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Americana at Sea - The Cayamo Cruise Begins

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The 13th annual Cayamo cruise got underway Feb. 3 as the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pearl sailed from Miami with a boatload of music lovers aboard. Bound for St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and Antigua, the floating music festival boasted a stellar line-up, headlined by Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy and Rodney Crowell along with dozens of other acts working primarily in the Americana genre. And as always, "sail away" day offered thrilling shows to get things off to a rousing start.

Della Mae
Della Mae

Most of the artists on this year's Cayamo line-up are established performers; folks like Allison Moorer, Jim Lauderdale, Steve Poltz, Raul Malo, the Quebe Sisters and Shawn Mullins will be some of the stars providing entertainment throughout the cruise. But Cayamo is also showcasing three up-and-coming performers, chosen through their Soundcheck competition. Winning performance slots were Della Mae, a string band based in Nashville, Them Coulee Boys from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Emily Scott Robinson out of North Carolina. All performed on sail away day, with Robinson getting the honor of being the first performer of the entire cruise.

Them Coulee Boys
Them Coulee Boys

You might say fans "ate up" Robinson's show, considering that her first song was "Pie Song," a sad song despite its title. Robinson, who performed solo, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar playing, also included the amusing "White Hot Country Mess" in her set, along with songs like "Shoshone Groves" that have lyrics of a more serious kind. And yes she expounded on "Pie Song" with commentary about her love of baking and making pies. Robinson performed in the ship's Atrium area which provides an intimate listening experience; Them Coulee Boys also performed there. With a line-up featuring mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums and four of five members on vocals, the guys played a hot set of bluegrass-leaning folk rock, including the sure-to-be a perennial favorite "10 Ft. Tall." Della Mae, performing on the ship's big pool deck stage, played a set of hopped-up bluegrass including "Down to You," "Turtle Dove" and a fiddle song called "Tater Patch." Just back from a tour of the UK where audiences for acoustic music tend to be sedate, the ladies noted their appreciation of Cayamo fans who were hooting and hollering and dancing.

Emily Scott Robinson
Emily Scott Robinson

Wilson performed the first of two Cayamo shows on sail away day, and Anderson East, Raul Malo, the Quebe Sisters, Dar Williams, Amythyst Kiah and Wilder Woods also took to stages around the ship. But the day's most highly-anticipated show was Mavis Staples, who played a high-energy set featuring songs like "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)," "Who Told You That," "Are You Sure," "Brothers and Sisters" and an amazing cover of the Talking Heads song "Slippery People." Jeff Tweedy, who Staples introduced as "My baby brother," came on stage to feature on "We Get By," and fellow Cayamoans Lake Street Dive joined Staples for a reading of "Build a Bridge." A performance of the gospel standard "Wade in the Water" provided a preview of the full gospel show that Staples would play later in the cruise.

Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy
Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy

Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples

With a very satisfying first day in the books, Cayamoans looked forward to two full days of music while the Pearl was at sea before a call at St. Croix where the fun would continue on shore.

For more information on the Cayamo cruise go here

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