Tag Archives: Music

Album Review: Time Sawyer’s “Disguise the Limits”

1615077_10203054318422769_40566786_n

The Charlotte-based folk-rock quartet Time Sawyer ups the ante with its fifth LP, “Disguise the Limits.”

Made up of Clay Stirewalt (drums), Houston Norris (banjo), Kurt Layell (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Sam Tayloe (guitar, vocals), Time Sawyer crafts music that takes an honest look at life and builds on the rustic musical traditions of western N.C.

Though still in its infancy, the band has released five albums in four years. Based on the quality of “Disguise the Limits” it appears that Tayloe and Layell’s songwriting well is far from drying up. This album offers a fresh take on the familiar themes of life on the road and love and heartbreak, while bringing a little more grit and gravel than previous installments like “Headed Home” and “Come On In.” The folk has been dialed down, the rock turned up and, thankfully, the banjo remains on cruise-control, carrying the album through its 12 tracks with the punchy grace of an instrument that can do no wrong.

The album opens with “Better Off,” an upbeat break-up tune that sets the tone for the rest that follows. “Appalachian Bound” is the perfect rock-blues getaway anthem — chock full of moonshine barrels, brushes with the law and the wide- open road. On “A Little Bluer,” Time Sawyer hangs up its spurs and succumbs to that moment when love trumps all and future dreams grow straight from the heart. “How It’s Gonna Be” strikes a sweet balance between acoustic and electric, with a distant rolling banjo, muted organ and finely placed guitar riffs.

“Best Be Going” demands attention with its no regrets catchy chorus reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” It is appropriately followed by “A Far Away Farewell from Rose,” perhaps the decades-later follow-up to that fateful day depicted in “Best Be Going.” This jump from youthful defiance to aged reflection stays true to the band’s moniker, and keeps the theme of time at the forefront.

The album pumps the breaks with its closing tracks. “Working Construction” returns to the band’s folk tendencies without feeling recycled or redundant. “West From the Farm” is a heart-wrenching ballad where Tayloe’s vocals drip with authenticity and harmonies, and horns lift lyrics to a weighty place that reveals the pain and remorse tied to lost love. “Tired of this Tired” soars with delicate finger-picking and relevant lyrics that speak to the daily tedium that can drain the heart’s passion and unravel the mind.

The true shining moment on “Disguise the Limits” comes on “210,” where lyrics tell the story of a scorned lover driven to murder. The Mexico-bound outlaw tale is perfectly accompanied by the distant haunted whine of the pedal steel and take-to-the-road banjo runs. “210” is followed and further elevated by “It’s Over (210 Outro),” which fades into a “Hotel California”-esque instrumental that beckons images of a dusty drive into the sunset. Taken together, these two tracks reveal Time Sawyer’s growing ability to create vivid imagery through songwriting and arrangement.

Collectively, “Disguise the Limits” succeeds by combing the fugitive attitude of “Roadhouse” and “Smokey and the Bandit” with the heartbreaking infidelity and reality of “Honeysuckle Rose.” Runaway, tender, playful and pensive moments are strewn strategically throughout the album, creating a cohesive storyline that undulates like the plot of a favorite desperado movie. The album shows a definite progression and maturation despite the band’s short timeline, and is sure to gain momentum as one of the better albums released by a rising North Carolinian band this year.

In addition to the release of “Disguise the Limits,” 2014 will continue to be a huge year for Time Sawyer as the band makes its debut at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C. on Sunday, April 27. Visit www.timesawyer.com to learn more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Review

FloydFest Steps Up Outdoor Activities for Revolutionary Year

logo-floydfest13

FloydFest isn’t just a music festival in southern Virginia.  It’s an outdoor extravaganza–an unique experience that finds itself closer to perfection each and every year.  Now in it’s 13th year, FloydFest boasts not only a stellar musical lineup, but also a plethora of outdoor activities that can be nestled between sets, allowing FloydFestivarians the chance to find their chi right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This year’s festival, which runs from July 23-27th, offers attendees a 5-day staycation, packed with easily-accessible outdoor activities for all ages.  For 2014, FloydFest has partnered with some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry to provide festival-goers with top-notch outdoor experiences and access to the highest quality outdoor gear on the market.

