As long as I can remember, I’ve been a slave to the groove, someone who will drop everything at a moment’s notice if a secret show gets announced or an extra ticket bubbles to the surface. To my mother’s dismay, I would take off every weekend in high school and disappear for days in college, heading for the horizon line of unknown melodic endeavors. Music, then, and even more so now, just makes sense to me, perhaps the only thing that makes sense to me. It’s the universal language, where a live show brings together a room of strangers for an experience, immersed in an energy bigger than themselves.
It all started Nov. 1 in Waynesville. I had booked a show at The Classic Wineseller for my friends from home (near Burlington, Vt.), The Dupont Brothers. Though a somewhat new ensemble, the acoustic/Americana roots duo is pretty well known around New England. It was a pleasure to have them stay at my place, plucking their guitars on my porch as the late fall Appalachia sun trickled through the remaining foliage. Their show was an intimate, enjoyable affair, filled with Haywood County friends and out-of-town visitors.
I wandered down to the Water’n Hole Bar and Grill on North Main Street after the Duponts finished. Eastern Tennesee rock-a-billies Humps & The Blackouts were headlong into another raucous set of outlaw backwoods string music. Over the last year, they have morphed from a ragtag band of dudes who just play their instruments as fast as possible into a professional ensemble that’s truly evolving into a road-worthy, boogie-on-down stage act.
A crisp breeze floated through Leicester during the “Asheville Barnaroo” Saturday afternoon. Held on an organic farm tucked deep into a holler, the small festival brings together up-and-coming groups from the region amid bonfires, sustainable food trucks and artisan crafters. Shonna Tucker & Eye Candy headlined the event. Featuring bassist Tucker and pedal-steel player John Neff, both formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, the southern rockers blend together Texas swing and old-time country with a dash of pop flair.
Indie-rockers Dr. Dog rolled into The Orange Peel in downtown Asheville Sunday evening. The hipster, nerd-rock band can play as loud and as appealing as any rock or pop group on the national scene today. But, my focus fell upon the opener, Benny Yurco and The Revealers, whose stage presence and tone was captivating. By day, Yurco is the co-guitarist for rock rebels Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. By night, he’s tinkering away at solo projects, with this one taking on a more reggae/Lo-Fi feel to it — think The Beach Boys meets Elvis Costello meets California dub. Nice mix, right? And, the best part is it translates perfectly onstage.
The final chapter of the odyssey fell into the lyrical magic and physical aura of Peter Rowan. The legendary singer/songwriter played two nights in Western North Carolina — Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley and Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in West Asheville. Alongside renowned Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo, Rowan and his bluegrass boys stood proudly at the ranch, their voices and notes wrapped around the audience like a warm blanket as a cold wind outside lapped against the windows.
It was a surreal week of music, one filled with friends, new and old, as I was recharged from endless hours of onstage beauty. I guess the point of all of this rambling is to express how special Western North Carolina really is when it comes to music. You honestly can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who plays an instrument in these parts. With that said, I encourage you to seek out live performance for yourself. Go to Waynesville or Sylva, Bryson City or Franklin, Maggie Valley or Cherokee, downtown Asheville and points beyond. It’s all out there, ready to be seen and heard, ready to be tapped into by loyal listeners and the curious alike.
The DuPont Brothers (www.dupontbrothersmusic.com), Shonna Tucker & Eye Candy (www.shonnatucker.net), Benny Yurco & Revealers (www.bennyyurco), and Peter Rowan (www.peter-rowan.com) have all released new records. As well, for more information on upcoming concerts in the region, go to our “On the Beat” section, which include dates, briefs and music features.
1: The Nantahala Brewing Company “Bottle Launch Party” will be Nov. 22 in Bryson City.
2: Jazz-fusion sensation the Jeff Sipe Trio plays No Name Sports Pub in Sylva on Nov. 14.
3: CaroMia Tiller will perform Nov. 15 at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.
4: Old-time string/rock-a-billy group Strung Like A Horse plays the Water’n Hole Bar in Grill in Waynesville on Nov. 22.
5: “Back to the Future” will be screened Nov. 15-16 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.