CHEROKEE, Texas -- Saturday marked the 10th annual celebration of the Cherokee Creek Music Festival, the brainchild of Dallas energy executive Kelcy Warren, on whose sprawling Los Valles Ranch it takes place each year in the Texas Hill Country.
Most of us know Warren as the philanthropist who in 2012 gave the largest gift to Klyde Warren Park, which he named for his then-9-year-old son. Warren, 60, also owns Music Road Records, an Austin-based venture he shares with singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave. Together, the two produced a memorable Jackson Browne tribute album in 2014. Browne headlined the 2011 Cherokee Creek festival, which I wrote about in this piece. Its beneficiaries each year are, among others, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Children's Medical Center of Dallas.
LaFave performed during Saturday's final day (the festival actually began Thursday, with Bob Schneider, Counting Crows and Dwight Yoakam serving as earlier acts). LaFave's Saturday set came moments after opening act Lance Canales, who was terrific. So was LaFave, who regaled the estimated crowd of 5,000 with some of his own songs -- "The Beauty of You," "The Night Tribe" (the title track from his 2015 album) and the ballad "Never Is a Moment," a cover of which has become a huge hit in Italy.
LaFave, 60, drew some of his biggest cheers when he played Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and Neil Young's "Journey Through the Past." The highlight for me, however, was his knockout cover of Jackson Browne's "These Days," a song of world-weary resignation and loss that Browne wrote when he was only 16. Even rapper Drake, 29, recently covered "These Days."
LaFave has a knack for making covers his own, as he demonstrated forcefully with his surprising finale, Prince's "Purple Rain." He got a sublime assist on that one from Austin singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris, who added her own exquisite voice to the mix.
And then came the headliners. One of the coolest aspects of Saturday's lineup was the great piano play we got to hear all day long. LaFave bandmate Radoslav Lorkovic is a world-famous piano man, as is Bruce Hornsby, who took the stage Saturday afternoon with his band, the Noisemakers. Lorkovic and Hornsby are equally adept at playing a second instrument -- the accordion -- so much so that they serve as a two-man force in undercutting the cruel joke about accordions: A guy goes to Walmart and leaves his accordion in his unlocked car. What does he find when he returns? Two accordions.
Hornsby, 61, offered up mesmerizing versions of "Mandolin Rain" and "The Dreaded Spoon," which he co-wrote with country icon Ricky Skaggs. The title and subject matter emanate from Hornsby's childhood, which apparently included more than a few trips to Tasty Freeze and Dairy Queen for curly fries and apple fritters. (His dad kept the dreaded spoon in the glove compartment of his car. Your imagination can do the rest.)
Hornsby sang "The End of the Innocence," co-written with Dallas' own Don Henley, and that one got a standing O. I would love to have heard "The Way It Is," his 1986 Platinum hit that helped him and his band win a Grammy award, but alas, he left it out. Given the fact that race still remains such a volatile issue, it would have been great to hear it. It was and is a classic. Something I learned about Hornsby, who is, by the way, a close friend of Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle: Hornsby's son Russell was a track star at the University of Oregon, and Russell's twin brother Keith once helped LSU reach the NCAA basketball tournament. The twins were named for musicians Leon Russell and Keith Jarrett.
Some of the faces in the crowd Saturday included Cliff Harris, who played in five Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys used to be in Super Bowls), and Nathan Brown, the 2013 and 2014 poet laureate of Oklahoma, whose work I am now happily discovering for the first time.
After Hornsby, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band arrived close to sunset in their trademark dark suits, white shirts and ties. Saturday was cool and damp, with a chilly wind whistling through the canopied concert area. It felt good. I can only imagine, though, what wearing such suits in the Texas blast furnace of heat and humidity must feel like. Would it then be Lyle Lovett and His Large, Sweating Band? We will never know, I suppose, because the weather Saturday could not have been sweeter, enjoyed by dozens of dogs, who along with their owners reveled in the bucolic surroundings.
Lovett sang "Cowboy Man" and "I Will Rise Up" before gracing the crowd with "This Old Porch," which is such a cool song. I first became aware of Lovett's distinctive sound when he was mentioned endearingly on the ABC series thirtysomething, which debuted in 1987, a year after Lovett, 58, released his eponymous debut album. For me, one of the best things about Billy Crystal's HBO movie, 61*, which chronicled Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record with 61 homers in 1961, was hearing Lovett's "Nobody Knows Me" on the soundtrack. (Lovett, by the way, sings two songs on the Jackson Browne tribute album: "Our Lady of the Well" and "Rosie.")
Something LaFave and Lovett have in common: Both are past winners of the New Folk award at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
The closing act was the great John Fogerty, who will turn 71 on May 28. Fogerty is one of the few people alive and still touring who played the 1969 Woodstock festival, where he appeared with Creedence Clearwater Revival. That happened the same month I began my senior year in high school. I love hearing anyone who makes me feel young.