BOONVILLE — The 17th annual Big Muddy Folk Festival will be in remembrance of well-known regional folk musician Bob Dyer. Dyer, who died two days before last year’s Big Muddy, used to organize the festival with Dave Para and Cathy Barton.
During the past year, the couple has put together a tribute album in memory of Dyer, “The Wandering Fool: Songs by Bob Dyer Sung in Tribute by His Friends,” and many of those songs will be performed this weekend by the artists at Big Muddy. The CD will be for sale at the festival.
“It was a good way for us to work our way through the grieving process. We have lost a great friend and mentor,” Barton said. The full album will be performed in a concert on June 7 at Thespian Hall in Boonville.
Continuing their traditional concert with various folk artists, Para and Barton try to incorporate traditional folk music along with contemporary interpretations. For example, Para said, folk music can include old gospel songs as well as traditional fiddling.
Although the concerts are mainly at night, Saturday will be full of workshops, demonstrations and a barbecue. “It’s great fun and has a real spirit of camaraderie,” Barton said.
This year’s festival is expected to attract listeners from Kansas, Indiana and California, among other places.
Para and Barton take a considerable amount of time deciding which artists they will invite each year. “There is a point somewhere in the festival where you beat yourself over the head trying to think about how people are going to like things,” Para said. “Then there is the point where I realize how good the audience is and that they like it more than I give them credit for.”
Para said he usually likes to see a band before he invites them, but this year Big Medicine from North Carolina was an exception. “I haven’t seen them yet, but I have listened to their CD and know what they are about,” he said.
Para and Barton like to invite different types of groups to expose the audience to music they would not normally listen to. “I have always felt that if the music is good, quality music, then a person can take 30 or 45 minutes of anything,” Para said.
Other musicians include The Wiyos from New York City, Joel Mabus, The Cantrells, Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman and the Grace sisters. Barton and Para will perform their own songs.
Another artist, Irishman Len Graham, is an award-winning musician who will be in the area for a festival in St. Louis.
“He can only be here for one night,” Barton said, who heard about Graham through Kate Akers of the Central Missouri Celtic Arts Association. “We are getting more of the type of connection which allows us to network this way.”