John Prine, Amanda Shires, JD McPherson to headline the 25th annual Master Musicians Festival

John Prine

SOMERSET, Ky. (Jan. 17, 2018) — A milestone anniversary is best celebrated with a
milestone guest, and for southeastern Kentucky’s award-winning music festival, that guest is two-time Grammy winner John Prine.

The Master Musicians Festival will celebrate 25 years of bringing musical excellence to rural Kentucky July 13-14 by nearly doubling its usual lineup, adding a second stage and closing the party with a songwriting hero who makes listeners crave to go back to Muhlenburg County with just first chord of his Kentucky anthem “Paradise.”

Joining Prine on MMF’s lineup are Amanda Shires, JD McPherson, The Felice Brothers, The Dead South, Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound, Dawg Yawp, Bendigo Fletcher, John R. Miller, Grayson Jenkins, Joslyn & The Sweet Compression, Chelsea Nolan, Coby Langham, Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters, Eric Bolander, Magnolia Boulevard, Luna & The Mountain Jets, Bee Taylor, Maggie Noelle, John Clay, Madison Lewis, Dave Ernst & The Early Favorites, Lemay & Reese, Reverend John & The Backsliders and June Burton.

“Board members come and go every year, but in my nine years as president, I can’t remember a headliner discussion that didn’t involve John Prine,” MMF President Tiffany Bourne said. “His name has consistently been on our list and is always our first choice. The timing has never been right for his schedule until this year, and we consider that no coincidence. We are honored to celebrate our 25th year with this legendary master musician.”

Prine’s remarkable 45-year career has garnered praise from famed musicians like Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen. His parents migrated from Paradise, Ky., in 1934, settling in a Chicago suburb and raising four boys. It was there in 1970 that Prine’s music career launched — he was playing in a club in the city when his lyrics were discovered by writer Roger Ebert.

Prine is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, is an Americana Music Honors & Awards winner for lifetime achievement in songwriting and was the association’s 2017 Artist of the Year. Rolling Stone heralds his new album, to be released this spring, as one of the most anticipated albums of 2018.


Amanda Shires. Photo by Brett Warren.


Amanda Shires will perform just before Prine takes the stage Saturday night, sharing with the crowd her third solo album, “My Piece Of Land,” whose songs deal with family, anxiety, and the concept of home.

Shires began her career as a teenager playing fiddle for the Texas Playboys. She’s since toured and recorded with Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Shovels & Rope, and most recently her husband, MMF alum Jason Isbell (2008).

An important addition to the 25th-anniversary festival is the celebration of female Kentucky songwriters, Bourne said. The board selected four women from across the state — Chelsea Nolan (Slade), Maggie Noelle (Lexington), Madison Lewis (London) and June Burton (Somerset) — to share their songs on the main stage for Saturday’s first act.

The Dead South

Friday night’s lineup includes four-piece acoustic ensemble The Dead South from Saskatchewan, Canada — a boot-stomping configuration that includes banjo, mandolin, cello and guitar and lots of whistles, hootin’ and hollerin’. With a voice that channels soul greats Little Richard and James Brown, Friday night headliner and Broken Arrow, Ok., native JD McPherson is sure to bring the crowd to its feet with his presentation of traditional rhythm and blues and rock ‘n roll.


JD McPherson. Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins.


In addition to the main stage’s stellar lineup, MMF added a second stage in art valley this year that will highlight 10 additional acts. Sponsored by Eastwood Records in Louisville and Wildcat Harley Davidson in London, this stage offers the opportunity to showcase Kentucky musicians while also highlighting the festival’s artisans, who will have booths surrounding the stage.

“This is something we have wanted to do for a long time,” Bourne said. “Kentucky has so many incredible local and regional bands — this will give festival-goers even more diversity in music and bring an entirely new, exciting vibe to our festival.”

Held annually on the second weekend in July, the Master Musicians Festival has been named Southeast Tourism Society’s Festival of the Year and the Governor’s Awards for the Arts Outstanding Community Arts Organization.

In addition to two days of eclectic, diverse music, the Master Musicians Festival offers meet-and-greet workshops hosted artisans and musicians, as well as a wide variety of art and food vendors. MMF also showcases juried artisans and craftsmen and recognizes a Kentucky artist whose festival-themed work is auctioned and featured on merchandise.

Weekend passes are on sale now on the MMF website and through Eventbrite. MMF continues its tradition of being a family-oriented event, as children 12 and younger are admitted free.

2018 Master Musicians Festival lineup

Eastwood Records Stage (Art Valley)

Friday, July 13, 2018

  • Eric Bolander 5:00 p.m.
  • Bee Taylor 6:30 p.m.
  • Luna and the Mountain Jets 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 14

  • Dave Ernst & The Early Favorites 1:00 p.m.
  • Coby Langham 2:30 p.m.
  • John Clay 4:00 p.m.
  • John R. Miller 5:30 p.m.
  • Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters 7:00 p.m.
  • Magnolia Blvd 8:30 p.m.
  • Rev. John and the Backsliders 10:30 p.m.

Main Stage

Friday, July 13

  • Lamay and Reese 4:00 p.m.
  • Bendigo Fletcher 5:30 p.m.
  • Joslyn & the Sweet Compressions 7:00 p.m.
  • Art Auction 8:00 p.m.
  • The Dead South 8:30 p.m.
  • McNeil Voice Studio Winner 9:30 p.m.
  • JD McPherson 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

  • Kentucky Americana Women Songwriters (w/ Chelsea Nolan, Maggie Noelle, Madison Lewis and June Burton) 12:00 p.m.
  • Grayson Jenkins and the Resolutions 1:30 p.m.
  • Dawg Yawp 3:00 p.m.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award 4:00 p.m.
  • Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound 4:30 p.m.
  • Art Auction 5:30 p.m.
  • The Felice Brothers 6:00 p.m.
  • Amanda Shires 7:30 p.m.
  • John Prine 9:00 p.m.
2018 Master Musicians Festival event poster

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