Yes, it’s the start of New England county fair season. There’s everything from corn dogs, fried dough and other decadent treats to agricultural competitions, crafts, and of course music.
Fans of tradition will enjoy the Cheshire Fair, which began Tuesday and runs through the weekend in Swanzey, and has been around since 1938. Amidst the sheep shearing, steer pulls and oxen log skidding is a healthy complement of bandstand performances, with an emphasis on country & western.
Teen prodigy Shelby Lyn Rogers plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday (where she’s joined by Shana Stack). The Hearts on Fire Band, Country Felix and Out on Bail also take the stage, which gives you an idea of the general mood.
If eclectic suits you better, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s annual gathering at Sunapee Mountain should be enticing. Over nine days, quality art is everywhere – painting, textile, woodworking, glass, jewelry, pottery – and all of it’s for sale. Artists will demonstrate their techniques and conduct classes for the curious.
For music, there’s a different band each day, performing three one-hour sets. Among the more intriguing acts are the old-timey Acoustic Truffle (Saturday), island rhythms from the Panhandlers and singer-songwriter Tim Lewis.
Rockingham’s Old Home Days starts tomorrow with an antique truck show and music from the Nines Band. On Saturday, Claremont’s Flames (featuring John Lovejoy) and the Stockwell Brothers entertain. Strictly speaking, it’s not a fair, but with pies, pickles and preserves all competing for blue ribbons, and a big fireworks show in the evening, it’s not too far off.
Cornish, of course, delivers the authentic country fair experience, beginning August 17. Once again, the organizers have pulled together a nicely varied lineup. Mixed between the horses, goats, rabbits and sheep that give the fair its unmistakable character is some fine music.
The fair welcomes back Heather Walker Thompson, sounding like Patsy Cline meets Pat Benetar, and Bruce Marshall plays southern fried boogie. The Davis Brothers Garage Band hew a classic rock line, and for the kids, Bill Shontz emcees a teddy bear picnic. Finally, Gospel Train welcomes Sunday morning in reverent fashion.
For Big Deals, the Vermont State Fair in Rutland closes out the month, with headliner shows from George Jones, John Michael Montgomery and Chris Cagle (August 31 – September 9).
What else can I tell you?
Thursday:Click Five, Six Flags – With daily admission approaching 50 bucks, the old amusement park isn’t a bargain anymore. But throw in a free show by one of Boston’s better up and coming bands, and you’ve got my interest. I really enjoyed Click 5’s last album; new lead singer Kyle Patrick adds a lot to their punchy, power-infused sound. They’re preparing to tour with Hilary Duff – an end-of-month Boston date is slated.
Friday: Jason Cann, Bistro Nouveau at Crown Point – Busy times at both Bistros this weekend. I saw Jason’s band Wherehouse at Harpoon’s BBQ competion Sunday. The boy can sing – and he’s pondering a long overdue trip to the studio to lay down some of his own songs. Cann plays at the end of a day featuring golf and beer; the aforementioned Harpoon is taking part. Tomorrow, Lydia Gray serenades, while over at the other Bistro in Eastman, Pete Merrigan holds forth.
Saturday: Cold River Ranters, Farmers Diner – A good buzz developing about this militantly unplugged band. They call their music “all acoustic hot gonzo primitive folk jive,” and you can get a taste of what that means at yellowhousemedia.com, where two of their songs are posted. The Farmer’s Diner is a story in itself, with fresh, locally grown food, including beef raised at PT Farms, and entrees made with all-natural ingredients.
Sunday: Day 3, Great Waters Folk Festival (Wolfeboro) – August is also festival month, and this Lakes Region event is one of New Hampshire’s best, with three days of Americana, folk and traditional tunes. The lineup includes old favorites Chris Smither, Jonathan Edwards Greg Brown and the Roches, along with newcomers Anais Mitchell, Joel Cage and youthful guitar ace Ash Fischbein.
Tuesday – Carlos Ocasio, Elixir – WRJ’s newest nightspot is tastefully designed, and offers a way for gourmands to try a little of everything on the menu without breaking the bank. They have nice cocktails and a great selection of Vermont beer. I’m smitten – and they had me at “music five nights a week.”
Wednesday: Cara Dillon, Iron Horse – Irish sensation Dillon plays a headline set before heading to Boston for the ICONS Festival next weekend, which explores the crossroads of American and Celtic music. Performers include the politically charged Irish band Black 47, local pranksters the Dropkick Murphys, the sweet-voice Nanci Griffith and the lovely Antje Duvekot.