You can’t throw a rock around these parts without hitting someone who either plays an instrument or is a bonafied freak of nature when it comes to live performance. And it’s that storied history of music that runs like a vibrant thread through the heritage and tradition of Western North Carolina. It’s about using your hands, to work hard during the day, and to play hard come nightfall.
I aim to keep close tabs on just what hits the stage within my jurisdiction. It’s about championing local and regional acts, where originality and creativity trumps the usual “dial it in” cover band shenanigans that tends to override and muffle the sounds of those with something to say, and play.
Lately? I’ve had my eye on two groups — The Maggie Valley Band and The Dirty Soul Revival. Each is as unique as their style and onstage presence. Whereas you find yourself lending an ear to the acoustic prowess and traditional nature of The Maggie Valley Band, you’ll be just as soon banging your head and spilling your beer to the rollicking devil-may-care attitude of The Dirty Soul Revival.
That said, The Smoky Mountain News recently caught up with both bands as they prepare to take the stage in Haywood County this weekend …
The Dirty Soul Revival
At a glance: Four-piece hard rock and blues outfit hailing from Asheville. Fronting the buck wild band is the razor-sharp slide guitar and nitty gritty vocals of Abe Anderson. They’re a stiff drink of backwoods soul and bayou voodoo, as felt by the thundering percussion of Anderson’s wife, Jenni, bassist Gavin Farmer and saxophonist Dave Blair.
Smoky Mountain News: What is it about rock-n-roll and the blues that pulls you in?
Abe Anderson: I started playing acoustic guitar when I was 20 with no real intention of making music. I just wanted to learn to play the guitar. After about a year, I started playing the banjo, and that was about all I played for the next eight years. I wound up getting an electric guitar and amp for a band I played banjo in, which is when I found out that Duane Allman played slide in open tuning. My thought was, “Well, I play banjo in open tuning and he plays with his fingers and I can definitely finger pick from banjo so…” Once I got into slide and blues and rock I really started to find where I wanted to be. There’s just this amazing thing about blues and rock-n-roll where as long as you believe in what you are doing, and put all of yourself into it, you don’t have to be the most technically skilled musician or singer. It’s more about the feeling or soul in it.
Jenni Anderson: It’s more emotional for me than any other kind of music. It feels very natural to play it and it’s kind of loose, which makes it fun.
SMN: What’s it like to work, play and collaborate with your significant other?
AA: In a lot of ways it really isn’t much different than playing with anybody else. Onstage, it’s about the music sounding as good as it can, so we’re focused on that. But, Jenni and I have a very close relationship, even for a married couple, which helps in the sense that we’re extremely honest with each other. I will tell her that something she did sounded bad, she will tell me a song I just wrote is good or terrible and should never be played, and I completely trust her taste in music and know she will shoot me straight.
JA: Yeah, it’s easy to be honest with one another, which makes making music easier. We see very eye-to-eye on music and what we like — there is less to actually talk about, it’s just kind of there without too much discussion.
Editor’s Note: The Dirty Soul Revival will perform during the Shining Rock Riverfest at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at Camp Hope in Canton. The festival opens at noon, with a full lineup of bands, activities, and more. www.shiningrockriverfest.com. For more information, click on www.thedirtysoulrevival.com.
The Maggie Valley Band
At a glance: Americana/bluegrass act based out of Maggie Valley. Fronted by the Miller sisters — Whitney (guitar/harmonica) and Caroline (bass/dulcimer) — alongside Josh Harris (banjo/mandolin) and Steven Hughes (drums), the quartet stands by their motto, “A raw approach to Appalachian music intertwined with a heavy sixties influence.”
Smoky Mountain News: What’s it like to create and perform music with your sister? Tell me about that bond, as siblings, musicians and collaborators.
Whitney Miller: Well, it’s really cool because by creating music together we become more than sisters. We become best friends and it’s really fun to work with someone who shares the same philosophy as you. You need a hard work ethic to be in the music business and not a lot of people have that. I’m thankful to be in this with her because I don’t know if many others would stick it out. As collaborators, Caroline will add an idea and it does a great deal to add to the arrangement of the song. It doesn’t change the direction of what I was intending, it expands it.
Caroline Miller: I love it. We know that sometimes we’re going to be on the same page more than anyone else could be. Other times, we know that we’re going to disagree, but we also know that conflict is good and we’re going to work it out. I never have to question her commitment or her dedication, if a show is booked she will always be there even if she had two hours of sleep the night before. I’ve done the booking in the past for our winter tour and I put her through more hours than the average person could take. What is her response? Appreciation. I don’t have to motivate her to practice or be dedicated — she motivates me.
SMN: What is it about Appalachian music that sets it apart from other genres?
WM: Well, we’re old souls and we really like the rawness and genuineness of Appalachian and mountain music. The songs are often about horrible topics like killing a lover, affairs, and death, but these songs have the most feel to them. They connect the most to us.
CM: A man used to say to us, “But the songs are so sad.” I think that was, and is, the point. There’s no point in singing about unrealistic and far-fetched ideas. It isn’t about running away from problems, but walking through the issues of life and dealing with difficult circumstances. It can be raw and haunting or it can be comforting — either way it’s not fake.
Editor’s Note: The Maggie Valley Band will be performing during Oktoberfest at noon Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. Featuring an array of live music, activities, food and beverages, the festival will be from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 2-3. www.maggievalleyoktoberfest.com. For more information, click on www.facebook.com/themaggievalleyband.