MerleFest 2018 Announces Final Lineup

MerleFest, presented by Window World and slated for April 26 – 29, is proud to announce new additions to the 2018 lineup including Steep Canyon Rangers and Friends with special guest Steve Martin, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller and the North Mississippi Allstars, Jerry Douglas and Tommy Emmanuel, The Jerry Douglas Band with special guest John Medeski, Si Kahn & Joe Jencks, We Banjo 3, and The Cleverlys. The annual homecoming of musicians and music fans returns to the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest has already announced over 90 artists for 2018, including Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Rodney Crowell, Rhiannon Giddens, Elephant Revival, The Devil Makes Three, aMidnight Jam hosted by Town Mountain and Jim Lauderdale, and many more. The deadline and last day for purchasing Early Bird Tier 1 tickets is February 18.
Steep Canyon Rangers and Friends with special guest Steve Martin – With OUT IN THE OPEN, Steep Canyon Rangers affirm their place as one of the most versatile bands in contemporary American music. The GRAMMY® Award-winning sextet has spent nearly two decades bending and shaping the bluegrass aesthetic, wedding it to elements of pop, country, and folk rock to create something original.OUT IN THE OPEN is the Rangers’ bravest excursion thus far, transcending bluegrass while also getting closest to the genre’s true form thanks to 3x GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Joe Henry’s traditional approach toward recording.
Since Steep Canyon Rangers came together in 2000, they have developed a remarkable catalogue of original music that links them to the past while also demonstrating their ambitious intent to bring string-based music into contemporary relevance.
In July 2017, Steep Canyon Rangers arrived at Fidelitorium Recordings, an intimate studio facility built, owned, and operated by legendary producer Mitch Easter. The band soon discovered that their producer – along with engineer/mixer Jason Richmond – intended to record all six members singing and playing in a room with no overdubs. The organic process allowed SCR to work fast, tracking a dozen songs in just three-and-a-half days. Steep Canyon Rangers are easily among the hardest working bands in any genre, pulling double duty on their own and as collaborators with Steve Martin.
OUT IN THE OPEN is an undeniable milestone on the Rangers ongoing creative journey. As they approach their second decade, Steep Canyon Rangers are still moving forward, searching for new horizons and musical vistas. Catch Steep Canyon Rangers and Friends with special guest Steve Martin at the Watson Stage on Sunday night.
Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, and North Mississippi Allstars – Multi Grammy-award winner Jim Lauderdale is a “songwriter’s songwriter,” who has written/co-written multiple modern classics for iconic artists. Since 1986, Lauderdale’s work spans over 29 albums of imaginative roots music, encompassing country, bluegrass, soul, R&B, and rock, as well as helping pave the way for the current Americana movement. Jim has written songs for and worked with artists like Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, George Strait, Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, John Oates, Lee Ann Womack, Old Crow Medicine Show, Blake Shelton, the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, and Patty Loveless, among others. He co-hosts Music City Roots and In 2016, he received the Americana Music Association’s WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by George Strait at the Americana Awards.
Buddy Miller has been at the fulcrum of the best music to emerge from Nashville (and well beyond) since he and his wife, Julie, moved there in 1993. Playing indispensable roles with Shawn Colvin (back in New York, before), Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, and Robert Plant. He has produced/co-produced stunning albums with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Solomon Burke, Patty Griffin, Allison Moorer, and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy. He has written/co-written songs covered by artists like Dixie Chicks, Hank III, and Shemekia Copeland.
Together, they host a weekly Sirius XM radio show called “The Buddy & Jim Show.”
Founded in 1996 by brothers Luther (guitar and vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals), the now venerable band is entering their second decade with what is unquestionably the most vital album of their brilliant career. Released by Sony Legacy in 2017, Prayer for Peace sees ‪North Mississippi Allstars continuing to think globally following 2013’s Earth-shaking World Boogie is Coming. That album, the band’s seventh studio recording, proved the planetary sensation its title promised, with The Guardian simply declaring it the North Mississippi Allstars’ “best yet.” Prayer for Peace pays homage to the band’s long lineage of musical heroes, celebrating the blues’ extraordinary legacy while reshaping and pushing it into contemporary relevance with fatback funk, slippery soul, and pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. Simultaneously master curators, expert revivalists and forward-thinking visionaries, the Dickinson brothers have crafted their most daringly creative and provocatively topical collection to date. Prayer for Peace stands tall as yet another milestone marking North Mississippi Allstars own unique place in the American musical tradition.
Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, and the North Mississippi Allstars will play the Watson Stage on Saturday night.
Jerry Douglas and Tommy Emmanuel – Tommy Emmanuel and Jerry Douglas are considered the masters of their instrument, and both are performing live together for the first time at the 2018 MerleFest. Expect an acoustic experience like no other when these two take the stage to blend country, bluegrass, jazz, rock and countless other styles, cultures, and emotions, with just 6-strings each.
14-time Grammy winner Jerry Douglas is elevating, transforming, and reinventing the dobro in countless ways. For 20 years, he’s been a key member of Alison Krauss & Union Station; he founded the award-winning bluegrass supergroup The Earls of Leicester, and recently formed bluegrass/jazz fusion group The Jerry Douglas Band. Douglas has appeared on more than 2,000 albums, including releases by Paul Simon, James Taylor, Garth Brooks, Elvis Costello, Earl Scruggs, and Ray Charles.
