In the 15 years that I have been attending the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Ninigret Park, I have never seen a larger and more enthusiastic crowd than that which filled the festival grounds last Saturday.
Chuck Wentworth had his hands full, readjusting the schedule when Nancy Griffith went to the hospital, Steve Riley’s wife had a baby, and three bands couldn’t get out of hurricane-devastated Louisiana.
But Wentworth is a pro, and he has been there before (Remember Hurricane Katrina?). He got the incredible and hilarious singer/songwriter, Texas Troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard, to fill in for Griffith, and he proved to be one of the hits of the weekend.
Steve Riley flew home to Louisiana to be with his wife and new son, then flew back in time Sunday to wow the crowd with an hour and a half set. Riley kept his tradition of 20 Labor Day weekends performing at Rhythm & Roots, and a few years before that as a very young man, at Wentworth’s Cajun and Bluegrass Festival in Escoheag.
There were other highlights to the fabulous weekend, including The Duhks, blind guitar player Noe Socha, and especially the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
While people in the business are aware of the musical talents of Hugh Laurie, I ran into a number of people who admitted that they came to see their favorite TV actor, star of the hit series “House.” He did not disappoint. Backed by the powerhouse Copper Bottom Band, Laurie proved that he is one heck of an entertainer, admitting that the last place he ever expected to be, growing up in England, was on the stage in Charlestown.
Laurie had the audience in the palm of his hand, with his friendly chatter, tremendous piano playing and strong song selection, which leaned heavily toward New Orleans jazz. He’s a good singer and can handle a five-string guitar and supplements his talents with talented musicians.
It was another great Labor Day weekend, with perfect weather, a great lineup, lots of dancing, good food and the added performance by Hugh Laurie.