Utah's folk and bluegrass "lawn" may still be alive, but some aficionados are whispering warnings that times are a changin' - brown spots are starting to develop.
- A Salt Lake bar recently ceased its Sunday bluegrass jams because they were losing money. Lack of customers.- Sparse attendance also afflicted the folk festival at Snowbird in June, despite three major national acts.
- And corporate sponsorship of folk and bluegrass festivals is in decline.
Is Laurie Lewis, among others, coming to the rescue? Possibly.
One of the country's best contemporary-traditional bluegrass artists, Lewis and her Grant Street Band, of San Francisco, are headlining the Deer Valley Bluegrass and Folk Festival on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Lewis brings with her a bass case full of experience, energy and extraordinary talent.
An accomplished fiddler and a passionately pure vocalist, Lewis is riding on numerous positive reviews as well as her three albums, "Singin' My Troubles Away," "Love Chooses You" and, her latest, "Restless Rambling Heart."
The three albums, on the Flying Fish label, demonstrate the artist's ability to stay true to the traditional, as on "Diamond Joe"; improvise on the more recent, as on Bill Monroe's "Cry, Cry, Darling"; and discover and softly exploit lesser-known but magical songs such as Mark Simos' "When the Night Bird Sings."
But most invigorating is Lewis' own enthusiastic approach to songwriting. "Don't Get Too Close" catches on immediately and never lets go. And no one can argue the truth and brilliance of "Love Chooses You," which Kathy Mat-tea made into a hit. "The Cowgirl's Song" proves how Lewis can be original yet sound traditional.
But Lewis and her band, consisting of Tom Rozum, Peter McLaugh-lin and Cary Black, will not be alone in the quest to keep bluegrass growing in Utah.
Also billed are Loose Ties, a four-man pop-folk-country-rock ensemble out of Jackson, Wyo.; and Harvey Reid, a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist from New Hamp-shire.
Rounding out the festival are several local acts, including Bluegrass Conspiracy, Kate MacLeod, Stillwater, the Willow Valley Trio, Gael and Tom Shults, and a "songwriters circle" with Megan Peters, Ken Shaw and Doug Wintch.
The festival, sponsored by the Intermountain Acoustic Music As-so-cia-tion, the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Factory Stores in Park City and KKAT Radio, gets under way at 11 a.m.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door, and can be purchased at Acoustic Music, Intermountain Guitar and Banjo, Smokey's Records and all SoundOff locations.