HILLSDALE — The 29th annual Falcon Ridge Festival held at Dodd’s Farm in Hillsdale closed out Sunday with performances by musicians such as David Massengill, Abbie Gardner and singer-songwriter legend Eric Andersen.
It was the first time Andersen had played an American folk music festival in 35 years, he said before his 5:15 p.m. set Sunday. “I’ve heard good things about it,” Andersen said of the festival. “I’m comfortably numb.”
Andersen was performing a mixture of new and old material, and his percussionist, Canadian Cheryl Prashker, praised his ability to continue writing new material.
“The stuff that he’s writing now is just as good as the stuff he wrote 50 years ago,” Prashker said. “He’s not stopped yet.”
Copies of Andersen’s recently released new album, “Mingle With the Universe: The Worlds of Lord Byron,” were for sale at the festival, and Andersen said he chose to set music to Byron’s words because he feels he is overlooked as a songwriter. Andersen performed a concert at Byron’s ancestral home in England before recording the album.
“Everybody was always paying attention to Robert Burns, but they never paid any attention to Lord Byron so I thought it was time,” Andersen said.
Andersen has two bands that back him up on tour, and is joined by esteemed musicians like violinist Scarlet Rivera, who played with Bob Dylan on the West Coast. On the East Coast, Andersen is joined by mandolin player Eric Lee and guitarist and producer Steve Addabbo, who has worked with Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. Prashker plays percussion in both bands.
“Cheryl is kind of the heartbeat of both bands,” Andersen said.
Prashker first met Andersen two years ago at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orilla, Ontario, Canada, when Prahsker’s Celtic band Runa performed, and Andersen was fascinated by Prashker’s percussion setup and asked her if she would play on a song, over the objection of Andersen’s producer.
“Eric won — I got to play some percussion on it, and then I played a couple of gigs with him,” Prashker said. “Ever since, I haven’t missed a gig yet.”
Prashker enjoys playing with Andersen and said he’s an excellent guitarist, harmonica player and writer.
“It’s an amazing honor,” Prashker said. “People don’t realize how good a musician he is, and he’s an all-around sweet person.”
Prashker has performed at the festival with different bands for about 20 years and said she feels at home performing at the festival.
“All the people I expected to see here, I’m seeing here, which is great,” Prashker said. “It’s why we come here.”
Greg Nason, of Homosassa, Florida, has been selling his homemade cigar box guitars, earrings and other products through his business Earthwares at festivals like Falcon Ridge for 20 years. Nason is also a regular at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill held in July.
“My instruments sell good here,” Nason said. “[I had] a slow start, but then it got better.”
Nason enjoys the art of his craft and sells many of his cigar box guitars to musicians, he said. Nason makes his instruments in sets of five.
“I just improve them every time I build them,” Nason said of his guitars.
Sarah Pekdemir, of Brooklyn, has been coming to the festival for nine years and appreciates its positive energy. “If you walk around Falcon Ridge, everyone is here to be happy,” Pekdemir said.
Pekdemir said she loves the festival’s dance tent, and said she hopes that the festival’s smaller attendance in recent years does not stop the show from continuing into the future.
“I’m really hopeful I’m misreading the signals,” Pekdemir said of the attendance. “I think the spirit of the festival is the same.”
Lauren Savery, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is a first-time festivalgoer to Falcon Ridge, but her family has been coming for over 20 years. Savery was most looking forward to seeing the Adam Ezra Band because she missed his Saturday night set, but did enjoy the acoustic septet Upstate Rubdown perform Saturday.
“They were just really good,” Savery said of the band. “They were a little country, a little folk.”
Jeanne Bassis, of New Marlborough, Massachusetts, is a 20-year attendee of Falcon Ridge and especially enjoyed seeing the alternative folk band Slambovian Circus of Dreams on Saturday night.
“I’m here because of the good energy,” Bassis said. “I’m glad I’m here today.”