Good medicine

Healing can be an elusive art. Just ask Lake Eden Arts Festival coordinator Jennifer Pickering, who admits that past attendees have experienced difficulty locating the dozens of healing-arts workshops that the festival offers each year.

She says that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“The tents are a little bit hidden, not quite in the main flow of things. … We like for them to be [sheltered] in a kind of sacred space,” she confesses.

Once people do locate this mecca of holistic wonders, however, they’re not likely to forget it, she maintains.

“[The healing arts features] are something we started in order to give the festival balance, and they really do create a nice energy,” Pickering continues. “We offer workshops that take a lot of different approaches [to alternative healing], and the whole thing can be a very grounding force. Often, people experience something they’ve never experienced before — something they’ve overlooked — and it opens up a whole new world for them.”

This fall’s workshops include (but are by no means limited to): salve making, gentle yoga, herbs for the new millennium, plant spirit medicine, cranio-sacral therapy, healing with stones, chakra dowsing, holistic education for children and Chinese massage.

And of course, plenty of hot musical acts will be on hand to help all that medicine go down.

Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots

New Orleans dweller Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes has a lot of explaining to do. His day job at Jean Lafitte National Park involves educating tourists about the intricacies of Louisiana’s mysterious swamps and wetlands.

But at night, the musician — considered by some to be the best blues harmonica player in New Orleans — lets his instrument speak for him.

Barnes recently revealed in a telephone interview that, given his ripening musical horizons, his 12-year career as a naturalist may soon be over. But he won’t let the days he spent wearing a park ranger’s uniform be dismissed as struggling-musician’s dues. “Working [in marine biology] was a life’s dream, so the job was a natural for me,” he explains. “I knew I wanted to do that since I was in second grade, and when I make a deal with myself, I hold to it.”

Making music, he says, was another childhood dream — one he’s currently nursing to fruition with his expansive, zydeco-flavored blues band, the Louisiana Sunspots (which also features guitarist Jum Kebodeaux, trumpeter and washboardist Eric Lucero, drummer Leroy Etienne, bassist Marcel Mazeret, percussionist Harold Brown, conga player Moses Wheelock, tenor saxophonist Lance Ellis, baritone saxophonist Hart McNee and midi-guitar player Howard Scott ).

In fact, Barnes is a man of myriad talents. A veteran of more than 13 television commercials, the part-time actor has also appeared in such major films as Point of No Return and Undercover Blues. You won’t find him spending much time in Hollywood, however; though not a Crescent City native, the performer is warmly enthusiastic about that city’s present music scene: “You can see 150-200 bands on any given night — and it’s not just the number of bands, but the variety, too.”

Barnes believes that people’s appreciation for rootsy rhythms goes in cycles. “This is a time when you don’t have to be [represented] by a big record company to do well,” he posits. “In the ’70s and ’80s — especially the ’80s — you pretty much had to be on a major label to be successful. But then, back in the ’50s and ’60s, it was all these little independent labels breaking all the big acts.”

Does his fondness for the indie credo mean he prefers catering to small-club audiences rather than the more anonymous crowds at large festivals? Not exactly. “I like places where there are people,” he says with a laugh. “It’s all the same, although some places naturally have a great vibe. But I don’t distinguish between 100 people and 10,000 people. I go out and give it my all every time.”

You can add teacher, by the way, to this performer’s treasure-chest of roles: Conducting a harmonica workshop for kids in Glendora, Miss. (the home of Sonny Boy Williamson) was “a blast,” he recalls. The ability to play music is a gift, Barnes maintains; he believes that if you’re doing what you love, “You don’t hold onto it; you have to pass it on to the next generation. It shouldn’t go to the grave with you.”

Laura Love

“I’m trying to put the ‘yo’ back in yodel,” Laura Love once told the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle. This handy catch phrase came to her while she was watching a National Geographic documentary and noticed that certain African tribes were, indeed, yodeling. The Seattle singer likes to call her music “Afro-Celtic,” although “hip-alachian” (that would be hip-hop and Appalachian) and “confusion” — country and fusion, naturally — have also seduced her sensibilities.

Her approach to songwriting is an intriguing about-face to the long-accepted practice of white performers appropriating black roots music into rock and pop. Love doesn’t borrow solely from the hills, however. Just consider “Clapping Song,” from Shum Ticky (Mercury Records, 1998), a haunting little number that features Love’s yodeling mixed with everything from rock to bluesy horns — all of it layered with the rapping of Sir Mix-A-Lot and, of course, driven by Love’s signature percussive bass-slapping.

Her high, ethereal vocals often speak louder than her actual lyrics — but when Love has something to say, the message reveals itself in no uncertain terms. “Mahbootay” (which features fiddling and a mid-song surf-rock excursion) is a brief ditty about a subject that surfaces more than once in Shum Ticky: “My booty/My big ol’ booty/My body/My big ol’ booty/I take it/I take it shopping/I buy it/I buy it presents/I clothe it/With the trousers/I feed it/With peanut butter/I watch it/I watch it growing/It gives me/It gives me pleasure/Worship it,” she advises.

Love is known to be a confident and gifted live performer — one who can knit her extensive musical influences into a one-size-fits-all musical tapestry with beguiling ease.

Who, what and where

The Lake Eden Arts Festival takes place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 8-10, at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. In addition to headliners Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots (performing on Oct. 9 at 2:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the Lakeside Stage and on Oct. 10 at noon at the Brookside Dance Hall) and the Laura Love Band (Oct. 9, 8:30 p.m., Lakeside Stage), other acts include: Dan Electro & the Silvertones (Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m., Lakeside Stage; Oct. 9, 2:30 p.m., Brookside Dance Hall; Oct. 10, 3 p.m., Lakeside Stage); Eddie from Ohio (Oct. 8, 9 p.m., Lakeside Stage; Oct. 9, 11:30 a.m., Lakeside Stage); Mackeel (Oct. 8, 10:30 p.m., Lakeside Stage); Wild Asparagus (Oct. 8, 8 p.m., Brookside Dance Hall; Oct. 9, 4 p.m., Brookside Dance Hall; Oct. 10, 2 p.m., Brookside Dance Hall); Llan De Cubel (Oct. 8, 6 p.m., Lakeside Stage; Oct. 9, 4 p.m., Lakeside Stage; Oct. 10, 10:30 a.m., Lakeside Stage); and many more. Healing-arts workshops, juried arts and crafts, spoken-word entertainment, and a host of other attractions are also part of the fun. As a special feature, three documentary films will be screened as well: Leche, the story of a rural Mexican family (Oct. 9 1:30 and 5 p.m.; Oct. 10, noon); Urgasong, a look at two Mongolian artists (Oct. 9, 2:10 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.; Oct. 10, 12:30 p.m.; and Glenis Redmond’s performance video, Mama’s Magic (Oct. 9, 4 p.m.; Oct. 10, 11 a.m.).

A full weekend pass with camping privileges is $70 for adults, $55 for children. Partial weekend passes, day passes, partial-day passes and group rates are also available. Call (828) 68-MUSIC for tickets/info, and check out the festival Web Site at www.theLeaf.com for a complete schedule.

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