Garret K. Woodward

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Feeling a bit deflated lately. It’s funny how one thing just triggers everything else, this domino effect that tumbles and echoes throughout the infinite physical and emotional chambers of your body, mind and soul. And usually (seemingly) out of nowhere. 

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Although the 5 o’clock dinner rush is still a few hours away, Chef Kanlaya Supachana is zipping around the kitchen of Dalaya, preparing several signature northern Thai dishes with such meticulous and precise care — no small detail overlooked, whether for presentation or palate.

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Standing on the massive main stage at the SweetWater 420 music festival in downtown Atlanta last Saturday afternoon, I hoisted the cold pale ale tallboy high into the air and saluted the moment at hand.

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At age 33, singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson is already building a sturdy, bountiful existence as a beloved troubadour, one whose onstage presence radiates genuine calmness, talent and inclusivity — a similar ethos and aura of solidarity established decades ago by his father, the universal musical institution that is Willie Nelson (who turns 89 this Friday). 

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It was somewhere towards the end of Set One of Night Two of The String Cheese Incident’s gig at the sold-out Salvage Station in Asheville on Saturday evening when the jam-band icons went into its new song, “Into the Blue.” 

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With its latest album, the EP “Into the Blue,” Colorado-based jam-band icons The String Cheese Incident have offered up a glimpse at where the group currently resides on the musical spectrum — everywhere and anywhere inspiration strikes. 

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It was a couple miles beyond the Georgia/South Carolina border heading north on Interstate 95 when the highway sign blinked brightly: “Incident, Mile Marker 14.” Expected delays and brake lights just ahead. 

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Musician extraordinaire. Freelance sniper. Dancer.

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Hopping out of the 15-foot U-Haul truck last week, I reached for the gas pump and began fueling up the thirsty vehicle. It was Hieb’s Cenex gas station on Route 248 between the small town of Reliance, South Dakota (population: 128), and the bustling Interstate 90.

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Sitting at the bar counter of Boojum Brewing in downtown Waynesville one recent evening, John Duncan sips a craft ale, pauses momentarily, and ponders just what it means to be a conduit for the sacred traditions of Southern Appalachian music in the 21st Century — it’s preservation and, ultimately, it’s perpetuation.

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I’m currently on a cross-country road trip. Pictured sitting on the U-Haul is Christine Kavanaugh, aka: “Aunt Chrissy.” I snapped this photo the other day on the side of the road in rural Wyoming off Interstate 90. 

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In the realm of foreign journalism, few correspondents are as fearless and compassionate as Jane Ferguson.

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It was a matter of $50 when my father finally relented to his birthday celebration. In the depths of The Classic Wineseller in downtown Waynesville on Saturday evening, several friends and family came together to celebrate the old man — aka: “the curly wolf,” better known as Frank. 

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It was an odd feeling to wake up in a natural state, rather than be disturbed by the noises of another impending day breaking through. The back bedroom in a small ranch house in the middle of vast swaths of farmland in Southwest Georgia. Silence in the large old brass bed. Sunlight trickled through antique glass windows. 

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Within his iconic melodies that have serenaded our hearts and minds for over a half-century, singer-songwriter Graham Nash is able to capture these vivid snapshots of a time and place, of people and things, these images we've hung up on the walls of our collective memory — the embedded signature of songs immortal.

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It was the sound of a fire truck roaring through downtown Knoxville Monday morning that woke me up. The window curtains were somewhat open. It was cloudy outside, signaling that the sunshine enjoyed yesterday had now moved on.

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I forgot to pull down the window shade and awoke to the early morning light on Saturday. There was a slight drizzle overtaking downtown Asheville. I emerged from the king size bed and reached for the bottle of water on the nightstand. 

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Serendipity is a word Makyia Blair has been using a lot lately. 

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In terms of musical ambassadors within the melodic melting pot of a scene that is Western North Carolina, you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist as dedicated and inclusive as that of Andrew Thelston. 

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It’s Sunday, Feb. 13. The Super Bowl will be underway in about six hours. I’m sitting at a table in the depths of Orchard Coffee in downtown Waynesville. Large cup of coffee (with a shot of espresso) nearby. A breakfast sandwich and yogurt soon to be arriving. 

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Like many recent businesses opening in downtown Canton, it’s usually a story of someone deciding to take a chance on a quiet town — a community full of potential that many have either disregarded or overlooked. 

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It was right around the third drink of the evening when I had the sneaking suspicion an existential crisis was going to rear its head before the night was through. 

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It is said that a cat has nine lives. If so, then singer-songwriter Brock Butler may just be half-feline.

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Just east of Hot Springs, I pulled off U.S. 70 and turned into the small, muddy parking lot. Emerging from the truck, I threw on the rest of my trail running gear. Heading northbound on the Appalachian Trail, the destination was the Rich Mountain Tower. 

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Hailing from the rural panhandle of West Virginia, singer-songwriter John R. Miller is one of the most fascinating and captivating artists in recent memory.

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Right at the line of Graham and Swain counties, along a stretch of N.C. 28, is the entrance to the Tsali Recreation Area. It was late Monday afternoon and the sun was quickly falling toward the horizon.

