March 24, 2011 —
Before we know it, our parkas will be put away, we’ll be relaxing at our favorite swimmin’ holes and the lawnmowers will be humming. I’m already humming a different tune, having attended the annual Roots & Rhythm Arts and Music Festival kick-off party (and fund raiser) last week at the Narrowsburg Inn.
A nice crowd was on hand to lend their support and dig into their pockets while several great acts performed, whetting my appetite for the sixth annual music and arts festival, slated for June 18 in Honesdale, PA.
I met with director of fundraising Kelly Koch and director of Main Stage Music’s John Rocklin just as the show was tuning up, hoping to get a brief overview of what to expect, as they busily finalize plans for this years festivities. Both were excited to be at the inn, and the headliners that night served as a teaser for the upcoming summer spectacular.
Rocklin took me aside and shared that while some of the bookings are yet to be set in stone, a pre-party chord will strike on May 29 at the Blues & Brews Bar-B-Que (www.facebook.com/pages/Honesdale-Roots-and-Rhythm ), featuring the Bobby Kyle Band (bobbykyle.com). As it happened, Kyle, with fill-in band, was in the house, and Rocklin introduced us while informing me that Bobby had dropped everything, called a few friends and joined in at the last moment, to lend a hand.
Even before strapping on his guitar and getting the crowd on its feet, I found Kyle engaging, entertaining and brimming over with enthusiasm about music, the Catskills and singin’ the blues. Both Rocklin and Kyle were animated while sharing the story of how the two met, filling in the details for each other as only old friends can. “You’re forgetting the best part!” Rocklin chimed in, as Kyle was getting ahead of himself while decribing the music scene in Memphis, TN, where the two originally hooked up.
“What’s even more important” intoned Kyle, “is that we are both still here, still making music and entertaining in the only way we know how.” Kyle has been touring the country since the 1970s, and has stories about his many associates in the industry. I could have listened for hours to his tales about them—and hope to have more opportunities to do so—but the Roots & Rhythm festival was at the forefront of the evening’s agenda, so I asked him about his connection to our region.
“I have played every corner of the Catskills” he told me, “and my family is in Milford, PA, so this is home to me.” He went on to describe the venues that no longer exist, recording at Jimi Hendrix’s old studio, Electric Lady, and wax rhapsodic about the musical heritage of the area. Once on stage, Kyle looked out into the crowd and declared, that “I’ve been all over the world, but the most beautiful place, by far, is the Upper Delaware Valley.”
Roars of approval from the crowd got me keyed up as I sat back and listened to what this musician can do. His cohorts (“These guys all drove here from Stroudsburg for John, the audience and the cause”) were so tuned into each other that it was clear that their own roots were firmly planted in the blues.
A bit of internet research found these words about Kyle:
“Now performing with his own band, Bobby’s emotional, soulful voice rings true, and is forged with a raw, distinctive quality all his own. Honest and forthright, Bobby’s original songs tell the story of Everyman with a passion born of life, love and loss.”
The Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Festival is “pleased to have so many musicians and artists” like Kyle on hand to support the Herculean efforts of this event. The festival’s mission statement reads, in part, that its “purpose is to further promote and develop music and arts in the greater Honesdale community, which already has an established reputation as a destination, while providing a platform to further expand the development of local businesses and attractions to residents and visitors alike.”
“It takes a village” springs to mind, as I watch the Roots & Rhythm festival get underway. With far too many volunteers and sponsors to mention, I can only admire, support and attend. For more information go to www.Hones  dalerootsandrhythm.com or call 570/253-5492.