Sierra Ferrell Steals the Show at Under The Big Sky Fest

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Under The Big Sky Fest in Whitefish, Montana this weekend has featured some amazing headliners such as the Turnpike Troubadours, Jamey Johnson, and Lord Huron. But as tends to happen wherever she appears, Sierra Ferrell is the artist many people are buzzing about.

I’m not quite sure we can even confirm that Sierra Ferrell is a real person at this point, and not some demigod sent down from the Heavens to entertain us through these trying times. She’s as fantastic as some fictional character. Her talent is other-worldly. Her command of her music is incomparable. Her cranium sprouts a unique flower crown cornucopia each time she appears in public. And when she sings, you’re transported to an entirely different space and time.

Music this supposedly dated and fey should never find a wide audience in today’s automated world. But similar to Colter Wall and other revivalists, it’s the magic with which Sierra Ferrell delivers her interpretation of Appalachian mountain music that makes it feel so immediate and vital. The West Virginia native may come across more like an apparition than a mortal, but her music is steadfastly grounded in the roots, and palpably authentic.

Her late afternoon set at Under The Big Sky Fest on Saturday (7-16) could have come off the rails. During the first song, her upright bass player broke a string, which pretty much never happens. Then after the first few songs, the mandolin player disappeared for undisclosed reasons, leaving Sierra’s ace in the hole, fiddler Josie Toney, to handle all solo duties.

But completely unphased and without missing a beat, Sierra Ferrell soldiered through, playing some of the most beloved songs from her Rounder Records debut record from 2021, Long Time Coming. This included songs like “Jeremiah,” “In Dreams,” and “West Virginia Waltz.” Sierra also shook it up by picking up a fiddle herself, and launching into the song “Fox Hunt” (see video, and full set list below).

But she wasn’t done after her own set. Earlier this year, she was featured on a song from Austin’s Shakey Graves called “Ready Or Not,” who played at Under The Big Sky a few hours later. Once again Sierra showed up on stage to the delight of the crowd, and the two turned in a spirited performance of the song, hamming it up with cliche “duet” poses for the appreciative crowd. Shakey has been a strong proponent of Sierra Ferrell, and has tapped her to open his upcoming Red Rocks show on September 5th.

Like other fast-rising artists in the swelling independent country and roots music scene, Sierra Ferrell will not be playing early sets or intimate venues for very long. She’s already graduated to theaters in certain markets, so the time to behold her magic for yourself is now.

Originally from Charleston, West Virginia, Sierra started singing at the age of 7, left home in her 20’s to become a wandering minstrel playing in boxcars and at truck stops, later busking on the streets of New Orleans and Washington State before eventually landing in Nashville.

SET LIST:

1. In Dreams
2. Give It Time
3. Bells of Every Chapel
4. Why’d Ya Do It
5. Silver Dollar
6. Lonesome Feeling
7. Little Bird
8. West Virginia Waltz
9. Give It Time
10. Rosemary
11. Fox Hunt
12. Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down


Sierra Ferrell and Band
Josie Toney
Sierra Ferrell with Shakey Graves
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