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In the realm of string and jam music, few acts are as intricately varied as Railroad Earth. Recently crossing over the 20-year mark together, the ensemble is a rich, vibrant blend of bluegrass, roots and folk music, all swirling around a multifaceted penchant for deep improvisation within a live performance. 

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Stepping into the Cresskill Tavern in Cresskill, New Jersey, last Wednesday evening, the place looked the exact same. It had been just about a decade since I last wandered in there. Electric blue painted walls. Pool table. Jukebox. L-shaped bar. Just enough room for you and your friends, but that’s about it.

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What started out as a simple idea to open a bottle shop has morphed into a hub of culinary delights and handmade goods in downtown Waynesville. 

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It’s Saturday evening here at my parents’ 1840 farmhouse in Upstate New York. The temperature is hovering around 15 degrees with a wind chill ducking below zero. It’s Jan. 8 and I was supposed to be back at my humble abode in Western North Carolina on Dec. 30. 

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Raised on a family farm just outside of Greensboro, Jean Osborne was surrounded by hundreds of cows and thousands of acres — a place where she roamed freely and in her own time on her horse. 

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It was about 4:30 a.m. when the cover of the hot tub was finally pulled off and we jumped into the warm waters in the early hours of New Year’s Day. 

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In the long, storied history of jam bands and the rollicking aura of time and space surrounding each unique musical entity, comes the notion of artistic themes and pure mischief at the hands of those on both sides of the microphone. 

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All bundled up and sitting on the frozen, snowy summit of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in the heart of the Adirondacks of Upstate New York on Christmas Eve, I let out a sigh, my breath visible in the 12-degree weather. 

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It’s 8:53 a.m. Room 159. Super 8 Motel. Christiansburg, Virginia. Upon exiting the room in time for the 9 a.m. breakfast cutoff in the lobby, the frozen December air hit my face like a frying pan. Some 27 degrees with sunny skies in the depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

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On Aug. 13, Hannah Burnisky’s longtime dream of owning a pottery studio and art gallery came to fruition when the Cold Mountain Art Collective opened its doors. But, just four days later, on Aug. 17, the downtown Canton business closed — its future uncertain and in limbo. 

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It’s 9:21 a.m. Monday. Room 130. Super 8 Motel on the outskirts of Valdosta, Georgia. The air in the space is cool from the ragged old air-conditioner underneath the window. TV blaring some holiday rom-com flick, but the sound is muted. The Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” swirling around the bed from the laptop speakers. 

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To be blunt? Charlie Parr is one of the finest singer-songwriters today.

Based out of Duluth, Minnesota, Parr is true poet/musician, one who embraces the ebb and flow, the changing landscape of his surroundings, whether it be geographical, seasonal, political or social. 

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It’s 11:16 a.m. Wednesday. Sitting in the lobby of the Dunes Inn & Suites on Tybee Island, Georgia, I can finally collect myself and write this column, seeing as the Wi-Fi is only good in the lobby and not the motel room (#132) at the back of the property. 

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Finishing up my scrambled eggs and black cherry yogurt, I washed the dishes in the small sink. Dried off my hands and took another sip of my coffee. Mosey over to my ragged desk in my humble abode, in front of a dusty window with a slight view of Russ Avenue in downtown Waynesville. 

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Within this modern realm of bluegrass music, there’s a particular sonic revolution occurring — one where once-fringe elements of progressive styles and artistic experimentation have now become the center of the acoustic landscape. 

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On his way from performing at a Sunday church service in Highlands to an afternoon gig at Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg, Darren Nicholson pulled over somewhere outside of Cherokee, right where there was enough cell service to conduct a phone interview. 

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Standing in the photo pit last week between heavy metal icons GWAR and a sold-out roaring audience at The Orange Peel in Asheville was something to behold — more so a spectacle of unknown possibility and artistic merit. 

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Hunkered down at a table in the depths of the cavernous DeSoto Lounge in West Asheville, J.D Pinkus takes a sip from his vodka soda. He adjusts his cowboy hat, leans back into the vinyl bench seat and grins — in awe of the road to the here and now. 

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It was Saturday. Having just strolled into my neighborhood bar in Waynesville, I walked over to say hello to my new musician friends at a nearby table who were performing that night. 

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In a modern world of meaningless priorities, constant distraction, finger pointing and incessant white noise, Hiss Golden Messenger remains a safe haven for those looking to peel back the layers of heaviness we all seem to be carrying around these days. 

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Standing in a sea of thousands of music freaks at the Asheville Civic Center (aka: Harrah’s Cherokee Center) on Sunday evening, it was surreal — more so poignant — to absorb the sights and sounds of Billy Strings on Halloween night. 

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Sitting at a picnic table on the banks of the Pigeon River in downtown Canton, Kevin Sandefur turns around and points to the high-water line on the side of the BearWaters Brewing building. 

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In an effort to bust out of her Virginia hometown and head for the bright lights of Nashville, rising singer-songwriter Karly Driftwood put down her guitar and reached for the stripper pole — eventually gathering up enough dollar bills to fill the gas tank, the hood of the car soon aimed for Music City. 

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