FOLK FEST: The Carolina Chocolate Drops (from left), Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and former member Justin Robinson entertain a large crowd during the 2010 Ohio River Valley Folk Festival at Bicentennial Park. (Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie)
FOLK FEST: The Carolina Chocolate Drops (from left), Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and former member Justin Robinson entertain a large crowd during the 2010 Ohio River Valley Folk Festival at Bicentennial Park. (Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie)
This year's RiverRoots Music & Arts Festival will feature first-time performers as well as favorites from previous years. The groups canvas the styles of bluegrass, Americana and traditional folk and everything in between.

The music begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday. On Saturday, there will be two stages of performers - one for bands and another for solo artists.

Madison native Andrea Davidson will be the opening act Friday at 6 p.m., while returning Grammy-award winning artists Carolina Chocolate Drops will close out the event Saturday at 9 p.m.

Friday Lineup

Andrea Davidson

6 p.m. Main Stage

RiverRoots is kicking off the music festival with the sounds of Madison native Andrea Davidson. She combines loops of vocals, guitar and percussion to create a stunning live performance.

Davidson does not stick with any specific genre when writing. She prefers the freedom to explore many different styles of music to fit her many different types of expression. Her positive and uplifting live performances reflect that.


7:30 p.m. Main Stage

With musicians hailing from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Kentucky, Appalatin might not sound like you would expect. The band fluently combines the sounds and styles found in Latin music, with that of Appalachian folk music.

The six-member ensemble uses acoustic instruments including steel string guitars, traditional wood and pan flutes, harmonicas, a mandolin, the charango, bass and several percussion instruments.

The name Appalatin is derivative of the diversity of the band members. Two band members are from the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

The band is currently working on a new album, expected in the spring.

Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours

9:30 p.m. Main Stage

A traditional Cajun band from Southwest Louisiana, Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours hopes to follow in the footsteps of the Balfa Brothers. Band leader Christine Balfa is the daughter of famous Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa.

The band wants continue in the ways of the original Balfas, without needlessly preserving or modernizing the sound.

Saturday Lineup

The Vespers

1 p.m. Main Stage

Made up of two sets of siblings, the Cryar sisters and Jones brothers, The Vespers have built a strong underground following through their versatility with acoustic instruments and appeal to Americana and Christian music lovers.

The Vespers formed three years ago and have since self-released two full-length albums. The band includes Phoebe Cryar, Callie Cryar, Taylor Jones and Bruno Jones.

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers

2:15 p.m. Second Stage

This all-female band from Cincinnati covers the gamut of bluegrass, Americana and old-time mountain music. Guitarist and signer Ma Crow is a well-known acoustic artist in the Cincinnati area.

Crow's band, The Lady Slippers, includes Crow on vocals and guitar, Trina Emig on banjo and mandolin, Margie Drees on vocals and fiddle and Vicki Abbott on vocals and bass.

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem

3 p.m. Main Stage

Heralded by music critics as one of the most inventive string bands touring today, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem uses a mixture of traditional and contemporary sounds on fiddle, guitar, bass, ukulele, etc., punctuated with bright and playful harmonies.

The four-person group, all of whom sing, is known for using recycled material - tin cans, caulk tubes and a vinyl suitcase - to fill out its percussion section. Members include Rani Arbo, Andrew Kinsey, Anand Nayak and Scott Kessel.

Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin

4:15 p.m. Second Stage

Making one of the longest treks to the festival, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin are singer-songwriters from Austin, Texas. The duo tours individually and together. Elkin has released three solo studio albums, while Schmidt has released seven solo records over the span of 12 years. Last year they released a joint album, "Together."

John McCutcheon

5 p.m. Main Stage

With almost four decades in the music business, John McCutcheon has produced more than 30 folk albums. A native of Wisconsin, McCutcheon traveled to Appalachia in his early 20s to learn from legendary folk greats such as Tommy Hunter, Roscoe Holcomb and I.D. Stamper. Now known as a traditional storyteller, McCutcheon often writes music that is politically and socially charged.

Danny Flanigan

6:15 p.m. Second Stage

Danny Flanigan is a Louisville-based musician who has been releasing solo albums since 1989. Flanigan says he draws inspiration from songwriters Paul Simon, Neil Diamond and John Denver, as well as his older brothers.

He also studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston and at the University of Louisville's School of Music. Flanigan's most recent album "Hope is a Word" was released in 2011.

Ben Sollee

7 p.m. Main Stage

Cellist and singer-songwriter Ben Sollee, of Lexington, Ky., will bring his genre-blending music for his first show in Madison. He often uses banjo, guitar and mandolin to produce a mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B.

Sollee produced his latest album "Half-Made Man" himself. His first album "Learning to Bend" debut in 2008 and gained attention from NPR's Morning Edition, which named Sollee one of the "Top Ten Great Unknown Artists" of the year.

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

8:15 p.m. Second Stage

The husband and wife duo are veteran touring musicians who estimate they play more than 150 shows each year. They draw from blues, pop, country and rock. Stacey Earle is the sibling of alt-country star Steve Earle.

The two are based in Tennessee and own their own record label, Gearle Records. They have toured widely in the North America and Europe, and put out eight albums since meeting in 1992.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

9 p.m. Main Stage

The Carolina Chocolate Drops return to the festival lineup this year after becoming a Madison favorite in 2010 -the same year their debut album "Genuine Negro Jig" won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.

The string quartet is known for its high-energy show and ability to mix different genres into their performances by using the cello, banjo, violin, mandolin, guitar, jug and even the kazoo.

The band, which formed in 2005, has released five albums and one EP. They have played folk and bluegrass festivals across the country and even toured with folk legend Bob Dylan in 2011. Their song "Daughter's Lament" was featured on "The Hunger Games" soundtrack.

Current band members include original members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, along with Hubby Jenkins and Leyla McCalla.