Black Opry founder Holly G assembled a platform that gives historically marginalized musicians (particularly in the country, Americana, and folk genres) a more significant opportunity to reach audiences. Since 2021, Black Opry has run a touring revue and hosted shows around the US while also making inroads with sets during massive or notable festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and AmericanaFest.
In 2023, the Black Opry collective graced the Newport Folk Festival for the second year in a row. Specifically, the artists included Aaron Vance, Ally Free, Jett Holden, Julie Williams, Nikki Morgan, Roberta Lea, Tylar Bryant, and Whitney Mongé performing in the single main stage Opry slot on Sunday, 30 July 2023, as well as making appearances during sets like Dawn Landes’ Liberated Woman’s Songbook.
The proper set was a powerful, affirmative showcase of incredible talent. Julie Williams asserted her “Southern Curls”, Robert Lea sang her latest single, the soaring “Girl Trip”, and Tylar Bryant offered his hymn to country adventure, “Stay Wild”, while many of the other musicians offered backup vocals. The ensemble closed out with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”.
As Rolling Stone noted, “the Nineties folk-rock-inflected songs from Jett Holden, Whitney Mongé, and Ally Free; the honky-tonk stomp of Aaron Vance and Nikki Morgan; and the plainspoken personal tales from Julie Williams were all heavy on giant choruses and radio-friendly hooks”. So, alongside exclusive portraits of the performers, we’re sharing a playlist with selections from Black Opry that should earn a spot on your lists.