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Music Festival grooves to a broader beat

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Jazz fest expands to wider spectrum, adds artisans 

By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post

WATERTOWN -- Jazz has dropped out of the title, but Watertown’s biggest music event of the year will be jazzy as ever with a power-packed lineup that boasts blues, funk, folk-rock, western swing and even Celtic sounds.

Among the stars playing tomorrow evening’s Watertown Music and Arts Festival will be soul and rock-folk stylist Jonell Mosser, Rock Williams, the Carolyn Martin Swing Band, The Boys of County Nashville, Cool Groove and Wilson County’s own Mark Armstrong & The Blues Explosion.

Also debuting at this year’s seven-hour music marathon will be an artists’ alley, where local and regional craftsmen will offer their finest work.

  Watertown Music and Arts FestivalWhen: 4-10 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Watertown squareHow much: free admissionMore info: www.watertownjazz.comThe performers: 4 p.m.: Cool Groove with Michael Vance5 p.m.: Jonell Mosser6 p.m.: Carolyn Martin Swing Band7 p.m.: Roger “Rock” Williams8 p.m.: Lindsay George9 p.m.: The Boys of County Nashville 10 p.m.: Mark Armstrong & The Blues Explosion“There will be several differences from past years,” said event Chairwoman Robin Vance-Kent. “First of all, we’ve changed the name. It’s not the Watertown Jazz Festival this year but now the Watertown Music and Arts Festival.

“Primarily, there will be offered different genres of music rather than an evening of traditional jazz and big-band sounds. We’ve added several types this year. There will be some jazz, some R&B, some strict blues, some blues-rock, a western swing band and a Celtic band.”

Why the decision to share the stage with other forms of music rather than focus on the jazz?

“The thought has been kicked around for last several years,” Vance-Kent answered. “The basic theory behind it is if we expanded the other types of music available, then we will diversify and expand our audience base as well.”

The Saturday evening concert marks the 14th consecutive year that a music event has captured the Watertown town square on the second Saturday of July. The crowds have ranged from 500 to 5,000 in the past, and, if the weatherman’s prediction of a gorgeous day holds out, perhaps this year’s concert will triple or quadruple the town’s population for half of the day.

Also joining in the merriment will be more than 500 passengers aboard the Tennessee Central Railroad Museum’s Murder-Mystery excursion train from Nashville. The sleuthing sightseers should arrive at 5:30 p.m. and will investigate the festival with eyes and ears open for about three hours.

Cool Groove kicks off the music making at 4 p.m., followed at 5 by Nashville star vocalist Jonell Mosser, who released a new album, “Trust Yourself,” earlier this year. The rock, soul and folk-rock singer-songwriter possesses one of Music City’s most popular voices and should prove a highlight of the night.

“All I ever wanted to do when I finally got my feet on the ground as a grownup was to play music,” Mosser has said in a past interview. “Let me sing for someone and learn a new song every day; that's all I want. I don't care if I make a million dollars. I don't try to write a hit; I try to write a great song.”

The music will resound from two stages, side by side on the north side of the town square, as the artists alternate from one stage to the other. And, one of the best things about the festival is that admission is free (donations are welcome).

Closing down the music show will be Mark Armstrong & The Blues Explosion at 10 p.m. The trio features two Lebanon natives, Rusty Sweeton on bass and Scott Kirk on drums. Lead vocalist and slide guitar player Armstrong hails from Philadelphia.

"Mark plays old-time, hardcore blues like Lead Belly and Robert Johnson, all the old stuff," Sweeton said. "I think everybody's in for a real treat. We played Watertown for the Art Crawl and they really liked it and they wanted us back."

The addition of the artists’ alley will offer about 20 craftsmen displaying their wares in booths along East Main Street within hearing distance of the music. The artisans will show off jewelry, metalwork, stained glass, pottery and oil-based and acrylic paintings among other items.

Stores and restaurants will be open on the square, and two major food vendors and beverage vendors will serve food and drinks. And, as the music heats up into the night, “the snow-cone lady” is expected to have a sweet, cool-down treat for all ages.

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