Mayo Island Music Fest features some of the country's top jam bands. 

Jamming on the James

Sunday's Fourth Annual Mayo Island Music Festival features a lineup heavy on an eclectic musical spirit. With headliners Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Leftover Salmon, Robert Earl Keen, Eddie From Ohio and a promised "special guest" on the bill, a sonically adventurous day is in store.

Sporting banjo, bass, percussion, saxophone and a unique guitar-synth-drum instrument, the Flecktones bring a mix of roots and electronic sounds to the stage. Bandleader Bela Fleck started his banjo career as a 15-year-old New Yorker, after hearing Flatt and Scruggs. He joined the New Grass Revival in 1982 and for seven years was a key in the band's attempts to push the boundaries of traditional bluegrass. He formed the Flecktones in 1989 originally to create a hybrid bluegrass/jazz sound. But the group has since expanded that concept to include funk, world and pop music. Even Fleck admits "It's the banjo gone weird."

Leftover Salmon calls its mix of mandolin, fiddle, banjo, drums, bass, water phone and rubber fish "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass." Originating out West, Salmon has taken its merry mix of sounds across the country for the better part of the past decade, playing a wide range of events and headlining festivals. The group's jam-happy music has found a fervent audience that tapes gigs and follows the band from show to show … la the Grateful Dead.

Of the names on this lineup, perhaps Robert Earl Keen has made the fewest appearances in this area. During the past decade, this Texas legend has risen from cult hero to acclaimed national touring act. His often ironic, witty and twisted songs tell tales of the everyday loser and border country hi-jinks, and they detail the affairs of the heart as well. His live shows draw crowds that put cowboys, frat boys and hippies in the same crowd, and Keen's between-song patter can be as funny as his songs.

There's no one in the band named "Eddie," and they're not from Ohio, but that's just a clue that Eddie From Ohio's blend of four-part harmonies and acoustic instrumentation is also a bit around the bend. Formed in 1991, this Virginia-based band tours regularly and has found a devoted "Edhead" fan base. This band, too, likes to mix it up assimilating many influences to create an energetic and highly musical sound.


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