Flat Rock Music Festival headliners

Loudon Wainwright III

Driving near NYC 30 years ago, Loudon Wainwright III got a quick whiff of reality.

“I ran over what was left of a skunk,” he recalled in a recent interview, adding, “I was inspired.” He wrote “Dead Skunk” in 15 minutes. The top-20 novelty song’s line “dead skunk in the middle of the road” immortalized him, but Wainwright reached beyond roadkill, penning folk songs for decades; two of his 22 albums have been Grammy-nominated, in 1985 and ’86.

A varied performer who was David Letterman’s first sidekick, Wainwright sang in roles on “M•A•S•H” in 1975 and in the 2000 film 28 Days, filmed in Black Mountain. He stars in the Fox-TV sit-com Undeclared as Hal Karp, a divorcee in midlife crisis who hangs out at his son’s college. “He’s a little bit lost,” Wainwright admits. The singer/songwriter, 55, reached his own crossroads a few years ago — he says his “world fell apart” after his mother’s death and a romantic breakup. Those experiences are reflected in Wainwright’s latest CD, the somber Last Man on Earth.

Loudon Wainwright III plays the main stage on Friday May 10 at 8:30 p.m.

Sam Bush

A founder of New Grass Revival in 1971, the eminently versatile Sam Bush is a furious, award-winning mandolin picker. He won two Grammys, for country in 1992 with Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers, and for an instrumental with Bela Fleck, in ’96. In 2000, Bush teamed with David Grisman and Ricky Skaggs to win two IBMA Awards. Bush has recorded on more than 250 albums, including records for Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Doc Watson. He recently headlined at the 15th annual Merlefest.

The Sam Bush Band plays the main stage on Saturday May 11 at 8:30 p.m.

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

A mother at age 17 who escaped poverty with her candid lyrics, acoustic guitar and tender soprano voice, Stacey Earle has also come out of the shadow of her famous brother, Steve Earle, and loves to “act out” her musical life stories in concert. At Flat Rock she’ll perform with her husband, Mark Stuart; their new CD, Must Be Live, includes “Just Another Day,” a song about empty-nest syndrome. She’s reached 40, refilling her nest with recording, touring and running a record company with Stuart.

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart play the Main Stage on Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m.

Acoustic Syndicate

Shelby, N.C.’s Acoustic Syndicate returns to the Flat Rock Music Festival after a high point — playing Farm Aid last fall. The band forges an explosive mix of bluegrass, rock, jazz, funk and reggae. WNCW ranked their current CD, Crazy Little Life, second for 2000. A reportedly more rock-influenced album is due out this summer.

Acoustic Syndicate plays the main stage on Sunday May 12 at 3 p.m.

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