the evening (one can only hope that Lage, Eldridge, and O'Donovan will pull out their cover of Joanna Newsom's "Good Intentions Paving Company"). It'll be a surprise-heavy smorgasbord of unimpeachable talent. Try to keep your wits about you. —Allison Hussey