Mother Road Revival folk festival in Tulsa announced

Jason Isbell

A folk music and film festival Sept. 8-11 in Tulsa called the Mother Road Revival that pays tribute to Route 66 was announced this morning at the city’s BOK Center arena, with popular country-rock artist Jason Isbell as the headlining act.

The Mother Road Revival will occur at several venues that weekend that also include Cain’s Ballroom, the Circle Cinema, the Woody Guthrie Center and its nearby Guthrie Green.

KOTV in Tulsa first reported the festival late Sunday night, but the music acts and events weren’t announced until Monday morning. In addition to paying tribute to the Mother Road, the festival also serves as a salute to Tulsa’s acquisitions of the Woody Guthrie archive and, more recently, Bob Dylan’s archive.

Mother Road Fest logo

The festival begins Sept. 8 with screenings of folk-music films and Route 66 documentaries, the latter starring Tulsa author and actor Michael Wallis, at the Circle Cinema. The venue also will screen 1987’s cult favorite “Bagdad Cafe,” shot at the restaurant of the same name on Route 66 in Newberry Springs, California. “Bagdad Cafe” let to countless Europeans traveling to America to see the real restaurant.

Anna Guthrie, granddaughter of folk legend Woody Guthrie, will preside over a presentation Sept. 10 titled “Where Dylan Met Woody.” It details through photographs and letters of the time when young music artist Bob Dylan met Woody Guthrie when he was in a hospital dying of Huntington’s chorea during the 1960s. The much-praised presentation was given at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin earlier this year.

The same day, a discussion will center on New York City’s Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village that shepherded the folk-music revival during the 1950s and ’60s.

On Sept. 11, Cain’s Ballroom will host a gospel brunch, plus a concert by country-rock artist Hayes Carll and other to-be-announced acts at the Guthrie Green.

As for the Mother Road Revival headliner (which includes Lucero and Shakey Graves as opening acts), it’s a bit strange but invigorating to see an artist such as Isbell go from being a chief singer and songwriter for the Drive-By Truckers to him becoming a popular solo artist after he got clean and sober.

Isbell’s most recent album, “Something More Than Free,” debuted at No. 1 on the country, rock and folk charts. He has sold out venues all over the country, including the venerable Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

And this powerful and vulnerable performance of “Cover Me Up” enticed a lot of people to buy Isbell’s music and go to his shows:

Tickets for the Isbell concert are on sale here. More about the festival itself may be found here.

(Image of Jason Isbell by Bryan Ledgard via Flickr)

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