Picture, if you will, a micro-lake rippling with fish at 10,000 feet nestled among yellow-hued, aspen-filled mountaintops climbing some 2,000 feet higher. A sloped, naturally grassy amphitheater slides down toward a stage set in front of the lake.
The setting on Bitter Creek Ranch will soon be filled with eclectic harmonies as one of the venues in the upcoming Red River Folk Festival and Miner’s Market, where the music is “of the folk, for the folk and by the folk,” said Max Gomez, who annually arranges for the festival’s bands while also playing each day with his own group.
“It’s always been a really great time,” he said of the festival that is set for Sept. 23-26. “People are unanimously blown away by the scenery and the mountains. And the talent and the whole scene. It’s always fun to bring people from around the country to hear the music. We teach some of our guests how to fly fish on a pond that we have at the folk festival. One of our venues is in the mountains and it’s the most beautiful setting imaginable.”
And the music matches the settings, which also includes a park in the small, mountain town of Red River, and, given the uncertain virus status, a tent outside the Motherlode Saloon.
Usually Red River draws its tourists from Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle, Gomez said, but the folk festival attracts music fans from across the continent and beyond.
“We’ve broken the mold a bit with the folk festival,” he said. “We get people from Canada, Europe, the West Coast and all over the country come out to see the artists we book. We get national and international tourists. We get a lot of newcomers to New Mexico that don’t fit the everyday mold for a Taos County tourist.”
This year’s festivities features a strong lineup, Gomez said, including New Mexico’s Michael Martin Murphey, who is a festival regular.
“Murphey helped create Texas, singer-songwriter outlaw music in the ’60s and ’70s along with Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker,” Gomez said. “In his older age that he’s in now, he tends to veer to a bit more on the western classic music that he also writes. But he still plays a lot of his hits songs and his more cherished material from the early ’70s. He still has a child-like wonder about him and his imagination as a songwriter should make most anyone at any age jealous.”
Among the other entertainers, Junior Brown, “is an American original and plays the guit-steel guitar (a double neck guitar, that’s a hybrid of electric guitar and lap steel guitar) that he himself invented,” Gomez said. “He has a low baritone voice and writes classic country songs as good as anyone.”
Mary Gauthier, who also will be teaching a songwriting workshop during the festival is “a powerful speaker and a really strong storyteller and songwriter and we all look up to her and marvel at her talent,” Gomez said.
Her 2018 album, “Rifles & Rosary Beads,” which was cowritten by U.S. veterans and their families, was nominated for a Grammy.
Joe Purdy is a solo act “and can command a large crowd with just him and his guitar,” Gomez said. “He has that unique talent.”
And Los Angeles-based Leslie Stevens, was named the LA Weekly’s best country singer in the city for 2019. “I call her, ‘Steal the show Stevens,’ ” Gomez said. “She may not be the most well-known artist in the lineup. But she will likely be the most talked about artist when the festival comes to an end. Her show and her talent and her songs are powerful, fun and captivating.”
In addition to a number of other talented acts that will fill the festival’s time slots, the Miner’s Market features wares from as many as 70 local artisans creating everything from furniture to paintings to leather goods to turquoise jewelry.
“We have a few crafts people coming in from other places, said Charlie Wenger of Red River Events, which handles the market aspect of the festival. “But we really try to focus on the New Mexico artisan community and draw from as many locals as we can.”