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Anchorage Folk Fest has everything from Cajun to country blues and bluegrass

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: January 16
  • Published January 15

Cajun band Feufollet will perform in Anchorage for the second weekend of Anchorage Folk Fest, Friday-Sunday, Jan. 24-26.

For more than 20 years, Feufollet has performed dual roles in the Cajun music scene in southwest Louisiana.

The first is as a conservator of the music that is rooted in the region, playing spot-on renditions of traditional favorites. The second is as adventurers, adding sounds from different influences to their music and seamlessly rolling into the occasional swamp rock breakdown.

All of it is on display in “Prends Courage,” a retrospective collection of hits and new songs which the group released last fall. Feufollet, based out of Lafayette, will be a guest artist at this year’s Anchorage Folk Festival, which starts this week and runs through next weekend.

Philippe Billeaudeau has been with the band for a dozen years as a bass player. He said part of the reason the band’s sound has diversified is because many of the band members have also played in indie rock or punk rock groups.

“The band started out as a traditional Cajun group,” he said. "Even when I joined the group it was mostly Cajun dance music. There have been groups before us that have experimented with the sound. It’s sort of coming at a traditional song with a new recording technique or an electric guitar and slowly it got to be a little more fun and that’s how that thing started."

Feufollet will play a Cajun dance during the festival’s final Saturday. Billeaudeau said the band developed its wide repertoire by sitting in with rock and jazz musicians, a common occurrence in the bars and dance halls.

“Back in Louisiana, it’s not that uncommon for a Cajun band to play some oldies or do a zydeco song or mix it up with some swamp pop. We play for dancers and people partying and it’s not that out of the ordinary to play French 2-steps and waltzes and mix in a Fats Domino tune. We’re just continuing that tradition.”

The band received a Grammy nomination for Best Cajun or Zydeco Album with the 2010 release “En couleurs.” The trip to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony at the Staples Center was a memorable one.

“We got to go to the show and we were two rows behind Megadeth,” Billeaudeau said. “We ran into Neil Young in the hallway and ran into Jackson Browne at the reception. It was a lot of fun.”

The other two guests artists from the festival come from the blues realm. Englishman Jack Broadbent’s slide guitar work has been hailed as being among the best of the current generation of young players.

Broadbent’s most recent album, “Moonshine Blue," released in late 2019, is not only a showcase for his slide work but also his songwriting. While the album has its share of brooding atmospheric tunes like the title track and album closer “Too Late," it also has lighter romps like “If.”

Jontavious Willis is a young player with a vintage sound. Willis, still in his early 20s, is a country blues player, specializing in everything from the Delta style of Robert Johnson to the Piedmont blues of Blind Blake.

Willis has only released two albums in his fledgling career -- “Blue Metamorphisis” in 2017 and “Spectacular Class” in 2019 -- but has already caught the eye of artists like Taj Mahal.

The blues great, who toured with Willis, said of the young performer: “Jontavious Willis. That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind. He’s a great new voice of the 21st century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays. He has really just delightful timing and a real voice for the music because he was raised in the tradition and the culture. It’s just wonderful to hear him sing. The way he tunes his guitar is just amazing. There’s not a bluesman alive that could pick his instrument up and play it. You’d have to sit there for a good while to figure those tunings out."

But it isn’t just about the featured performers. The festival stretches through two weekends and includes dozens of local performances around Anchorage, including main stage concerts at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Each weekend’s festivities will also include workshops in both dance and instrumentation. “Folk week” stretches between the weekends and includes a movie at Beartooth Theatrepub and a contra dance on the UAA campus.

Anchorage Folk Fest

See full details at anchoragefolkfestival.org

Wednesday, Jan. 15th

Kick-off Party at 49th State Brewery featuring The Cold Country Bluegrass Band and other local performers; 7 p.m.-11 p.m.; $10

Thursday, Jan. 16th

Parlor in the Round featuring guest artist Jontavious Willis; Wendy Williamson Auditorium; 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; free

Friday, Jan. 17th

Local acts perform 15 minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.; featuring guest artist Jontavious Willis, who will perform from 8:45 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Crossroads Late Night Jam - bring your instrument for small circle late night picking, 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m.

Saturday, Jan. 18th

Local acts perform 15 minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Free workshops for kids and adults alike are hosted by local musicians, dancers, and performers, 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m.

Local acts perform 15 minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Guest artist Jack Broadbent performs; Harp Daddy and Daddy’s Issue to close the night, 7:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m., 49th State Brewery; $15

Sunday, Jan. 19th

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Free workshops for kids and adults hosted by local musicians, dancers, and performers, 10 a.m.-5:15 p.m.; Guest artist Jack Broadbent will host a Performance and Conversation workshop at 1 p.m.

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. featuring guest artist Jack Broadbent, who will perform at 8:30 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 20th

Beartooth Theatre & Anchorage Folk Festival present Bound for Glory; 8 p.m.; $6

Tuesday, Jan. 21st

Folk Week; local acts perform 45 minute sets at various locations around town; free

Alaska Independent Music Initiative Showcase at Charlou; 7 p.m.-9 p.m.; $10

Wednesday, Jan. 22nd

Folk Week; local acts perform 45 minute sets at various locations around town; free

Thursday, Jan. 23rd

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

UAA Concert Board and AFF present Student Union Contra Dance; UAA Student Union; $10; 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 24th

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.; guest artists Feufollet will perform at 8:45 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 25th

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Free workshops for kids and adults hosted by local musicians, dancers and performers, 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m.

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Guest Artists Feufollet Cajun Dance at Williwaw; 8 p.m.-1 a.m., $20

Sunday, Jan. 26th

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Free workshops for kids and adults hosted by local musicians, dancers, and performers, 10 a.m.-5:15 p.m.; guest artist Feufollet will host a Performance and Conversation workshop at 1 p.m.

Local acts perform 15-minute sets at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium for free, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. featuring guest artist Feufollet, who will perform at 8:30 p.m.

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