Thursday, February 22, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Will McLean Music Festival returns for 27th year at Sertoma Youth Ranch

SPRING LAKE — There will be some down-home pickin' and strummin' and plenty of singing about Florida's beauty and folklore as the 27th annual Will McLean Music Festival gets underway today at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.

What started out as a memorial for McLean — the late, great father of Florida folk who died in 1990 — has evolved into a three-day festival featuring more than 70 acoustic musicians across the state.

The genre is decidedly folk. But this year's lineup promises a blend of Americana — country, bluegrass, soul and maybe even a touch of jazz.

Among those performing: Mindy Simmons, Passerine, Grant Peeples, Frank Julian, Jordan Cherkinsky, Amy Carol Webb, Brian Smalley, Still Friends, and Whitey Markle and the Swamprooters.

The event has lost none of its down-home charm for festival founder Margaret Longhill, a friend of McLean who was part of a group that wanted to "save a little bit of Florida."

Longhill coordinated the festival up until three years ago and now enjoys the backseat stance that gives her the opportunity to take it all in.

"I barely know where middle C is on the piano, but I just appreciate these musicians. There are some wonderful, talented musicians that write songs about Florida, and there's still a lot of people that try to appreciate the land, the water and the creatures of the earth," said Longhill, 94, adding that one of her favorite parts of the festival is the campfire song circles that bring amateur and seasoned professionals together for some intimate jam sessions under the stars.

This year, Longhill will be an honored guest, taking center stage for a series of short interviews between musical acts Saturday night, said current event coordinator Lynn Wodjenski.

"She's been the driving force behind the festival for all these years, and she has a lot of interesting stories to tell," Wodjenski said.

After moving to Florida in the late 1970s, Longhill, a Tennessee native and former English teacher, came to appreciate Florida's sunshine and flowers, the white sandy beaches of the Panhandle and the place in Dunnellon where she now resides — where the Withlacoochee and Rainbow rivers meet.

"You can't imagine how beautiful it is," she said.

Saving beauty in song is at the root of the festival for Longhill, who is looking forward to hearing the top three winners of the annual songwriter contest she started some years back to keep Florida folk alive.

Among them will be Lauren Nicole Heintz, who was named winner of the 2016 Will McLean Song Contest for her song, Florida Born and Bred.

Heintz, 60, who lives in Winter Park, has performed at the festival for three years and will debut some tunes from her new CD, Where I Belong, which was released in January.

She said she is excited about the win and the rising success of an encore career as a musician after stints in the Air Force and later as software engineer in Silicon Valley.

"To win the Will McLean contest is a great resume item. It helps sell myself to other venues around the country," said Heintz, who counts Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King and the Beatles as influences.

"The Will McLean festival is one of the meeting places for Florida folk family," she said. "We have a lot of great festivals here in Florida, and I think it's the best in the state — maybe even the whole country."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.

Comments
Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

The Ries Brothers were driving to a gig in Corpus Christi, Texas, when they heard about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland."We played Fort Lauderdale like two days before it happened, so it was really bizarre," said...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

It took 10 songs and a solid half hour of furious funk for Mary J. Blige to stop strutting and dancing to sit and sermonize on matters of faith and fidelity."I'm going to say it for you, because I'm a little crazy," she told nearly 6,500 fans Wednesd...
Published: 02/22/18
Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Let's be honest: Imagine Dragons are probably the most successful rock band of this decade.They're not the only group to debut in the 2010s who can also headline arenas, but they're definitely the only one to have such enormous crossover success on a...
Published: 02/21/18
This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Willie NelsonI’m sure that when Willie Nelson had to postpone his recent Clearwater concert after a bout with the flu, you, like me, took the news well, spitting through clenched teeth: "OH NO YOU DON’T, 2018. YOU WILL NOT TAKE WIL...
Published: 02/21/18
Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Go back and read Rolling Stone's 1993 cover story on the Spin Doctors — yep, that's a thing that actually happened — and the first quote from singer Chris Barron jumps out."I don't want to be 50 years old and be out on the road with my vo...
Published: 02/21/18
Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

BROOKSVILLE — From Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars and Carlos Santana — tunes from all over the musical spectrum.Those are a taste of the old and new favorites audiences can enjoy when the Hernando Symphony Orchestra presents its Spectrum...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18
SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

— Prog-punk and emo will meet this summer when Coheed and Cambria and Taking Back Sunday embark on a summer tour that stops at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on July 7. The Story So Far will open. Tickets are $29.50 and up. Click here...
Published: 02/20/18
Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Are you ready for an all-new hip-hop festival in Tampa?Snoop Dogg and T.I. are scheduled to headline the inaugural Halftime Music Festival on May 5 in the North Lot of Raymond James Stadium. Also on the bill: Karol G, Baby Rasta y Gringo and Brytiago...
Published: 02/20/18
SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

— British alt-rock outfit Glass Animals is coming to the Ritz Ybor on July 24. Knox Fortune will open. Click here.— Katt Williams is returning to the USF Sun Dome on April 14. Tickets are $49 and up. Click here.— It's been a while s...
Published: 02/19/18
2018 Safety Harbor SongFest lineup: Fantastic Negrito, Josh Ritter, more

2018 Safety Harbor SongFest lineup: Fantastic Negrito, Josh Ritter, more

Folk, blues, even a little bit of rock: The 2018 Safety Harbor SongFest has a little something for everyone.Organizers on Sunday night announced the lineup for Safety Harbor's fifth annual festival, which returns April 7 to Safety Harbor Waterfront P...
Published: 02/19/18