FloydFest 2012 Power Rankings

by Ryan Snyder

1) Jackson Browne feat. Dawes and Jonathan Wilson (Thursday, 10 p.m.) The Laurel Canyon supergroup’s set is mostly Browne’s best, with a few of Dawes’ and Wilson’s songs, and heavy dose of Zevon. 100 percent awesome.

2) Gary Clark, Jr. & Cheick Hamala Diabate Blues Review (Friday, 3 p.m.) The Grammy-nominated ngoni master Diabate has been collaboration-happy in recent years, picking alongside Bela Fleck and Corey Harris. Playing alongside young firebrand Clark, however, presents an occasion to get a little nasty. 3) Garage A Trois (Thursday, 8:15 p.m.) A weekend with Stanton Moore, Mike Dillon, Skerik and Marco Benevento starts here in all its raw, funky glory. 4) Pedrito Martinez Group (Friday, 8:30 p.m./Saturday 4:30 p.m.) Cuban conguero Pedrito Martinez weaves intoxicating pan-Latin jazz like an Arsenio Rodriguez for the 21st century. His jaw-dropping skills have earned him universal acclaim, including glowing endorsements from some of the best players at this very festival. 5) Sara Watkins (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.) Thile’s former Nickel Creek cohort has done very well for herself, thankyouverymuch. So well, in fact, that she released one of the finest records of the year only a couple of months ago. Entitled Sun Midnight Sun, the album has guest spots from Fiona Apple, brother Sean Watkins, Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and none other than Jackson Browne. And would you look at that? Those last two have sets on the same stage right after her. 6) Galactic feat. Corey Glover (Thursday, 11:30 p.m.) Houseman’s retirement from Galactic in the mid-2000s was a solemn moment for lovers of their soulful early stuff, but In Living Colour frontman Corey Glover handles it with grit and spit. 7) Darrell Scott (Sunday, 10:45 a.m.) His trio show that afternoon will get the big crowd, but a Sunday morning porch set by the man with a voice like 25-year-old bourbon is better than champagne and Belgian waffles for breakfast. 8) Jonathan Wilson (Thursday, 6:45 p.m.) The Forest City, NC-born Wilson will save a few of his best for the Jackson Browne set, but only at his own set will you hear the Frankie Ray songs, likely destined to be one of the great lost albums. 9) Dead Kenny G’s (Saturday, 12:30 a.m.) New York punk meets Northwest jazz; Skerik and Dillon at their most unforgiving and abrasive. 10) Chris Thile (Saturday, 6:15 p.m.) If there’s going to be a Nickel Creek reunion at FloydFest, this is going to be the place. Sean Watkins is free, while Sara Watkins and Thile are both booked the next day for the Newport Folk Festival. Why not let ’er rip for old time’s sake? 11) Wayne Henderson & Friends (Thursday, 4 p.m.) Wayne Henderson is more than a (world-class) guitar maker; he’s achieved something like Lamaic status among pickers everywhere. 12) Drive-By Truckers (Friday, 7:15 p.m.) Of all the FloydFest frontmen and support members (deservedly) getting solo sets, it’s a shame that DBT keyboardist Jay Gonzalez wasn’t given a rare opportunity to indulge his powerpop gem of a solo debut, Mess of Happiness, easily the best solo album to come out of this band. 13) Punch Brothers (Saturday, 3:45 p.m.) The closest thing there is to a Radiohead of the old-time and bluegrass bloc, Chris Thile has always found a way to drag along the stodgiest traditionalist kicking and screaming. 14) Marco Benevento (Friday, 6:45) With Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz on the bass and Tom Waits’ Andy Borger on drums, piano man Benevento has the flexibility to engage free jazz joyrides as easily as an Elton John or My Morning Jacket cover. 15) Alison Kraus & Union Station feat. Jerry Douglas (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.) This is an obligatory Allison Krauss ranking. We get it. She has a voice like an angel and her band is the ’85 Bears of string music. 15) Brandi Carlisle (Saturday, 5:45 p.m.) Brandi Carlile rocks, plain and simple. Even at her most gentle and serene, she still digs up a passage that incites a chorus of involuntary fist pumps. 16) Gregory Alan Isakov (Friday 2 p.m./Saturday 2:15 p.m.) South African-born singer Gregory Alan Isakov writes songs that sound the way old family photos look. Weathered and mystical, but full of uncanny wisdom and warmth. 17) Orgone (Saturday, 1:30 a.m.) Likely the last funky thing to be heard at FloydFest before Sunday winds down with a twang, the Cali funk and Afrobeat big band will peg your groove gauge. 18) Hoots & Hellmouth (Saturday, 11:15 p.m./Sunday, 12:45 p.m.) They’re like Mumford & Sons without the grating fans and accompanying sense of guilt. These Philly-born folk-rockers sound like Hall & Oates if their influences were the Flying Burrito Brothers instead of the O’Jays. 19) Anders Osborne (Friday, 3 p.m./Saturday 12:45 a.m.) Second only to Gary Clark, Jr. in shredability, New Orleans guitar hero Anders Osborne is unhinged, almost shamanistic in his approach to soloing. 20) Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers (Sunday, 2 p.m.) The last real jam band? Bring your requests, because Bruce and his band will play them for you. And that’s just the way it is. FloydFest is next Thursday, July 26 through Sunday, July 29 in Floyd, Va.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan