by John Tarpley
Twice a year since 2003, folk traditionalists and bluegrass sticklers the region over have taken to the Ozark Folk Center for a three-day pick 'n' grin of pure bluegrass. Place an emphasis on that "pure." Case in point: In 2007, the festival saw its own "Dylan goes electric" debacle that saw progressive, Death Cab for Cutie-covering act Cadillac Sky dwindle a crowd of 600 into the double digits and ended with the act getting booted from the festival after the first of five scheduled sets. (Seriously.) But fear not: This year's celebration stays faithful to authentic hill music.
Thursday, as always, kicks off the festival with an all-gospel night, this year featuring The Link Family, a nine-piece family affair, as well as Paul Williams, the venerable, mandolin-strumming elder who, for years, played with the "king of bluegrass" Jimmy Martin in the Sunny Mountain Boys.
Friday features the father-and-daughters trio of Posey Hill, bayou-grass outfit Louisiana Grass and decades-long veterans of the bluegrass circuit Lost and Found, while Saturday highlights the Grammy-nominated Blue Highway as well as Hickory Hill, which recently celebrated its 30th year of pickin' and singin'. In addition to the round robin inside the auditorium, you can count on a flood of jam sessions outside, under what's shaping up to be a gorgeous — dare we say harmonious — weekend in the Ozarks. Concerts begin on Friday and Saturday at noon. Tickets are $20 per day or $55 for the weekend.