REVIEW: Ozark Mountain Music Festival an impressive effort

Thursday, January 30, 2014
The Ben Miller Band had the dance floor hoppin' all throughout its set Saturday at the Basin Park Hotel. For more photos visit our Facebook page at or copy and paste this link to go directly to the album:

The Ozark Mountain Music Festival, which took place last weekend, was a smashing success by all accounts. The event was a virtual sell-out and filled the Ozark Room and the Barefoot Ballroom at the Basin Park Hotel with music fans of all ages, coming from all over the state and region.

Friday night's shows featured Fayetteville folk group 3 Penny Acre, followed by that evening's headliner, Honkysuckle from Springfield. Honkysuckle's hard-driving Southern blues/folk rock featuring the incredible harmonica talent of Kyle Young was a big hit for the fans on hand Friday evening. One of the highlights of the evening was their song "Train" (with Chucky Waggs aka Adam Wagner of Mountain Sprout sitting in), which you can watch on video here:

On Saturday, Pearl Brick kicked off the day of music with a more laid-back set, singing solo with just her acoustic guitar.

Brick's soul came out shining as she sang with her eyes closed, giving real depth to the meaning of her songs. She shared stories in between tracks, engaging the audience as if they were family.

She even accommodated a 6-year-old boy's request for "You Are My Sunshine" -- even though she'd never played that before.

Two songs that stood out as particularly interesting were, "Burned My Dead Lover's House Down (Just Before Work Today)," about a friend's experience, and "Older Than Me Since She Was Only 3," written about her daughter.

Next up on Saturday was Tyrannosaurus Chicken. The daring duo from Fort Smith brought along a dozen or so instruments, as each member is a multi-talented instrumentalist not only playing more than one thing but frequently playing several instruments at the same time. Rachel Ammons, for example, mans the foot-stomp-tambourine-pedal, the fiddle and the vocals on a routine basis. Smilin' Bob Lewis plays the kick drum, a resonator slide guitar and sings as well. Then there are guitars and a banjo and a harmonica passed around depending on the song, and a few other instruments we're just not sure what to call.

T-Chicken's "psycheDelta" brand of rejiggered Mississippi blues got the 4 p.m. audience on their feet, and by the middle of their set, the dance floor was full. That's quite a feat for a daytime show, no matter where it's held.

The next two acts, SxRex and Ben Miller Band, also blew the audience members away with spot-on, rollicking performances showcasing their members' talent in musicianship, performing and songwriting.

Ben Miller Band, which is a three-piece based in Joplin, was especially impressive in the 8 p.m. slot in the Ballroom. The pace was frenetic almost from the start, and stealing the show wasn't lead singer and guitarist Ben Miller, nor was it washtub bass player Scott Leeper. Indeed, multi-instrumentalist Doug Dicharry put on such a show it was nearly impossible to soak in anything else on stage.

Dicharry switched between trombone, mandolin, electric washboard, electric spoons, and drums and cymbals as easily as the rest of us might change shoes. Easier, in fact. Here's a video featuring him on the electric spoons plus a "waah-waah" pedal.

Ben Miller Band's fast-tempo folk-blues had the dance floor filled to capacity the entire two-hour set, and the audience even demanded an encore after a very long, hard-rockin' "last" song. (The band obliged.)

The final performers of OzMoMu was the foursome of National Park Radio. In addition to performing a number of excellent covers that wowed the crowd and kept them on their feet, NPR threw in a few surprises: some very well-done covers of Railroad Earth ("Bird In A House"), Blaze Foley ("Clay Pigeons"), The Avett Brothers ("January Wedding"), and Fleet Foxes ("Oliver James").

The crowd danced furiously during most of NPR's set, and you could even see many of them singing along with the band's original songs. The band members said later they had a blast just like the audience appeared to have.

OzMoMu was an impressive first-year effort, and much praise goes out to primary organizer Mary Howze. "It's easy when it's your passion," she said over the weekend when someone remarked that her hard work had paid off. Indeed.

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