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KAIA KATER

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“Plaintive, mesmerizing…writes and performs with the skill of a folk circuit veteran”  —Rolling Stone

A creative force in her own right, Kaia Kater has woven the sounds of her life into one of the most personal and distinct voices in folk music. Born in Montreal, Kater is a Grenadian-Canadian who took off to West Virginia to study Appalachian music and hone her impressive clawhammer banjo skills. This led to a deep-dive into the old-time music heard on her previous releases, 2015’s Sorrow Bound and 2016’s Nine Pin. The albums have won her a Canadian Folk Music Award, a Stingray Rising Star Award, acclaim from NPR, Rolling Stone, BBC Music, and allowed her to tour across the world with performances at Newport Folk Festival, The Kennedy Center, and London’s Shepherd’s Bush. For her new album, Grenades, her first with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, she took a decidedly different approach, choosing to explore a wider array of sounds and styles to support her investigation of new emotions and topics, most notably her paternal ancestry.

Kaia’s origin begins with a refugee story. Her father Deno grew up in Grenada, an island paradise in revolution, and fled to Canada in 1986 after the U.S. invasion. To fully immerse herself in her father’s story, Kater traveled to his homeland, her first visit as an adult, as a way to tie his past to her present; and to understand the roots of our current global climate of war, unease, immigration, and displacement. “Going home to Grenada felt like shining a light into a part of myself previously shadowed,” she says. “I always knew that I had ‘family back home,’ which is something many children of immigrants are made to understand from an early age. I knew I was part of a clan, part of something bigger. But, for much of my life, it was just me and my parents.”

Kater’s vivid imaginings and poetic musings throughout Grenades give credence to the idea that intergenerational experiences, be it joy or trauma affect descendants on a cellular level. “Our history walks around with us every day,” she notes. “I wrote Grenades by trying to imagine myself as my dad, when he was a little boy, seeing this all happen.”

Inspired by her bicultural experience, Kater collaborated with producer Erin Costelo to create a musical aesthetic that pulled from more than just the Appalachian influences of her past efforts. Artists like Aoife O’Donovan and Daniel Lanois figured prominently in the artistic vision. “I play acoustic guitar on the record, and the title track doesn’t even have banjo in it, so we knew it would be different right off the bat,” Kater says. “We anchored a lot of the sound with guitar player Christine Bougie (Bahamas, Good Lovelies). I knew I wanted Christine on the record, and we built the sound from there.” The diverse sounds on Grenades, including pedal steel guitar, organ, acapella singing, and even spoken interludes from Kater’s father give life to her story and envision a new path for herself and her songs. She now sits comfortably with both old-time masters and contemporary songwriters, as one of Folk music’s brightest new artists.

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DAILY SCHEDULE
 
FRIDAY
 
Shenandoah Mtn Stage
1:00pm  The Hollering Pines
3:00pm  Hush Kids
5:30pm  Peter Rowan
8:00pm  Mandolin Orange
10:30pm  The Wood Brothers
 
Blue Ridge Timberwright Stage
12:00pm  Allison & Tatiana
2:00pm  Cedric Burnside
4:15pm  The East Pointers
6:45pm  Charley Crockett
9:15pm  The Lil Smokies
 
The Roots Stage
1:00pm  Courtney Hartman
3:00pm  Kristin Andreassan
5:30pm  Oliver Bates Craven
8:00pm  Sam Reider & The Human Hands
10:30pm  Larry Keel
 
The Kinfolk Stage
1:00pm  Appalachian Stories
2:00pm  For Goodness Snakes
4:00pm  Red Wing Academy
5:00pm  Dirt Road Sweethearts
6:15pm  The Steel Wheels’ Kids Set
7:15pm  Square Dance
 
The Hill Stage
2:00pm  The Wildmans
3:30pm  Courtney Hartman
5:00pm  Corner House
6:30pm  Allison & Tatiana
8:00pm  The Judy Chops
 
 
SATURDAY
 
Shenandoah Mtn Stage
1:00pm  Jordan Tice
3:00pm  River Whyless
5:30pm  Della Mae
8:00pm  The Steel Wheels
10:30pm  Lucinda Williams
 
Blue Ridge Timberwright Stage
12pm  Locust Honey
2:00pm Cedric Watson Trio
4:15pm  Lonely Heartstring Band
6:45pm  Feufollet
9:15pm  Fruit Bats
 
The Roots Stage
1:00pm  John R Miller
3:00pm  Lula Wiles
5:30pm  Kaia Kater
8:00pm  Square Dance
10:30pm  Big Daddy Love
 
The Kinfolk Stage
1:00pm  Appalachian Stories
2:00pm  Birds of Prey
3:00pm  The Fernandez Sisters
4:00pm  Cedric Watson & Danny Knicely, brought to you by Kline’s Dairy Bar
5:00pm  The Bright Siders
6:00pm  Corner House
 
The Hill Stage
2:00pm  Oliver Bates Craven
3:30pm  Locust Honey
5:00pm  Justin Jones
6:30pm  Lula Wiles
8:00pm  Jordan Tice
 
 
SUNDAY
 
Shenandoah Mtn Stage
12:00pm  Dead Horses
2:00pm  Birds of Chicago
4:30pm  Lindsay Lou
6:45pm  Gibson Brothers
 
Blue Ridge Timberwright Stage
11:00am  “Gospel” Set
1:00pm  Sean McConnell
3:15pm  Tim O’Brien Band
5:45pm  Tribute Set
 
The Roots Stage
12:00pm  The Wildmans
2:00pm  Justin Jones
4:30pm  Fireside Collective
 
The Kinfolk Stage
1:00pm  The Fernandez Sisters
2:00pm  Pick Along Jam Session
3:30pm  Dogwood Tales
4:30pm  Saw Black

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