Cayamo 2017: A music cruise preview

By Paul T. Mueller

The 2017 edition of the Cayamo music cruise sails southward today, with a few changes to mark the 10th edition of the singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea. For the first time, Cayamo will be leaving from Tampa, instead of Miami as in previous years. And the sold-out cruise will be aboard the Norwegian Jade instead of the Norwegian Pearl, its home for the past seven years.

But the biggest change, for better or worse, may be the schedule. Cayamo has never been exactly a relaxing experience, but Sixthman, the Atlanta-based Norwegian Cruise Lines subsidiary that produces the seven-night voyage, seems to have been determined to stuff this year’s schedule with an almost unbelievable number of performers and shows. To accommodate this wealth of talent, shows on non-port days will start at 10 a.m., instead of noon as in years past. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out, given that musicians – and many Cayamoans – tend to be the nocturnal type, and in many cases will have been up late the night before. The large roster of performers will also dictate a lot of overlap between shows, making for some tough choices when deciding what to see and what to (regretfully) let go.

Much of the lineup on Cayamo 2017 reads like a Who’s Who of previous Cayamos – Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Richard Thompson, Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Paul Thorn, Glen Phillips and Jim Lauderdale, among others. The Wainwright family is almost a lineup unto itself, comprising Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Sloan Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche. And of course it wouldn’t be Cayamo without Shawn Mullins, the only musician who’s been along for every sailing.

Returning veterans in the not-quite-household-names category include rocker Will Hoge, The Secret Sisters, Angaleena Presley, Sam Lewis, Ruby Amanfu and Beth Wood, among others.

This year also marks the debut of some much-anticipated newcomers on Cayamo 2017, among them Oklahoma phenom Parker Millsap, genre-spanning singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, folk-rocker Amy Helm, veteran Americana performer and producer Gurf Morlix, country singer turned blues singer Bonnie Bishop and vocal powerhouse Sarah Potenza. Several bands will also make the voyage, including the bluegrass-oriented The Mulligan Brothers and Trout Steak Revival and the harder-rocking North Mississippi Allstars and American Aquarium.

For a little added intrigue, there will be at least one “stowaway,” an artist whose identity hasn’t yet been revealed. Who this might be has been the subject of considerable pre-cruise debate, fueled on social media by cryptic hints from Sixthman.

In addition to the usual straightforward sets, several special themed shows are scheduled, including a Songs of Protest set featuring singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters; Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101, with six-string aces Miller, Thompson and Tasjan, along with Luther Dickinson and Tom Bukovac; a tribute to the late Guy Clark, and a Shawn Mullins Variety Show, whatever that might entail. Several “and Friends” shows promise the interesting collaborations that Cayamo is known for. For those able to stay awake, three late-night “Last Man Standing” jams, hosted by fiddle wizard Luke Bulla, are slated for the Jade’s Atrium stage.

As if the music weren’t enough, there will also be a couple of port calls. The Jade will spend a day at Cozumel, off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and a day at Roatan, a Caribbean island that’s part of Honduras. Also available will be such shipboard activities as a songwriting class (Camp Copperhead at Sea) hosted by Steve Earle; three guitar workshops; a beer tasting hosted by Paul Thorn, and the popular Sand Art event with Kacey Musgraves. Passenger jams can be expected to continue far into the night, while early risers will have the option of joining Jim Lauderdale on the pool deck for morning T‘ai Chi.

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