Join Osprey Packs for guided hikes along the Blue Ridge trails, or challenge yourself at Vasque Footwear’s 2nd Annual 5K trail race.  If you’d rather bike the Blue Ridge, grab a free rental from Roanoke-based Starlight Bicycles  and sign up for the Belcher Mountain Beat Down.  Made possible by VA-based Tangent Outfitters and the Moonstompers Bike Club, this 16-mile mountain bike tour takes riders through the Blue Ridge on a unique hand-built, single-track trail.  If water is more of your thing, join local partner On the Water for five opportunities to take a paddling trip down a gorgeous, undeveloped stretch of the Little River.  Relax and rejuvenate back at the festival site with a round of disc golf on FloydFest’s Innova-sponsored 9-hole course, or taking a nap at the ENO Hammock lounge.  Later, join the US National Whitewater Center for a Sunday night after-party at the Beer Garden. Be sure to stop by FloydFest’s Outdoor Adventures Headquarters for trip information and sign-ups, bike rentals, trail maps, and more.

Additionally, FloydFest has paired up with the following outfitters and regional events for fun ticket giveaways and prize packages:

Chacos

The official sandal sponsor of FloydFest is giving away a pair of tickets as part of their 25th anniversary “Fit for Adventure” tour.  See them at FloydFest for fun activities, a photo booth, and chances to win footwear.

Get Out More Tour

FloydFest will be joining the one-of-a-kind mobile tour at 15 stops throughout the Southeast region, offering prizes and ticket giveaways along the way.  At FloydFest, join in the hunt for a Geo-Cache full of goodies that’s been stashed deep in the woods around the festival site.

Great Outdoor Provision Company

FloydFest has teamed up with North Carolina specialty outdoor retailer to host a Festival Preparedness Clinic at their Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte, NC locations in April.  Ticket giveaways will run at all seven GOPC store locations from the end of May to July 1st.

REI – Richmond, VA

The national outdoor retail co-op will host a Festival Survival Clinic June 2nd at the Richmond, VA store location. The clinic will provide tips on what and how to pack for outdoor festivals while giving away a set of weekend pass tickets to a lucky clinic attendee.

Mountain Junkies

Whether you’re a ‘Mountain Junkie’ already or soon to be one, the Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series will provide FloydFest promotional giveaways at each of their race events. Each race offers a tough challenge as you race up the mountain, but the locations are equally captivating.

Roanoke Outside

Dubbed America’s Toughest Road Marathon, The Blue Ridge Marathon takes place on April 26th.  FloydFest has paired with Roanoke Outside to provide FloydFest-related prizes to lucky marathoners.

“We want to give FloydFest fans endless opportunities to explore and enjoy the amazing outdoor activities that this area has to offer,” says FloydFest co-founder and producer, Kris Hodges.  We’re very fortunate to work with outdoor partners and vendors who are committed to providing a top-notch outdoor experience for our attendees.”

Driven to be the best music festival experience of our time, FloydFest is committed to selling a limited quantity of tickets to the highest quality event experience, bar none, celebrating music, art, and life in an intimate and visually stunning environment.  For more information on FloydFest, including ticket prices and the full 2014 ‘Revolutionary’ artist line-up, visit www.floydfest.com or call 1-888-VA-FESTS.

Leave a comment

Filed under Festivals, Live Shows

Evolution starts young…

Molding the future fans and musicians should and often does start in utero.  This little girl and her dad are perfect examples of how much love, joy, and fun music can bring into our lives.  I’ll be watching this on repeat today!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Interview – Bob Crawford of The Avett Brothers

IMG_1443

Just in time for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, I caught up with Bob Crawford, bassist for The Avett Brothers, to talk about their new album “The Carpenter”, their first Grammy nomination, songwriting, and learning to play the fiddle, among other things:

EOAF: Congratulations on the success of “The Carpenter”.  How would you describe the album?

