LIVE! Music: Jerron Paxton, Jontavious Willis, Robert Kimbrough Sr., Nekosee Fields Trio and Rising Stars Fife & Drum headline Arkansas Country Blues and Stringband Festival

LIVE! Music: Jerron Paxton, Jontavious Willis, Robert Kimbrough Sr., Nekosee Fields Trio and Rising Stars Fife & Drum headline Arkansas Country Blues and Stringband Festival

Folklorist Rachel Reynolds and the Music Education Initiative have partnered together to bring a special weekend of music, learning and community to Fayetteville.

“We’ve got several Grammy-nominated [and] Grammy Award-winning artists that are coming in, as well as a host of musicians from around the state and region that are playing,” Reynolds says of the Arkansas Country Blues and Stringband Festival happening Nov. 3-5 at the Fayetteville Public Library and in the “Juke Joint” exhibit at the Pryor Center in downtown Fayetteville.

Headliners include multi-instrumentalist Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, who will channel the early days of Black folk music at the Juke Joint on Nov. 3. The pianist, banjo picker and guitarist will also lead a workshop during the festival weekend. Another headliner is Nokosee Fields, great nephew of the late Cherokee fiddler Sam O’Fields, who will perform twice with his trio and lead a workshop.

Headliner Jontavious Willis will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 for one of the few ticketed events during the festival. The 27-year-old bluesman was dubbed a “wunderkind” by Taj Mahal. Rising Stars Fife and Drum Band will also perform at the Juke Joint, and band member Sharde Thomas will lead a fife workshop. While these events require tickets, most of the other performances, workshops and events will be free.

Robert Kimbrough Sr. continues his family’s tradition of “Cotton Patch Blues” all three days of the festival. He’s the son of blues legend Junior Kimbrough and will lead a workshop during the festival. His family will be serving catfish and fixings too.

On Nov. 3, Uncle Joe Meazle will present folk histories through song in the library’s event center. Sad Daddy’s Brian Martin will share some “front porch soul” during Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 performances. Kansas City-based duo Betse & Clarke will perform old-timey music and plug in for some improvisational fiddle, guitar and banjo. The duo will battle it out in some of the weekend’s competitions.

Creek Rocks, folk super duo of Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu, will perform at various locations throughout the festival and will be competing. They’ll be joined on the last day of the festival by Dana Idlet and Noah Richmond of local duo Meadow Makers for a Ozark Rhombus performance. Other music will come from Folk School favorite Brett Ratcliff, White River Wobblers and Salem Plateau.

Reynolds says that the festival was moved to Fayetteville at the last minute, but she found a helping hand from Orson Weems and the Music Education Initiative, who stepped in to help.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful they are,” she says. The festival is also supported by the National Park Service, Lower Delta Initiative and the National Endowment for the Arts alongside several local sponsors.

“The main overarching goal of this festival always was [and] is to present these two cultural traditions — one is an African American cultural tradition in the American South — country, blues. The other comes from a white Southern tradition — string bands. But they have the same instrumentation and the shared repertoire. So the concept was to present those two cultural traditions in the same space together. And in doing that, we hope that that will deconstruct some otherness around race and set the stage to have more in-depth conversations.”

Eventually she hopes to help sustain a network of musicians that are “committed to doing social equity work through the lens of music that they play, and supporters of that. So we’ll have scheduled times in addition to workshops to have facilitated conversations about building that network.”

There’s also a chance for little music fans to get their hands on music makers of their very own.

“We’re going to have a kids’ workshop on Saturday morning that’s free at Fayetteville Public Library. We’ll be making quills which is a African American instrument made from river cane,” Reynolds explains. She and a friend even hit the dirt roads of Stone County to cut cane for the workshop.

There will also be square dances on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 and a gospel brunch on Nov. 5. Competitions will include a Ballad-Off in the Lower Ramble on Nov. 2 and The Ozark Stringband Championships will be from 3-4 p.m. Nov. 5.

Not all information on the workshops and ticketed events was available as of press time for What’s Up! But keep an eye on for more information. Most events are free; donations appreciated.


 Joyce Yang performs at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Great Hall at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, 600 Museum Way in Bentonville.

• The Ultimate Tribute to Hip-Hop 50th Anniversary Shindig happens at 8 p.m. Nov. 4; Buddy Shute, Michael Cooper (96 Miles), Traci Rae Manos (Ozark Daughter) and Jeremy Morris (Common Roots) share songs and stories starting at 8 p.m. Nov. 25; and New Years Eveee with Fight Dream, Sloeth’n Steady, Bootleg Royal, The Big Sad, The Misdemeanors and Samantha Hunt is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 30 at at Meteor Guitar Gallery, 128 W. Central Ave.


