Wildwood Park for the Arts, the 105-acre west Little Rock landmark originally built for opera events, has broadened its focus of late, and this weekend will inaugurate a new festival - DennyWest - so named for the park’s location on Denny Road.
The festival is a three-part event, with a free workshop across town at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Friday night, followed on Saturday by a children’s/family show from 1 to 5 p.m., followed by a 90-minute break and an evening concert.
The headliner for the evening concert is BettySoo, a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas, who was originally planning to do a joint show with her Canadian friend, Doug Cox, who had to cancel a week ago due to a death in his family. BettySoo is now planning to bring a trio of Austin musicians: Will Sexton on bass, Dave Terry on drums and Brian Standefer on cello.
“Sometimes I call my band Willing Company,” says BettySoo, “especially since they are willing to accompany me. Normally, Will Sexton plays guitar, but at this show, he will play bass, since I’ll be playing guitar.”
BettySoo began her musical career at 26 when she realized graduate schooling in therapy and counseling was not where she belonged, nor was she all that happy with an office job at a law firm. She took her savings and launched her career (including a 2008 win of the Kerrville New Folk award for her song “Never the Pretty Girl”), which now encompasses six albums, and there’s a new one coming in early 2014.
“I’m about to do a record with a lot of strings on it, but not the normal stuff,” she says. “It will be more textural rhythms. As for my songs, they are fictional, but they are borrowing from the stories of people who are going through things. It’s not really therapeutic, but I’d call it enlightening.”
BettySoo, who grew up in Spring, Texas, near Houston, says some of the most exciting times in her young music career have been when she opened shows for Jerry Jeff Walker and Joan Baez, as well as doing so for another of her musical heroes, Peter Case.
She and Cox, who was planning to be part of the festival, have two albums of their favorite cover songs, Across the Borderline: Lie to Me and Across the Borderline: More Lie.
All the performances will be outdoors on a lakeside performance pad, with sound and lights by Bylites. Patrons should take lawn chairs or blankets for seating on the grassy slope that runs downhill to the stage.
Food and other concessions, which will include bratwursts, baked sweet potatoes, desserts, beer and soft drinks, will be available, so no coolers or picnicking will be allowed into the park.
The park will open at 11 a.m. with free hayrides around the lake.
DennyWest 6:30-8 p.m. Friday: Songwriting Seminar, featuring BettySoo and Will Sexton, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock Admission: Free (501) 569-3294 1-5 p.m. Saturday: Children’s & Family Concert, with Ukulele Bill, REAL Entertaining, Mister Morphis One Man Band and Hartley Family Bluegrass Band, at Wildwood Park for the Arts, 20919 Denny Road, Little Rock Admission: $10 adults, $5 children 12 and under, free for children age 5 and under 6:30-10 p.m. Evening Concert, with Mister Morphis (and Reed Balentine), Posey Hill, The Mulligan Brothers, Betty Soo, at Wildwood Park Admission: $20 adults, $10 teens, $5 for children age 12 and under (501) 821-7275 wildwoodpark.org
Weekend, Pages 35 on 10/03/2013
Print Headline: Guests can listen, learn at DennyWest music fest