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The (Unofficial) 2011 Richmond Folk Festival Guide

From Chicago blues to Tibetan chants, we're going exotic places yet again.

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Redd Volkaert Band with Cindy Cashdollar
Country Noodlin'

How good is Fender Telecaster specialist Redd Volkaert? Consider this: The Vancouver native was country music legend Merle Haggard's lead guitarist for five years.

"I was pretty lucky to get that job," the gregarious, Amish-bearded picker says. "Merle is a wonderful guy. And he's an even better bandleader. He always let the band have input into the sound."

A well-rounded, well-traveled guitarist — besides Haggard, he's "noodled" behind artists as varied as the Statler Brothers, Neko Case and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister — Volkaert is a busy man, playing five gigs a week. His main focus is his regular roots music band ("we do a fair bit of festivals") but the Austin, Texas, resident also keeps the classic country sound alive with his side band, Heybale. "We do '50s and '60s country music just for fun," he says, "George Jones, Hank Williams, Floyd Tillman."

Volkaert — pronounced "volk art," like "folk art" — acknowledges that these are the sounds of his youth. "As we get older, we all get grumpier as far as listening to new music," he says. "Everyone always wants the first car they got a piece of ass in."

For his band's Richmond Folk Festival appearances, Redd says that audiences should "expect a bunch of noise from guitars." They also can expect to get awed by special guest Cindy Cashdollar, a Grammy-winning dobro and steel guitar specialist who used to be a regular member of Redd's group until Van Morrison and Rod Stewart snatched her up for big tours. "Cindy's steel guitar changes the sound," he says. "It's going to be great."

The bandleader seems alternately tickled and mildly embarrassed by a recent coup — winning his own Grammy award alongside contemporary country superstar Brad Paisley. "I've known Brad Paisley for quite awhile. He used to come to my shows in Nashville, never said a word, just watched with a grin. Just a goofy kid, you know. He introduced himself, 'My name is Brad,' and we hit it off. We'd talk guitar-dork stuff and I played his wedding."

Redd and Brad conjured up an instrumental for Paisley's 2003 CD, "Mud on the Tires," called "Spaghetti Western Swing." It copped a Grammy nomination for best country instrumental performance. In 2009 they repeated the collaboration with a rave-up called "Cluster Pluck," which also included legendary pickers such as James Burton, Albert Lee and Vince Gill. This time, the Grammy was had. "There's no other way a guitarist is going to win one of those things," Volkaert says, laughing. — Don Harrison

Redd Volkaert Band with Cindy Cashdollar

Friday

8 p.m.
Altria Stage

Saturday

2:45 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

Sunday

12:15 p.m.
Altria Stage

3:45 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

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Horn's Punch and Judy Show
One-Two Punch!

A Punch and Judy audience shouldn't just expect to sit back and watch the raucous duo, says Mark Walker, aka Professor Horn (the puppeteer for Punch and Judy shows is referred to as a professor). "It's a very fast-paced program, very interactive, and you really need to have a good understanding of entertainment in order to present these shows."

It's not like performing a typical puppet show, Walker says. The thwacking mayhem dates back as far as 1662. "Most folks would be surprised to learn that the majority of all Punch and Judy shows performed in America over the last several hundred years were actually performed by magicians," Walker says.

The 58-year-old fell in love with Punch and Judy as a young boy. "I can still vividly remember sitting in the park watching George Horn's Punch and Judy show," Walker says. "Before I purchased my first set of Punch and Judy puppets, I actually had a photo of them. I remember carrying that photo around in my shirt pocket for several months and looking at every chance I could." He received a set of the exact puppets in the picture for Christmas that year and can still recall the excitement. "Putting Mr. Punch on my right hand felt quite magical," he says. "In some ways, I felt like a young King Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone. I know it sounds corny, but it's true."

Walker is confident that Punch and Judy shows will persevere, even in a time when most kids and adults alike are consumed with touch-screen playthings. "Slapstick humor is timeless," he says. "Who wouldn't laugh at someone slipping on a banana peel? People will still be laughing at Punch and Judy 100 years from now." — Hilary Langford

Horn's Punch and Judy Show

Saturday

Noon and 4:15 p.m.
Genworth Family Area Stage

2:30 p.m.
Martin's/Union First Market Bank Stage

Sunday

12:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
Genworth Family Area Stage

2:15 p.m.
Martin's/Union First Stage

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