You find yourself frozen.
Watching and listening to The Marcus King Band onstage, your feet are stuck to the floor, your eyes entranced and fixated on the whirlwind jam conspiring before you. Razor-sharp guitar licks, thundering drum-n-bass hooks, twinkle-toed keyboards and a ferocious horn section — a seamless blend of as many musical genres as there are possibilities.
The solidarity was evident.
Sitting onstage this past Monday at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City, I conducted another episode of “Smoky Mountain Voices,” where local characters and officials are interviewed during an extended face-to-face conversation. It’s in an effort to learn more about the people and places that make Western North Carolina such a unique and cherished region.
For the better part of the last four years, Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters have zigzagged to and fro every nook and cranny of the Southeast and Midwest.
The territory, and what comes with it.
Being a traveling musician has always been a haphazard and often difficult position to hold down, let alone make a financial and professional go at it. The long nights far away from home. Sometimes empty rooms where there may be more folks onstage than off. Vehicles breaking down to and from shows. Those situations when you stand there, looking up at the sky, wondering if this is the exact spot you’re meant to be at — in that moment, in that time, and in that place, either known and unknown.
If there’s one singular force truly keeping the flame of Bill Monroe alive and kicking well into the 21st century, it would be Del McCoury.
Since 1958, McCoury has traversed the world over, hitting the stage each and every time with the same zest and passion at age 78 that he did as a teenager in search of his big break some 60 years ago.
He is a welcomed voice of reason in a planet seemingly gone mad.
For the last four decades, Henry Rollins has remained a thorn in the side of pop culture and world politics. Though he remains elusive in definition, he’s accessible to those in need of some truth in an era where the battle of appearance versus reality is hitting a crucial tipping point.
The sound echoes a tone of inclusion and timelessness.
When you listen to Langhorne Slim, you’re hearing something oddly familiar, but also new and innovative at the same time. You let the songs soak into your skin, pushing ever so deeper into your carefully guarded soul. The words remind you of your past, faces you haven’t seen in years, but miss dearly. Each melody conjures memories, perhaps cherished moments, of loved ones either six feet under and long gone or six feet away where the emotional distance could still be bridged with a simple interaction.
Catch her if you can.
In the last two or so years, the name “Margo Price” has overtaken brightly lit marquees across the country and late night television programs around the world.
Don’t fuck with Elizabeth Cook.
In a city like Nashville, where your artistic integrity and credibility can be bought and sold to the highest bidder, Cook has remained a proud outsider, one whose stance on the fringe is quickly becoming the center of the melodic universe as tastes are changing, more like maturing, or even returning to the normalcy of what we regard now as “classic country” and “nitty gritty rock-n-roll.”
I’ve lived in Haywood County 1,931 days. It’s also the exact number of days I’ve known Balsam Range.
Within the first hour of my first day in these mountains, I befriended the members of this Western North Carolina bluegrass act. The engine of my truck was still hot due to a nonstop 16-hour/1,000-mile overnight drive from my native Upstate New York to my new gig as the arts and entertainment editor of The Smoky Mountain News in Waynesville.