A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Inaugural Medicine Stone music festival launches Thursday in Tahlequah
The three-day event will feature co-founders Jason Boland & The Stragglers and the Turnpike Troubadours, along with Cody Canada & The Depared, Stoney LaRue, the Red Dirt Rangers, John Fullbright, Todd Snider and more.
TAHLEQUAH — If music is the best medicine, Oklahoma’s top Red Dirt musicians are getting ready to administer a potent dose down on the Illinois River.
The inaugural Medicine Stone music festival launches Thursday at the picturesque Diamondhead Resort in Tahlequah. The three-day event continues through Sept. 14 and will feature Oklahomans Jason Boland & The Stragglers, the Turnpike Troubadours, The Departed, Stoney LaRue, the Red Dirt Rangers, Randy Crouch and the Flying Horse Band, John Fullbright, John Moreland and Thomas Trapp, along with Nashville, Tenn.-based folk standout Todd Snider and Texas singer-songwriter Jason Eady.
“I told the rest of the band, man, we’re gonna be busy all day. We’re gonna be jamming with everybody. And that’s awesome. You know, it’s a lot of fun when you get to get up and play old songs with old friends,” said The Departed front man Cody Canada, who grew up in Yukon and Stillwater and now makes his home in New Braunfels, Texas, in a recent phone interview.
In addition to music, camping, canoeing, rafting and floating are on the lineup for the first Medicine Stone. The festival, which takes its title from the poetic name the Osage Indians gave the Illinois River, is the brainchild of the Turnpike Troubadours and The Stragglers, who wanted to devise a premier outdoor music event along the lines of the venerable Larry Joe Taylor’s Texas Music Festival.
The Troubadours consider Tahlequah their hometown, and the scenic river setting is intended to draw people from a four-state area. Several of the festival’s overnight ticket packages already have sold out.
For Boland, a Harrah native who came of age musically in Stillwater and now lives in Texas, playing in his home state is always a touchstone moment.
“I hope the fans are proud of what we do, really. I hope we always represent them well,” he said in a spring phone interview around the release of his new album, “Dark and Dirty Mile.” “We’re rooted in the region. I don’t think any of us consider ourselves any kind of spokespeople or anything, but you want the peers you grew up with to hear it and have it resonate with them. … If they hear it and they know it’s true, then we feel like we’ve done our job.”
Canada said Turnpike Troubadours front man Evan Felker didn’t have to ask twice when he broached the idea of The Departed playing Medicine Stone.
“Evan brought it up to me about two years ago, I think — a couple of summers ago — and of course, I told him, ‘No matter when it is or what it is, just call me, I’m in,’” Canada said. “I think that over the last few years, all the Okies, everybody’s been so busy doing their own thing and going out and playing all over the place to pay the bills and make a name for themselves, you know, it’s been a long time since we’ve done something together. I think it’s high time. It’s Boland and Stoney and the Rangers, and Fullbright’s gonna be there and Turnpike’s gonna be there. And we’ve got Todd Snider there — that’s pretty awesome. I’m a huge Todd Snider fan.”
He may be one of the few non-Oklahomans on the Medicine Stone lineup, but Snider has a renegade spirit and songwriting style that dovetails nicely with the Red Dirt philosophy. Plus, he considers Okemah-born music icon Woody Guthrie “the Grand Poobah” of folk music.
“I’m not a sensitive singer-songwriter. I’m an insensitive singer-songwriter. My stuff I like to think is not the best … or the worst or whatever. I mean, it’s just what it is. I don’t have much control over it. And I don’t mean that’s ‘cause someone else does. I just mean you can’t really tell yourself what kind of songs you’re gonna make up, you just sort of listen to ‘em when they’re done,” Snider said in a summer phone interview.
“I mean, I’d love to think that I was pushing someone’s buttons and needling someone — I would also hope that I was encouraging somebody.”
Sounds like pretty strong medicine.
Medicine Stone music festival
Featuring: Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Turnpike Troubadours, The Departed, Stoney LaRue, Red Dirt Rangers, John Fullbright, Todd Snider and more.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Sept. 13 and 4 p.m. Sept. 14.
Where: Diamondhead Resort, 12081 Oklahoma 10, Tahlequah.
Tickets and information: www.medicinestoneok.com.