A noted finger-style guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel rose the ranks as a studio player and member of several Australia rock bands before he set off on an acoustic solo career. He’s one of only five musicians handpicked by his friend and mentor, Chet Atkins, as a Certified Guitar Player (CGP). He frequently threads three different parts simultaneously into his material, operating as a one-man band that handles the melody, the supporting chords, and bass all at once. Emmanuel improvises every performance, and never plays the same show twice. His talents carry him to the far corners of the globe.
Come experience “The Tom & Jerry Show” at The Watson Stage on Saturday night.
The Jerry Douglas Band with special guest John Medeski – The Jerry Douglas Band is comprised of Christian Sedelmyer, Daniel Kimbro, Mike Seal, Doug Belote, Jamel Mitchell, Vance Thompson, and dobro-master Jerry Douglas. On their more recent latest musical foray and debut solo album, What If, Douglas decisively merges jazz inclinations with the bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul he’s spent his life absorbing and performing, forging a sound that flies beyond the boundaries of anything he — or anyone else — has done before. Last year, they embarked on their first stateside tour, featuring guests including Rosanne Cash, James Taylor, Sarah Jarosz, John Paul White, Aoife O’Donovan, the Milk Carton Kids, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. What If received a 2018 Grammy nomination for ‘Best Contemporary Instrumental Album’, which Douglas says, “Every nomination for any award is special, but today was the first nomination for a band that I travel with and confide in which makes it all the more special,” adding, “We are brothers on the road in every way, and I am so proud to be among these wonderful musicians in this endeavor.”
John Medeski is a celebrated musician whose work with the trailblazing instrumental trio Medeski, Martin & Wood (MMW) and countless other collaborators have set a standard for soulful improvisation. MMW, comprised of Medeski, bassist Chris Wood, and Billy Martin, paved a way for their own extraordinary hybrid of jazz, funk, hip-hop, avant-garde noise and a host of other styles; in 2016, they celebrated their 25th anniversary. Medeski has played for audiences in the U.S., Mexico, and Japan and worked with artists like T Bone Burnett, Susana Baca, Irma Thomas, Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Grizzly Adams, to name a few. He co-created The Word, an instrumental gospel project, with Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, featuring steel guitar prodigy Robert Randolph. He also fronts the funked-up trio Medeski & the Itch. He has also produced numerous albums (The Wood Brothers, The Campbell Brothers, Dirty Dozen Brass Band) and composed for multiple films.
Don’t miss The Jerry Douglas Band with special guest John Medeski on Sunday at the Watson Stage.
Si Kahn & Joe Jencks – Si Kahn has appeared at MerleFest nearly every year since 1990 either as a performer, emcee, or contest judge.
This year he’s proud to be appearing with Joe Jencks, an 18-year veteran of the international Folk circuit. In the spring of 2018, Jencks will release a new recording comprised entirely of previously-unreleased songs by Kahn. The much-anticipated recording is titled The Forgotten: Recovered Treasures From The Pen of Si Kahn, and will be featured at MerleFest. This disc continues the trend in Jencks’ catalogue of recording (and writing) songs that honor authentic, hardworking American heroes. Merging conservatory training with his Irish roots and working-class upbringing, Jencks delivers engaged musical narratives filled with heart, soul, groove and grit.
Si Kahn is the lead organizer for Musicians United To Protect Bristol Bay, an international network of over 700 musicians who use their music and media access to help stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. Si’s own body of work includes 16 albums of original songs, and a collection of traditional labor and civil rights songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp. Kahn & Jencks will speak on ‘How Folk Music Influences Activism’ on Saturday afternoon at the Mayes Pit, followed by a performance that night on the Traditional Stage.
We Banjo 3 – One of the best live acts to come out of Ireland in recent years, the multi-awarded winning We Banjo 3 combine supergroup credentials with a breath-taking command of the emotive power of fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo. Any single member of this group could a electrify a venue with a solo performance, but together, in the joyous musical alchemy of We Banjo 3, their passionate lead vocalist like a young Springsteen adopted by the Chieftains, the result is truly unforgettable. On both sides of the Atlantic the word is out about this group. And along with the buzz, the same refrain is always heard: see them while you can. We Banjo 3 are the new gold-standard of traditional Irish and American roots music. They play the Watson Stage on Sunday morning, followed by a performance on the Hillside Stage that afternoon.
The Cleverlys – Led by stand-up comedian, actor and musician, Paul Harris, The Cleverlys perform pop hits and classic songs in their unique bluegrass style. This “Arkansas-based family band” features Harris as his alter ego “Dr. Digger Cleverly,” Cole “Monk Cleverly” Lee, Matt “Rickey Lloyd Cleverly” Skates and Steve “Vernon Dean ‘V.D.’ Cleverly” Bush.
Some of the most popular tunes on the Cleverly set list include tunes like Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” a medley of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” and Flo Rida’s “Low” that recently went viral on Facebook, with over 8.7 million views from a local TV appearance. Harris has a recurring role of Vernon ‘Burnin’ Vern’ Brown on the CMT hit TV show, “Still the King” starring Billy Ray Cyrus. The Cleverlys will play the Walker Center on Saturday afternoon, followed by a performance at the Creekside Stage that evening.
The complete 2018 lineup may be viewed at
Tickets for the festival may be purchased at or by calling 1-800-343-7857. MerleFest offers a three-tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take
advantage of the extended early bird discount. Early Bird Tier 1 tickets may be purchased from
November 14 to February 18, 2018; Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from February 19 to April 25.
Tickets will be sold using Tier 3 pricing at the gate during the festival.