Roots N Blues festival set for September return; Sheryl Crow, Tanya Tucker among headliners

Aarik Danielsen
Columbia Daily Tribune

Roots N Blues organizers struck a hopeful chord Friday, announcing the festival's return to Stephens Lake Park in September after the 2020 edition was shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow — a Kennett native and University of Missouri graduate — Mavis Staples and Tanya Tucker are among the performers set for the festival Sept. 24-26. All but Tucker were previously announced for the 2020 fest, and remain committed to this year's event. 

Before the pandemic altered plans last year, co-owners Shay Jasper, Tracy Lane and Jamie Varvaro promised female representation in every festival slot, with a woman either as lead artist or band member.

"We were ready to challenge the status quo, to demonstrate to the world that a successful American music festival can host a lineup prominently featuring a woman in every act. We did that work. Then, the pandemic shut down our entire industry four days before our scheduled artist announcement for 2020," Jasper said in a news release.

The 2021 lineup also includes Grammy-nominated country singer Mickey Guyton, Roots N Blues veteran Amanda Shires, dynamic New Orleans outfit Tank and the Bangas, separate sister acts Joseph and Larkin Poe as well as blues mainstay Shemekia Copeland.

As in previous years, a number of locals fill the lineup. Mid-Missouri mainstays The Burney Sisters, Violet and the Undercurrents, Halle Kearns and Molly Healey will perform. Other artists with Missouri ties include Natalie Hemby, One Way Traffic, Kassi Ashton and Amanda Fish. 

One previously announced 2020 headliner, Brittany Howard, will not participate in this year's festival due to scheduling changes. One other headliner will be announced at a later date, organizers noted. 

The festival's emphasis on a strong female presence reflects its principals, a trio of organizers that includes two women — Jasper and Lane. 

"Independent concert promoters have become an endangered species in the 21st century, but a female-owned independent concert production company ... I hope there are others, and if not, I hope we can lead the charge to change that," Lane said in the release.

The pandemic brought greater uncertainty to the live music industry and, with Friday's lineup announcement, Roots N Blues organizers shared two steps on a path they hope leads to sustainability. 

First, Veterans United Home Loans will become the festival's presenting sponsor in 2021. And on Friday, organizers launched a capital campaign that allows patrons to donate to their Friends of the Festival nonprofit.

The campaign is meant to boost "the local small businesses that provide the infrastructure of the festival" as well as "support staff," according to the news release.

"The campaign assures funding for the ‘roots' of Roots N Blues," Lane said in the release.

"There are around 100 local folks who take an entire week off from their year-round jobs to help us build this festival from the ground up. We employ electricians who lay hundreds of miles of cable to power this festival. We work with local artists who light up the park at night and convert the beautiful landscape of Stephens Lake Park into the magical canvas of Roots N Blues."

The festival will remain responsive to changing public health guidelines, it said in the release. Applications for volunteers and vendors will come this summer, likely in July, allowing organizers to work from current standards, organizers said. 

For more on this year's festival, visit