By Paul T. Mueller
The ninth annual Cayamo music cruise sails from Miami on Jan. 31, en route to a week of music and fun under the Caribbean sun. Produced by Atlanta-based Sixthman aboard the chartered Norwegian Pearl, Cayamo is a weeklong music festival at sea, featuring dozens of scheduled performances in indoor venues ranging from small lounges to a thousand-seat auditorium, as well as a couple of open-air stages on the pool deck.
Cayamo is also known for passenger participation; a fair number of the 2,000-plus cruisers bring along their instruments and can be found jamming at pretty much any hour of the day or night. These sessions often draw the attention, and participation, of some of the professional musicians as well.
While it’s not specifically an Americana cruise, this year’s Cayamo features a couple of the biggest names in Americana music at the moment – Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, both still touring on the strength of excellent 2015 albums (Something More Than Free and Traveller, respectively). Other scheduled performers include two-time Cayamo veteran Lucinda Williams; three-timer John Prine; John Hiatt, back for a sixth tour; Nashville (and Nashville) superstar Buddy Miller, a fixture on every Cayamo except 2009; Shawn Colvin, who’s sailed five times before; John Fullbright, a two-time Cayamoan, and Steve Earle, back after two previous sailings. Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, the only performer who’s been on every Cayamo, also returns to keep his streak unbroken.
New to the cruise
Buzzworthy newcomers this year include Alabama-based singer-songwriter Paul Thorn; former Maine resident turned Austin folkie Slaid Cleaves; Hurray for the Riff Raff, featuring neo-New Orleanian Alynda Segarrra; Irish singer Foy Vance; and Angaleena Presley, also known as a member of Nashville’s Pistol Annies.
Returning to the Cayamo music cruise after successful debuts on previous cruises are country songbird Kacey Musgraves, whose duet show with Prine was a big hit last year; Amanda Shires, a fiddler and singer-songwriter who’s married to Isbell and is a member of his band, the 400 Unit; the talented duo Birds of Chicago (2015); Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis (2013), and Knoxville, Tenn.-based The Black Lillies (2015).
Stepping out from sideman roles with scheduled sets of their own are Buick 6 (Lucinda Williams’ band, consisting of guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton) and Jason Wilber, Prine’s longtime guitarist.
A wide range of artists
The rest of the announced lineup for the Cayamo music cruise includes Jim Lauderdale, David Bromberg, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, Watkins Family Hour (featuring former Nickel Creekers Sean and Sara Watkins and others), Johnnyswim, Angaleena Presley, Langhorne Slim, The Bros. Landreth, Sam Lewis, American Babies, Mingo Fishtrap, The Alternate Routes, Rainey Qualley, Kate York and Joe Pisapia, Sugar & the Hi-Lows, Maren Morris, Martin Harley and Jimmy Galloway. The winners of this year’s Soundcheck
competition for spots on the roster include the Andrew Duhon Trio, from New Orleans; The Novel Ideas, a Massachusetts-based folk quintet, and the aforementioned Slaid Cleaves. And the possibility of a “stowaway” surprise artist can never be ruled out; last year Todd Snider filled that role, coming aboard mid-cruise and performing a couple of excellent sets.
A good many Cayamo passengers don’t much care where the cruise goes and would just as soon sail around in circles for a week. But for those who like a little sightseeing with their music, this year’s ports of call are Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten/St. Martin, which consists of both Dutch and French territory. There will also be four full days at sea, providing time for traditional cruise-ship activities – and for even more music than on port days.
(Cayamo music cruise photos by Paul T. Mueller.)