So, the performers have all gone home, the songs have been sung, the judges have mused and the votes have all been counted. That leaves only one thing left to do. Announce the finalists of this year’s Great River Folk Festival Songwriting Contest.

As always, it was a close event, after all, choosing one musician over another is a very difficult, and perhaps, arbitrary thing to have to do, and the competition is always fierce, something born out by the fact that 8 out of the 12 shortlisted for the final round have also been Kerrville New Folk, Finalists too.

But proving that, although age and experience are always important, it is the talent that shines through, the top prize was awarded to Siena Christie, a young songstress who has only been promoting herself as a solo musician in the last year or so. Not that she doesn’t have a wealth of experience playing in tribute bands and on other peoples projects but it was only when she fully connected with herself and started writing songs that felt more honest, which meant something real to her, that her true artistic potential emerged.

Dear Northland, the song which she submitted to the contest, is a gorgeous piece of acoustic folk, simple and effective, gently picked guitar and a crystal clear voice evoking the social narrators of the folk world of the past. A worthy winner indeed and I can’t recommend her album Ice Olation highly enough.

Joining her on the podium, if you will forgive the sports metaphor, are two equally exquisite artists. The wonderfully named Chain of Lakes turned in a fantastic tribute to Marie Curie with Brave Marie, an uplifting and slightly jaunty groove driving an entertaining and educational ditty. Sam Robbins took his first stab at writing a political song and turned in the powerful and poignant Saying Amen, which asks many of those who claim to preach love and promote understanding to take a harder look at their actual beliefs when faced with the myriad issues of the day.

Of course, it isn’t all about winning. Okay, it is quite a bit about winning, but the fact that the Great River Folk Festival and its associated song contest does such a great job at promoting new music and the immerging stars of tomorrow, grassroots talent, keen newcomers and seasoned folk veterans alike means that that we are all winners really. The acts who perform, the festival-goers, those who follow the contest online, you, me and the music world in general. Or, as a great man once said, “Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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