• Shelly Watson performs at 7 p.m. Nov. 3; 96 Miles performs at 7 p.m. Nov. 10; Dale Kellison performs at 7 p.m Nov. 11 at Wanderoo Lodge and Gravel Bar, 216 W. Van Buren in Eureka Springs.

• Buddy Shute & the Motivators play both the Rowdy Beaver Tavern at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 and Rowdy Beaver Den at 8 p.m. Nov. 4 in Eureka Springs.


James Miller (Rakensak) plays Nov. 5; Buddy Shute plays Nov. 12; then Dennis Collins and Denise Lanuti play songs of miners and cowboys Nov. 19; Mills frequently joins Brick Fields for Blues Therapy from 6-9 p.m. Wednesdays at Morano’s, 2179 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Fayetteville.

• Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Dogs in a Pile happen at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2; Happy Hour with No Vacancy starts at 6 p.m. then Borgore performs at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 3; Ray Wylie Hubbard and Kelley Mickwee perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 4; Taylor Smith (Vintage Pistol) and Jesse Wells (Welles) perform at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at George’s Majestic Lounge, 519 W. Dickson St.

• As We Speak: Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer featuring Rakesh Chaurasia happens at 8 p.m. Nov. 4; John Fulbright performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 (sold out) at Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

• Peter Rexford performs at 6 p.m Nov. 2; Latin Dance Night starts at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at Six Twelve Coffeehouse & Bar, 3980 W. Wedington Drive in Fayetteville.

• Greensky Bluegrass happens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15; The Head and the Heart and Yoke Lore play at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 (low tickets remain); August Burns Red, Brand of Sacrifice, Spite and Crystal Lake perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at JJ’s Live, 3615 N. Steele Blvd.

• Jessi Morgan and She’s Us perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in Cottage Circle at Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 N. Skyline Drive. (


• Geoffrey Asmus performs Nov. 3-4; Robert Mac Nov. 17-18; Moody Malavi Nov. 24-25; Kevin Nealon Nov. 30-Dec. 2; Trae Crowder Dec. 7-9 at The Grove Comedy Club, 808 S. Bloomington St. See dates and ticket information at


• The Iguanas perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 for the next Artist, Audience & Community Live! concert at 801 Media Center, 801 N. A St. in Fort Smith. Doors open at 6 p.m.

• Josh Abbott Band plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 3; Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 2; Hellzapopping Circus Sideshow happens at 8 p.m. Dec. 7; Heather Land performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at TempleLive, 200 N. 11th St. in Fort Smith. 222-6186;

• The Swade Diablos perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 3; Buckshot Princess plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 10; All of Her, Anything or Everything, The Fighting Side and 5 Body Blade perform starting at 8 p.m. Nov. 11; Truck Stop Poets play at 8 p.m. Nov. 17; Uncle Fudge plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 18; Dominic B Roy plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 24 at Hero’s, 1002 Garrison Ave. in Fort Smith.

• Josh Ward and Braxton Keith perform at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2; Craig Wayne Boyd plays at 7 p.m. Nov. 3; Cooper Alan and Noah Thompson perform at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9; Velcro Pygmies perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 10; Cody Canada and The Departed play at 7 p.m. Nov. 11; Tanner Usrey and Carson Wallace play at 8 p.m. Nov. 18; Jackson Taylor and The Sinners perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 24; Jason Boland and the Stragglers perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at Majestic Fort Smith, 817 Garrison Ave. 479-551-2424

• Aaron Lewis performs at 8 p.m. Nov. 9; Flatland Cavalry plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 10; Lee Brice performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 15; Boyz II Men perform at 8 p.m. Jan. 12, 2024 in the Showplace Theatre at Riverwind Casino 1544 Oklahoma Highway 9, in Norman, Okla. (405) 322-6000.


• The Music Depot is back on track with An Evening En Rouge celebrating the Northwest Arkansas Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta with live music from Dee Dee Jones starting at 7 p.m. Nov. 3; Rocky Athas performs at 7 p.m. Nov. 4; Good News & The Blues with headliner Akeem Kemp and support from Music Depot Interns will be Nov. 9-10; RJ Mischo & Red Hot Blues Band perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at The Music Depot, 206 W. Walnut St. in Rogers.


• Black Legacy Project celebrates Black musical history starting at 7 p.m. Nov. 8; Ashtyn Barbaree and Candy Songs and The Backyard Bugs perform at 5 p.m. Nov. 28; Off Tha Top | On Tha Spot with Eddie Canyon, a two-week hip-hop pop-up experience featuring local producers, pop-up workstations, an open mic night, and a listening party, starts Dec. 16 at The Medium, 214 S. Main St. in Springdale.

• Stand-up comedy starts at 8 p.m. on Thursdays with Mark Masters Nov. 2 and Dwight Simmons on Nov. 9 at Black Apple Hard Cider, 321 E Emma Ave.

Send your music events to Monica Hooper at

Categories: LIVE! In NWA