Best MVP: Jim Lauderdale
With so many styles and traditions on the schedule, there's only one way to classify the MerleFest artists: those who hit the road immediately after their show and those who don't. From Thursday to Sunday, North Carolina native and Americana darling Jim Lauderdale judged contests, emceed showcases, sat in with friends and even played Western swing. And he served up a Day 3 show with a taut seven-piece band bigger than Bobby "Blue" Bland's used to be. The late, legendary R&B star must have been on Lauderdale's mind when he planned his set. Like Bland, Lauderdale screwed up his face and belted the blues from his recent album Soul Searching. Ever the interlocuter, he also brought up pop star John Oates to join him. As if he needed more blue-eyed soul.