The crunching kept catching my attention.

After finding a scarce parking space, it was a short, careful stroll from the Montford neighborhood of downtown Asheville to the U.S. Cellular Center for the 29th annual Christmas Jam last Saturday evening.

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.

“It’s exciting to think about what Haywood County could be. The desire is there.”

— Buddy Melton, fiddler/singer, Balsam Range

It’s inspiring when you come across people who have both a vision and the wherewithal to turn it into reality. It makes me want to climb on board with them and be a part of that success. That’s what I see happening with local bluegrass supergroup Balsam Range and its “Art of Music Festival.”

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.”

They stick out.

In a city like Asheville and in a region like Western North Carolina, world-renowned for bluegrass and Americana music, being a rock-n-roll band is more the exception than the norm.

It’s the carrot.

For the better part of the last 12 years, Rolling Stone magazine has been a carrot dangling in front of my eager, overzealous — and often restless — journalistic spirit.

It was right around the third song or so that the goosebumps kept appearing.

Up and down my arms, the raised hair and skin resulting from the massive sound and stage presence of the Foo Fighters, the saviors of rock-n-roll in the modern era, one could easily surmise.

Just outside of a small Western North Carolina community known as “Papertown USA” sits a dilapidated 84-year old brick schoolhouse surrounded by an even smaller, mostly African-American community known as “Gibsontown.”

“It was a very boxed-in world,” said Billy McDowell, who grew up in the neighborhood. “That world was all you knew. The internet wasn’t here, and so the only thing we had was the six and 11 o’clock news, which we never watched.”

For a moment, I thought the dog was going to charge me.

Running along the quiet back country of Southwest Georgia, dirt roads that make up most of the escape routes into the abyss ‘round these parts, I could see the small creature out of the corner of my eye. Once I realized he had stopped at the end of the driveway, my primal instincts disappeared, my eyes aimed further down the bright dirt path my feet playfully and joyously jogged atop.

Why not?

Why not include Greensky Bluegrass in the sacred — sometimes stale and stuffy — pantheon that is bluegrass music? Why not include the Michigan group in the annual celebrations of string and acoustic music, which mainly originated in Western North Carolina and greater Southern Appalachia? Why not consider the quintet a direct descendent (a rebellious one albeit) of the original rebel himself — Bill Monroe?

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