Robert Randolph, SteelDrivers to headline Foothills


The Steeldrivers and Robert Randolph's The Family Band will headline the the city of Jasper's Foothills Festival this year, while Taylor Hicks and Will Hoge will also have late sets during the Sept. 7-8 festival.

Zach Baker, the talent buyer for the Foothills Festival, said this week the line-up for the festival, known for offering free entertainment of high caliber, should be another major attraction for the event. 

In recent years, nationally known acts at the Foothills Festival have included Gin Blossoms, Tonic, Deana Carter, Spin Doctors and John Paul White.

The Daily Mountain Eagle is listed as a premier sponsor for the event, along with the city of Jasper, Honda of Jasper, Desperation Church, Coca-Cola, BB Distributing, Carl Cannon, Pinnacle Bank and Byars Wright. 

"I'm super excited," Baker said of the schedule, saying it shows a balance of different styles. 

The Friday line-up will include River Dan, Hoge and concluding with the SteelDrivers, he said. The Saturday line-up will include the Chris Simmons Band, the McCrary Sisters, Paul Thorn, Hicks and then headlining Randolph..

Randolph's group is an American funk and soul band led by Randolph, who is a pedal steel guitarist named by Rolling Stone as No. 97 among the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

His concerts are known for their energy, with Randolph dancing and encouraging the audience to dance and sing, even on stage at times. The band has opened for Eric Clapton and performed in national commercials and the TD Toronto Jazz Fest. It has recorded seven albums, with "Got Soul" nominated for a "Best Contemporary Blues Album" for the 2018 Grammy Awards.

Baker, who has been an agent for 17 years and is also a sales consultant for the Eagle, said Randolph will draw many visitors from outside Jasper. 

"It's one of the most unbelievable things you will ever see. He is the Hendrix of the pedal steel guitar, and everyone in the whole band is his family," he said. "It is really a killer. And Taylor actually knows Robert, so he will get up and jam with him, play harmonica and that sort of thing." 

He called Randolph's music a mix of blues and soul. "The whole things flows really soulful and I think it will bring a cool demographic to the downtown area," Baker said. 

 Hicks, a native of Birmingham, will play just before Randolph. He is one of the most recognizable acts on the bill, as he won the fifth season of American Idol. He became known for his energetic stage performances as well, combining classic rock, blues and R&B. His followers are known as the Soul Patrol. 

 He played on Broadway in 2008 in Grease as Teen Angel, continuing on with the national tour. He also secured a long-term residency in Las Vegas. 

 "He's a heck of a performer," Baker said. 

 The SteelDrivers, a bluegrass band, was nominated in 2009 for a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or a Group with Vocals for the song "Blue Side of the Mountain." Another album, "Reckless, as yielded two nominations in 2010, Best Bluegrass Album (for which it won the Grammy) and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song, "Where Rainbows Never Die." Two albums, "Hammer Down" and "The Muscle Shoals Recordings," hit No. 1 on the U.S. Bluegrass chart. 

 "They are just high-energy bluegrass and are unbelievable," Baker said. "I saw them in Birmingham at a sold-out show at 1,400 seats with $50 tickets. And they announced our (Foothills Festival) show at their show. So 1,400 people who may or may not have known anything about this event heard some free advertising there." He noted earlier the group had not even signed a contract yet before making the announcement. 

 Hoge, a country music singer and songwriter, has sung Southern rock and alternative country, with Rolling Stone comparing him to Bob Seger and John Mellencamp. The Eli Young Band hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart with their recording of his song, "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," which was nominated for a Grammy as Country Song of the Year. 

 He has toured with artists such as Needtobreath, Sugarland and The Civil Wars, and has played at the Grand Ole Opry three times. He received a Country Music Association nomination, an Academy of Country Music nomination and a Grammy nomination for "Country Song of the Year" for "Even If It Breaks Your Heart." 

 "We just confirmed Will Hoge," Baker said Thursday, describing him as someone who sings "Americana" music. "Will has been a Southeast favorite for a long time. Of course, he tours everywhere, but a lot of people around here know him from that big Chevy commercial. His song 'Strong' is on that." 

 Thorn, who was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, is known for a style that mixes blues, country and rock. During a boxing career, he won the Mid-South Middleweight Championship in Memphis, Tennessee and a nationally televised bout with former world champion Roberto Durán. He has opened with Huey Lewis and the News, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Toby Keith, and others. 

 Last month Thorn released "Don't Let the Devil Ride," which features covers of gospel songs from his youth and features the McCrary Sisters and others. The album has already hit No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums Chart. 

 "Paul Thorn has been a favorite here. This will be the second time he has played" at the festival. "He in unbelievable," Baker said. 

 The McCrary Sisters, the daughters of a former Baptist preacher, are said to sing a unique style of gospel influenced by soul, Americana, blues and R&B and have recorded three albums. They have song on TBN's "Jason Crabbe Show" and have also performed with artists such as Martina McBride, Eric Church, The Winans, Rosanne Cash, Widespread Panic, Sheryl Crow and others. 

 Simmons, a guitarist and vocalist who is known for playing rock and blues, was born in Boaz and today lives in Lacey Springs, just south of Huntsville. He was employed and played on stage with  Leon Russell, who had an influence on him. (Baker also represented Russell for 10 years.) Simmons has been performing professionally for 18 years. 

Dan, born in Montgomery, was influenced as a singer by Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and has played banjo and guitar.

 "With a well-worn voice that strikes a familiar chord with old-souls and whiskey by a fire. River Dan has an energy about him that palpates through his lyrics and his foot, harp sawin’ Southern folk," his website states. 

 "River Dan is really old school country," Baker said. 

 Baker, who had a $65,000 budget to work from for talent, said the Foothills Festival is not just for this community but for bringing in others from outside to experience the downtown area and how it has flourished. Local businesses have seen an increase in business due to exposure to the festival. 

 "This is our sixth year doing this and it has actually been deemed one of the Top 10 festivals in the state of Alabama," he said. About 12,000-14,000 attendees came to the Foothills Festival.

 Friday performances will start at 6 p.m. with River Dan, while the Saturday shows start at mid-afternoon with Chris Simmons. "All those bands will do an hour set with a 30-minute set break in between," he said. The exception will be the headliner bands, the SteelDrivers and Randolph, who will each have 90 minutes. 

 Performances will be in the same site on the corner of Third Avenue and 19th Street, just off the courthouse square. 

 Local and regional music will also be featured at the Tallulah Brewing Co. on Saturday starting probably around noon until the major acts start playing at 3:30 or 4 p.m. Those performances will also be free to the public, Baker said. 

 Anyone wanting more information may go to or call Jasper's special events coordinator, Lisa Myers, at 221-2100.