art frMountain music, dancing and tradition will be on display once again as the 45th annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival celebrates the culture and heritage of Western North Carolina Sept. 4-5 on the shores of Lake Junaluska.

art frManic, menacing and mesmerizing.

That’s how rock-n-roll is supposed to make you feel. It’s meant to be a bit jarring, a little sinister, with the slightest touch of magic — just enough to pull you in, making you aware that what you’re witnessing is something special, something to behold and share with others not-yet-in-the-know.

art theplaceI stopped going.

For the better part of the last decade, my life during the summer was music festivals. From Maine to California, Michigan to Arkansas, I was there, in an endless crowd, cheering on the greatest musicians of our time. In those innumerable moments, I felt more alive, at home, and at peace, than anywhere else in the world.

folkmoot preservingEach year international groups from all over the world travel abroad to share their traditional folk dances and songs with other cultures. 

They spend hundreds of hours researching, learning and rehearsing these songs and dances. They spend a lot of money on authentic costumes to accurately represent their heritage and they spend even more to go one tour and share their work with others.

art ownersunSetting down deep roots in Jackson County over the past couple of years, Owner of the Sun (Sylva-based by way of Atlanta) is an Americana group, but one whose tone and intent goes far below the surface of you’re atypical “kitchen sink and all” band.

art mtnfaithAll eyes were on Summer McMahan and company. “We were all so nervous going into the audition,” she said. “But, once we noticed they were liking it, all the nerve went away and we had a blast. We’re so very humbled they liked it and sent us through.”

art theplaceOften times as a journalist, you just simply can’t get to everything.

art frCovered in paint speckles, Drew Duncan walked into O’Malley’s Pub & Grill on a recent Thursday evening.

Finishing up work for the day, he wasn’t in search of the 50-cent wing special, nor was he heading to the bar for a beverage. Walking over to the patio stage, Duncan opened up his guitar case, adjusted his microphone stand and took a seat. Front man for Porch 40 (rock/jam), he was soon joined by Colby Dietz of Mangas Colorado (Americana/bluegrass) and Chris Pressley from The Buchanan Boys (rock/country).

• Mountain Faith appears on NBC
• Owner of the Sun — “Sharp Tongue”

art frAre your ears playing tricks on you?

As you turn the radio dial to a country music station these days, all you hear is pop, rock and hip-hop. Surely, this can’t be the result of the sacred musical traditions of Nashville handed down through the generations by the likes of Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings?

art frHeading down N.C. 28, between Bryson City and Robbinsville, is a flat stretch of highway, unusual to the continuous curves on this mountainous route. It indicates a valley, and just past a quaint diner, is a side road to your left, where a sign with an arrow points you in the right direction. You’re in the creative heart of Graham County. You’re at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center. 

“We’re not in the middle-of-nowhere, we’re actually the center of everywhere here,” said Beth Fields.

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