Jump-start summer with a bang at the Music on the Mothership Festival, happening this weekend at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership.
With 25 musical acts playing over three days there'll be no shortage of entertainment. Five of those acts feature women at the core, so if you want female energy and perspective -- some yin to all that yang -- don't miss these performers.
Friday (June 1), 7-8:30 p.m. Amphitheater
Sisters Chloe Smith and Leah Song use lilting vocals and acoustic rhythms to share their positive vibe with the world. They just released their seventh album, "Alive," featuring songs they pulled from hundreds of hours of shows made in the last few years of touring.
The sisters said it was an effort to capture the stage-audience synergy, and at this show they'll be playing some new songs, including "Resilient," which was written in response to "the chaos-storm that has hit America and the world at large." They'll be joined onstage by Arouna Diarra on ngoni and balafon, joining west African music with Appalachia.
Firmly rooted in the folk music tradition, Smith and Song said, "The times reflect in our work and our work reflects the times." One major sign of the times is the #MeToo movement, and when asked about it, the sisters expressed hope and inspiration. They were glad to see "women speak up and stand strong with one another as allies in this wild world."
Saturday (June 2), 1:30-3 p.m. Amphitheater
Like with Rising Appalachia, sharing a bloodline brings out a special kind of musicianship, and identical twins Katelyn and Laurie Shook know this well. In 2017 they holed up in a room with their voices, a banjo, and a guitar and played live-to-tape to produce their critically acclaimed EP "2."
For their set this weekend, they're bringing the full band to rock the outdoor stage: Niko Slice on electric guitar and mandolin, Sydney Nash on bass and Barra Brown on drums, so there'll be some serious groove to back the sisters up.
Laurie Shook said they've been feeling the shift generated by women speaking up and being heard, and are thrilled to see more festivals booking women-fronted acts. She and her sister are firmly behind the demand for change and find strength in "banding (pun intended) together and claiming justice for those who have been violated."
Saturday (June 2), 8:30-9:30 p.m. Indoor Stage
If you're a fan of Susan Tedeschi or Bonnie Raitt, don't miss Nicki Bluhm. In the last couple years Bluhm got divorced, left her band and went solo, and moved to Nashville, and said that "change is a natural part of life and it's not always easy or comfortable, but I believe it inspires growth."
It also inspires art as evidenced by her terrific new album, "To Rise You Gotta Fall." Bluhm put together a group of like-minded Nashville musicians to support her on tour and is excited to share the songs with Taos.
Bluhm recently performed at the Pioneering Women of Songwriting show in Brooklyn, New York, which was organized by the Americana Music Association and affiliated with Change the Conversation, an organization fighting gender inequality in the music industry. She said, "I have great respect for people who can be vulnerable and share their stories for the betterment of humanity." As evidenced by her work, Bluhm walks the talk.
Sunday (June 3), 11-12:30 p.m. Patio Stage
Alice Wallace has an old-school country sound and modern lyrical sensibility. Her influences include Patsy Cline and Patty Griffin.
Voted the 2017 female vocalist of the year at the California Country Awards, Wallace will play material from her latest album, "Memories, Music & Pride," which was named best country/Americana album by the Los Angeles Music Critics. She will also play some unreleased tracks and material from a new album coming out this summer.
Wallace said it's "an album that embodies my love for the Southwest. We spend so much time touring through the Southwest, including Taos, that I couldn't help but find myself writing songs that reflect that. In addition to being about the Southwest, the album is about being a woman in the world today, which is reflected in our latest single, 'Elephants'."
That song, written by Wallace's writing partner Andrew Delaney, is a pointed commentary about men treating women badly. "It's a conversation that's always been needed, and I'm so glad that the world is finally talking about this in an open way," Wallace said. "I'm proud to sing this song to add to the conversation."
All Our Exes Live in Texas
Sunday (June 3), 4-5 p.m. Patio Stage
Their exes may live in Texas, but Hannah Crofts, Georgia Mooney, Elana Stone, and Katie Wighton hail from Australia, and hit the ground running by winning the 2017 ARIA award (the Australian Grammys) for best blues & roots album for their debut, "When We Fall."
All four women sing as well as play guitar, ukulele, accordion and mandolin. Their influences include Gillian Welch and the Wainwrights. They're working on a new album, which the band said is "a bit grittier" than the debut and will play songs from both albums at the festival.
The bandmates are known for both heavenly vocals and hilarious banter, but the women aren't without their serious side. All are unabashedly feminist and identify with folk music's tradition of speaking truth to power. When the band got together, it was one of only a few female bands in Australia. They were surprised when interviewers wanted to know what it was like to be in a "girl band."
"It made us question why it was so novel to everyone. What was stopping girls from starting bands or beginning careers in music? It all comes back to gender inequality, (but) things are beginning to change. Festivals and radio stations are making more of an effort to have equal male and female representation on lineups and playlists. It's brilliant."
See this week's Tempo cover story on Page 24 for ticket info, location and additional acts.