After hosting 16 socially distanced concerts from April to August 2020 on South East Avenue just outside Roots headquarters, husband and wife Fayetteville Roots Festival founders Bryan and Bernice Hembree made a discovery
“We were like, ‘Wow, what if we could turn the street into an amphitheater,’ says Bryan Hembree. “We did this out of caution. … We realized that sometimes you make lemonade with lemons. And it’s kind of our lemonade party.
On the weekend of June 17-19, the Hembrees will host Roots on the Avenue on this same street – which functions almost naturally as an amphitheater.
“Friday night, Iris Dement is headlining,” enthuses Hembree. “Iris has performed at the festival before – she performed in 2013. She’s a legend of the folk scene.” He adds that in 2013, Dement was so pleased with the work Fayetteville Roots was doing — promoting roots music and using profits to fight food insecurity — that she donated her salary for the show to the charity. non-profit.
“We made some very good friends. And we have been trying to bring her back for several years,” adds Hembree. Opening for Dement on June 17 is Canadian-American folk musician Ana Egge. “Ana also sits with [Dement] and plays with his band.
June 18 will feature Joy Clark and Lauren Napier of Nashville’s Black Opry Revue. Audiences will have seen Clark on stage more recently with Allison Russell, but the New Orleans-based guitarist and singer has her own presence. She will share her sweet country blues sound on June 18, then return on June 19 with Jett Holden. (Watch for her song “Taxidermy.” And her cover of Brandi Carlisle’s “The Joke” will give you goosebumps.)
“Black Opry as an organization is trying to change people’s attitudes and opinions about black artists doing country and roots music that you may not have heard of,” Hembree explains. The organization started as a website as a “[h]ome for black artists and black fans of country, blues, folk and American music,” but he also has a band that performs under the name Black Opry Revue.
Also on June 18, Leyla McCalla. She is a Haitian-American folk singer who is a solo musician also known for her work with The Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters, along with fellow banjo players Amythyst Kiah, Allison Russell and Rhiannon Giddens. McCalla is featured on the next page for her recent critically acclaimed album, “Breaking the Thermometer,” written from the archives of Radio Haiti. The Guardian recently named it one of the best albums of the year.
“You have to listen to Leyla. Leyla is not background music,” says Hembree. “It’s a lesson in history and culture. And the Fayetteville audience does that. One of our slogans is “Listen here”. It means listening, but also you’re going to hear something, you’re going to learn something… And Leyla embodies that. She’s there to play her music, but she’s also there as an ambassador for the Haitian diaspora. It’s so powerful.
Folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman will close the festival on June 19. The group consists of Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats and the Shins, Josh Kaufman of The National and Josh Ritter and Anais Mitchell — the author of the award-winning film “Hadestown” and another friend of the Hembrees.
“One thing that’s cool about it is that ‘Hadestown’ is coming to the Walton Art Center in May,” enthuses Hembree. “Isn’t it cool that we can see, hear and experience the writer and creator before this?”
Shows like this align with the mission of Roots HQ. Hembree says they aim to help listeners find “multiple paths to music,” regardless of genre. That’s why they chose the nickname “Roots” rather than folk, country, blues, etc. Thus, the historic doors of Guisinger’s House of Music remain open to all kinds of storytellers and melodics.
“We see what we do musically as a broad palette – we want it to be inclusive, and people feel like, hey, there’s a bit of something that I’m into, but there’s also something that I find out here,” Hembree said. And this offer extends beyond their festivals. They host open shows and jam sessions year-round at their location and throughout Northwest Arkansas. Plus, they provide resources to local musicians from their history-filled HQ on the corner of South East Avenue and Mountain Street. Their mission also includes a culinary angle which will be highlighted again during Roots on the Avenue. Inside the Roots headquarters there will be bar and food areas during the weekend of June 17-19.
“You can come here and have a drink and then go to the show or cool off here if you need to,” says Hembree. WoodStone Pizza will provide food by the slice and chef prepared snacks will be available for all three days.
Roots on the Avenue
WHEN — June 17-19
WHERE – South East Avenue just outside the Roots headquarters in Fayetteville
COST — $50 to $150
INFO — fayettevilleroots.org/ontheavenue