"We have the best of the best," says Caroline Aiken, Dogwood's music and entertainment director. "I feel a definite connection to the artistry of all the people I've booked for this year."
Singer/songwriter Aiken, who is one of the cornerstones of the Decatur folk and acoustic scene, has been booking the festival for 12 years. Her connection to the event goes way back. "My mother danced in the very first Dogwood Festival in the '30s at the Fox," Aiken says. "Back then it was all over the city, now it's centralized in Piedmont Park."
Over the years, many acclaimed acts have played Dogwood, and in 2003 the festival had a record year with headliners Derek Trucks, Cindy Wilson and Mothers Finest. This year's schedule should prove to be an equally big draw, with a slate of talent Friday night featuring Sugarland and Shawn Mullins.
Saturday's scheduled headliner, Vassar Clements, was sidelined by illness, but he'll be replaced by bluegrass and jam greats Joe Craven, David Grisman's sideman for 25 years, and pedal steel player Pete Grant. They'll be backed by the Codetalkers.
Sunday should be an all-out dance party with folk, blues, rock and R&B. The highlight is festival closer and Motown legend Martha Reeves.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is famous for her work with the legendary girl group Martha and the Vandellas, best known for "Dancing in the Street," "(Your Love is Like a) Heatwave," "Nowhere to Run," and "Jimmy Mack." Reeves even remembers the first time her group played Atlanta.
"We [performed] at a ballroom on Peachtree Street," Reeves says by phone from her Detroit home, "and we were there during the time that the peach trees were actually blossoming. It's a pretty sight."
The singer is currently touring in support of two new recently released albums: Motown Lost and Found: Spellbound, a collection of previously unreleased Martha and the Vandellas goodies, and Home To You, a set of new material featuring Ike Stubblefield, a Jimmy Smith-like, Hammond B-3 keyboard player who will also play the festival.
"Ike helped me start this project," says Reeves. "I came very close to the sound I learned at Hitsville, USA, the style and technique of my early recordings. I didn't use the synthesizers and all the modern technology; I went back to the basics."
The singer is looking forward to bringing her new show to Atlanta. "Every time I come to Atlanta, I learn some new history about it," she says. "It's a very historical adventure to visit there. It's definitely gonna be a big party and everything will be in bloom. And that's what the festival is about."
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