Crawford: Mature, thoughtful, intentional, poignant, pensive.  I think it’s heavy, and I think that’s where…I’ve had friends that I have had since I was 19, I’m 40 now.  I’ve had them say “I don’t know about this one.  It’s not your best.”  I think maybe we lose some people as we go, but maybe we gain people in some ways.  Maybe people come and go.  It’s not 2007 anymore, and it’s not 2005.  It’s a different time for us and I think you are being honest about where you are in life and that being reflected in your art and what you do and the way you do it.  It’s definitely going to change.

EOAF: How do you feel about how songs from “The Carpenter” have translated live?

Crawford: Oh they are great!  I think they have really translated.  You know what they have done?  Some of them,  like “A Father’s First Spring” and “February 7”, some of these song help us slow down on stage and try to meditate on being intense and calm at the same time.  It’s been a lot of fun.  It’s really fun to translate something like that live.  We’ve had slow songs in the past–God knows we have tons of them.  There’s a controlled, an intentional controlled aspect that comes musically, like a hang-there-in-space-and-time and have that patience.  I’ve always thought Neil Young did that so well with songs like “Harvest Moon”–how he could have a very intense mid-tempo.  That’s tricky for a musician.  It’s very hard.  The inclination is to play faster, because your heart is beating faster because you are on a stage and there are people.

EOAF: Is there any song from The Carpenter that you really love to play live?

Crawford: “Live and Die” is getting really comfortable.  It’s starting to feel like an old trusty.  We are getting better, with the last two albums, at holding songs back before the release.  We were never good at that before.  We’ve gotten better at that.  When you record the song, but you don’t really know them, you know your part and you know the section that you did a million times, but you don’t know it like when you are on stage and let it fall out of you.  When you record the record, there’s about a year before you really start playing the songs intently and constantly, and then they take on a life of their own.  So, they are coming.  Some of them are still in the coming phase, but some of them have been very surprising to play, like “Life” has been fun to play and “Paul Newman [vs. the Demons]” has been fun to play.  That can be really fun to play.

EOAF: You played “Life” for the first time live at The Christmas Jam in Asheville.  That was exciting to see you guys added last minute to the line-up.  How was that experience for you?

Crawford: It was fun!  Scott [Avett] and I used to live in Asheville, and I remember a time when the Christmas Jam came around.  For a couple of years we were asked to participate, but we do our New Year’s show in Asheville.  So it was finally good that this year we could be a part of it. It was really great, because we hadn’t played together in about a month and a half.  I mean we had practiced, but we hadn’t done a show.  It was fun because I was actually really nervous, but we did great.  I was like, “This is great I am nervous!  This is awesome.”

EOAF: That is a great feeling, and it was also a very different crowd.  The majority of the people there were sort of that jam-band crowd.

Crawford: Yeah!  It was nice to get that support.  I could also tell from the stage that [the audience was] really there to see String Cheese [Incident].  That made if fun.  It was nice to be in a room that we’ve sold out, and played two nights there before, and for it to be a new room—for the lighting to be different and for there to be no backdrop behind us.

EOAF: “The Carpenter” was nominated for the Best Americana Album award for this year’s Grammy’s.  Congratulations!  Where were you when you found out? 

Crawford: Thank you so much.  I was at home in bed.  I started getting texts saying “Congratulations” and this and that.

EOAF: How does the Grammy nomination play into your or The Avett Brothers’ definition of success?

Crawford: I think it’s always nice to be patted on the back, or nice to have someone tell you good job.  Let’s face it.  It’s great to get a compliment.  I mean, it’s always nice, but I don’t think it’s why we do it, and it’s not even necessary for us to continue doing it—to get those kind of accolades.  We’re going to keep doing what we do probably until it doesn’t seem useful anymore, until there’s no need to write songs, until we feel like we’ve plateaued, or we feel like we have nothing to say, or until people stop coming to see us live.  But I think the first thing, besides a tragedy, that would hasten us not doing it would be if we had nothing to say.  We always told ourselves earlier that we would stop doing it if it seemed like we plateaued—if it seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere any longer, you know.  I don’t know that we are there yet.  I think we hope to do it forever. Maybe there are years to take off, or we can take a break, but I hope it can still exist in the same light.

