Telluride Bluegrass: Super group, WPA

Telluride Bluegrass: Super group, WPA

[click “Play” to hear WPA interview]

Wpa Flashback: Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2000. Sugar Hill Records had several oldies but goodies in the lineup. John Cowan was appearing with his new group, Lonesome River Band. Also on the scene were Seldom Scene, Jesse Winchester and Sam Bush. With Nickel Creek, the label also featured strong Gen Zeta talent.

Nickel Creek proved that the youth brigade was not all about skin-flashing and razzmatazz.  Two of the musical whiz kids in the new group were a  brother and sister act, Sean Watkins (2/18/77), guitar, mandolin, and vocals, and Sara Watkins (6/8/81), fiddle and vocals. Sean and Sara are back in town 10 years later for their encore at the 36th annual Bluegrass Festival, June 18 – June 21.  (Star fiddler Luke Bulla was also in town that year with Ricky Skaggs, another-wet-behind- the-ears superstar in the making.)

Sean, Sara, and Luke are all grown up, burgeoning stars and now part of brand new 8-piece super group in the tradition of Fleetwood Mac, The Band, CSNY, aptly named for the times, WPA, founded by Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), vocals, guitar; Luke (Jerry Douglas Band, Ricky Skaggs, Lyle Lovett), fiddle, vocals, guitar; and Sean (Nickel Creek, Fiction Family), guitar, vocals.

Of all of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 to the Work Projects Administration) remains the most famous, because it affected so many people’s lives, roughly 8.5 million. Under the direction of Harry Hopkins, an enthusiastic ex-social worker, the WPA would spend more than $11 million in employment relief before it was canceled in 1943. The work relief program was certainly more expensive than direct relief payments, but worth the added cost. As Hopkins famously explained: “Give a man a dole,and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.”

WPA, the band, is all about community – they recorded their debut disc on faith, without a name or management – and provides the same sort of shot in the arm.

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