Chuck Berry Tribute: Bridging the Folk/Rock Divide
At least ever since Dylan went electric in 1965, the Newport Folk Festival has had an intimate, and at times complicated, relationship with rock music. Recent years, however, have erased such boundaries entirely, and a Sunday afternoon tribute to Chuck Berry, led by veteran guitarist Charlie Sexton, made a convincing argument for Berry's legacy – as a pioneering guitarist, singular vocalist, and above all else, a foundational songwriter – as an essential ingredient in the American folk tradition. With the upstart collective the Texas Gentlemen serving as the house band (and emphasizing Berry's country-blues roots bona fides along the way), artists like Jim James ("Promised Land”), Shakey Graves ("Brown Eyed Handsome Man") Nathaniel Rateliff ("You Never Can Tell") sang reverent, loose renditions from Berry's extensive catalog. High points came early, with Kam Franklin' stirring take on "Roll Over Beethoven" and Deer Tick's Dennis Ryan's note-perfect Berry imitation on "Run Rudolph Run."