EOAF: It is great that you guys have been getting recognized more for what you are doing.  In that notoriety you have been asked to play with some pretty big names over the past two years—Bob Dylan, you’ve played for Tom T. Hall, and you did the Crossroads sessions with Randy Travis.  Is there anything from those specific experiences that really stands out to you? 

Crawford: Well they are all really touching and exciting.  Obviously the Bob Dylan thing is surreal.  It’s even surreal now because it doesn’t even feel like it really happened.  You know? It’s one of those things.  “Did that really happen?”  It was really exciting to work with Randy Travis.  He was great, I mean really awesome.  He was great to be around and a really nice guy.  I think we really blended well together.  I think it’s a nice match and definitely a connection there.  They are all really great, but we have to keep in mind that to share the stage with somebody or to collaborate isn’t the main thing.  To be able to do these things is great, and we should be thankful for them, enjoy them and savor the moment, but it’s not the main thing.  Take it as it comes, but we have that thing that we do and that needs to come first and foremost.

EOAF: Did you grown up in NJ?

Crawford: I did, I grew up in South Jersey.

EOAF: So is it safe to assume that you didn’t grow up listening to people like Doc Watson and Tom T. Hall?

Crawford: Yes, I started listening to Doc Watson in 1992.  A friend of mine drove me down to MerelFest.  Actually, the first time I saw Doc was at the Cowtown Bluegrass Festival with that same friend who told me about MerleFest.  Then I saw Doc I saw at The Bottom Line in New York City before I moved down here.  I remember the first time I saw him my friend was like, “That’s a legend.  You got to see a legend”.  I didn’t even know who he was at the time.  I was fortunate enough to see him many, many times after that.  We opened up for him one time and of course we played MerleFest all those years, and the last time I saw him was when we played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.  He was out there and he was playing with David Holt, and we watched him from the side of the stage.  I’ll never forget it.  It was a very sad day when he passed–very, very sad day.

EOAF: You have recently added the mandolin and fiddle to your contributions to the band.  How did that come about?

It came about because Scott and Seth [Avett] are very open to and very supportive of things that I try to do.  The fiddle has been the most recent, and I seem to be getting some traction with it.  Beginning to play something at the age of 40, you know, I wish I’d been playing all of these instruments when I was 15 or 16 years old, but that wasn’t the case.  But the fiddle has been a real mental savior the past couple of years for me, and I feel myself growing in it in a lot of ways.  Scott and I–before my daughter got sick–we started playing old-time music like Tommy Jarrell and Skillet Lickers, Charlie Poole, and Uncle Dave Macon–just old-time music and we would just kind of go do our thing.  Doc Watson when he was very young with Clarence Ashley, that’s a really good album if people can find that—really, really good.  Doc was very, very young.  It’s awesome.  Anyway, we’d just be backstage and play these old-time tunes and try to learn them.  They were just claw hammer banjo and fiddle tunes.  It just kind of grew out of that.  We still do it.  When my daughter got sick, he’d come visit me at the hospital, and we would play.  It’s kind of our thing.  Hopefully someday…well maybe even not…maybe it doesn’t have to be something that we do for people.  Maybe it’s actually something that we can do for us, but it’s been a lot of fun.

EOAF: The cool thing about when you get in the spotlight on stage, is that everyone just goes crazy.  I think it stems from the fact that the spotlight is always on Scott and Seth so much, but the fact is that you are the third brother.  When you sing your songs or do your upright bass spin [the crowd goes wild].  By the way how many revolutions can you get on that thing when you spin it around?

Crawford: (Laughs) Well like I always say, any monkey can spin a bass, and someday I am going to teach one to do it just to prove my point.  But I love this job I have and the guys I travel with and play with. I’ve been blessed in so many ways, and I am so thankful for that.  I just want to enjoy my remaining years, as many as they may be, just playing music and loving music and learning songs.  I have just been fortunate with life.

EOAFr: Have you done any songwriting recently for yourself or your side projects?

