I had been told that the Nordic roots trio Väsen, especially joined by two heros of the American progressive acoustic scene, Mike Marshall and Darol Anger, would be a special performance. But I had no idea how special.
With Olov Johansson on the traditional Swedish nyckelharpa, a multi-stringed bowed instrument that produces an amazing range of sound, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and Mikael Marin on viola, they transform traditional Scandinavian folk music (somewhat akin to traditional forms from the British Isles) into sweeping improvisational sound scapes. With Marshall and Anger inciting more experimentation, their performance was my pick of must sublime set of the festival.
The band delivered its hits "Born Lonesome" and "You Can't Trust the Weatherman," and offered some material I didn't know. To me, the key differentiator in Cadillac Sky is the song-writing. Simpson has had some success on Music Row as a writer for country artists. That personal perspective plus the rock riffs give C-Sky the potential to cross into the mainstream, as suggested by the airtime it gets on country video channels.
One tidbit that may not fit with that analysis but is fascinating. Simpson said the band is set to do a record with Mike Marshall, which would imply a more musically ambitious and less poppy direction for the new project.
A word about the reconfigured setup of the festival stage in the Marriott ballroom. The room was set up more conventionally with the stage at one end of the horizontal room. Previously the stage was set up along the side wall with bleachers in a semicircle around the stage. That was an intimate setup that works well for workshops, but the new layout seems to work better for a concert set.