Chuck Wentworth’s Rhythm and Roots Festival returns to Charlestown’s Ninigret Park for the 16th time this Labor Day weekend, and I haven’t missed one of them. Before that, I was enjoying his former Cajun and Bluegrass Festivals at Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag.
In my humble opinion, there’s not a better festival anywhere if you like American roots music performed by the best artists in the field, served up in friendly surroundings in a laid back, comfortable environment.
The festival kicks off Friday evening with a schedule that is being rearranged as this is written due to the illness of Brown Bird’s Dave Lamb. The popular Rhode Island artist has leukemia, and his many friends are praying for him and will remember him at this year’s festival, as he was remembered at last week’s Newport Folk Festival.
Saturday’s lineup begins at noon. Gates open at 11 a.m. with Della Mae, and the music continues nonstop on four stages well into the wee hours.
R and R’s most popular entertainer, Steve Riley, with his Mammou Playboys, closes the main stage performances with an extended set from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Long, tall Marcia Ball, the incredible New Orleans pianist/singer, and Steve Earl take the stage before Riley.
Sunday’s lineup is equally eclectic, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Taj Mahal, a bit of Cajun and zydeco, and then closing with Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band in their 50th reunion concert at 9:30 p.m.
The complete lineup and more information is available on www.rhythmandroots.com. Tickets are $40 for Friday night and $60 for Saturday/$60 Sunday and are available at the gate. Spend some time at the workshop tent, where musicians gather to talk about their music and take requests. It is an intimate, up-close experience that sets this festival apart and makes it special.
And then there’s the food: I look forward to the jambolaya, crawfish pie and filet gumbo, plus a dozen or more food booths offering Rhode Island seafood, ethnic food and barbeque.