Town Howlers

The Town Howlers will perform at the 20th annual Sonoma County Bluegrass Festival March 14 at Analy High School.

CANCELED due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Early March in Sonoma County is a good time to have a bluegrass music festival. But, then again, when is it not a good time to have an all-day festival full of traditional American acoustic music with vocal harmonies, lots of fiddles, mandolins and banjos? Mix in some small group workshops on instrument playing, song swapping and lots of impromptu jamming, and what’s not to like?

It just so happens that the 20th annual Sonoma County Bluegrass Festival will take place Saturday, March 14, at Sebastopol’s Analy High School. Bluegrass headliners will include Kathy Kallick and her band, autoharpist Bryan Bowers, Rita Hoskings with a trio, two hot bands — the Town Howlers and Three Acre Holler and a few others. The festival is sponsored by the Sonoma County Folk Society and California Bluegrass Association. Mark Hogan, a Sebastopol musician, instructor and semi-reluctant impresario, once again booked all the talent and is leading a team of veteran volunteers to keep the day fun and filled with high energy and great harmonies.

“I think we did a pretty good job of putting together another nice and diverse lineup,” said Hogan, who can be found a few days a week at Sebastopol’s People’s Music.

“We’ll have a series of workshops, and if the weather stays nice, we’ll have lots of space for jam sessions in between the concerts.”

Pre-sale admission is $35 ($40 at the door) for the festival, which runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the main acts performing in the Analy Theater. Tickets are available at People’s Music in Sebastopol and at The Last Record Store on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. Food will be available for purchase at the festival, but no alcohol is allowed on the school grounds.

Other festival performers include Phil Salazar and Kinfolk from Los Angeles and KAYZAK, who perform Andean music and who will lead a special workshop on the South American music of the Andes Mountains during the festival.

Hogan is especially pleased to be welcoming Kathy Kallick to another Sonoma County Bluegrass Festival. She is a Bay Area musical legend, having started her career in the Good Ole Persons folk-bluegrass band in 1975.

“Kathy is really in a very fertile period right now with her songwriting,” said Hogan. “And her band are all really great musicians.”

Band members include Greg Booth, Tom Bekeny, Annie Staninec and Sebastopol’s own Cary Black.

This will be Bryan Bowers first appearance at the festival. Bowers, now 79, has a long career, mostly based on the East Coast near his native Virginia. He re-introduced the autoharp to audiences with his album, “The View from Home” in 1977 on the Flying Fish record label. Bowers will lead a workshop besides performing on the main stage.

The Town Howlers play straight ahead bluegrass from the Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers and other traditional bluegrass songbooks. Lead singer John McKelvy previously played with The Earl Brothers. 3 Acre Holler is a local band led by Cori Wood and Layne Bowen, with a rotating supporting cast, borrowed from several other local band lineups.

Phil Salazar and the Kin Folk have been performing together for 33 years. At the festival this year, they will receive a special on-stage introduction by the band’s mandolin player’s brother, Sebastopol’s own Jim “Mr. Music” Corbett.

Rita Hoskings lives in the Sierras, from which she draws much of her inspiration for her song writing. She will be performing at the festival with her trio.

For more information, visit the Sonoma County Folk Society website at

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