Crawford: Not since my daughter got sick.  David Childers and I did another Overmountain Man record, which will be out January 22 (“The Next Best Thing”, Ramseur Records).  It was recorded before Hallie (Crawford’s daughter) got sick, and I’ve got several songs that are on that [album].  The fiddle was kind of that thing that I did when things got out of the critical phase and I had time to tinker, you know like 45 minutes a day, or a half hour a day in the hospital.  I just kind of tinkered on the fiddle and tried to get to know that more.  I feel myself closer to writing now.  I write down little things here and there.  I think at some point, there was a time after Hallie got sick, I thought, “I’m living it, I don’t have to write about it,” you know?  Life is so intense I don’t have too much time for that.  I think the big thing that we’ve been though–my family and people who have been through far different and far worse things—in some ways sometimes I think there are far worse things that you can go through as horrible as what we have gone through.  You kind of get the feeling, and not in a bad way, that no one can really understand what you are going through or what you feel, like your friends and family members.  You kind of just feel like, man, you kind of feel frustrated and angry.  You don’t want anyone to go through what you are going through.  You certainly wouldn’t even want your worst enemy to go through what you are going through, so you feel like no one really understands what you are going through.  The idea of writing about it—if someone can’t truly understand or empathize, for good reason–what would be the point?  Other than journaling, which I have done intentionally, how would it come out and what would you say?  I think it’s just a matter of getting my head to the right place to write about it.  I think I am going to write at some point, I just don’t know what or when.

EOAF: In terms of your daughter, the entire Avett Nation community has been hopefully uplifting for you and your family.  Since then—and probably before then–a lot of the fans have gotten together around Avett Brother shows, and organized community events or fundraisers.  How does that make you feel, and what part do you think you guys play in that?

Crawford: I don’t know what part we play in it.  We do what we can, and we do as much as we can.  I know we all have charities that we support and try to do all we can for.  I am really glad people do it.  Any kind of service, I’m glad people do it.  I’d like to dedicate my life more to service.  Any time you can serve someone else, it’s probably the greatest thing you can do as a human being.  When I think about God and practicing your faith, I think that service to others is probably number one to what we can all do as human beings.  I don’t think I’ve served anyone as well as I think that my wife and I and our family has been served during our time.  We’ve been served amazingly by so many, so many friends and family members, and of course the Avett family and the Avett community has served us as well. I think that is something that I always keep my mind present to—ways to serve.  I just think service is one of the most important things that we can all be doing.  Look at the world and the country and people’s attitudes, people being divided along political lines—I think if people just focused on serving each other and serving someone other than themselves, a lot of these compromises we need would be evident.

EOAF: You guys used to play at Peasants here in Greenville, right?

Crawford: Yes, we did.

EOAF: Did you know they are reopening?

Crawford: No, but I am glad to hear that.

EOAF: There is a push to get music back in Eastern NC, so if you all are ever back in this neck of the woods, even if any of your side projects want to come through here, I know the town would be very happy to have you. 

Crawford: Thank you!

EOAF: By all accounts you were pretty instrumental in pushing the [Avetts] out of their comfort zones and having them go on tour in the beginning.  There are obviously tons of young singer/songwriters and bands in the Eastern NC area trying to make it, for example, Nick and The Babes is just one of them.  What would be your advice to a young band or singer/songwriter out of this area who really wants to get noticed?

You mentioned Nick.  He and I are friends and have worked together a little bit.  I definitely think that people should take notice to them.  I think that the advice is to get out of the area.  Spend as much time as possible on the road and just travel around and around and around and around and just try to share what you do with the country.  There really is no easy way.  I can only say this because this is what we did, and this is what works for us.  There are probably other ways to do it but I don’t know those ways.  I haven’t experienced that.  I know there is a ton of talent out there, and I wish this was a time in my life when I could go out and see more of it.  I know there are a lot of really great musicians and there is plenty to be taking notice of.   I hope they will have the presence of mind to reach outside of their comfort zone and listen to some other music.

The original interview appeared in Mixer Magazine.  I would like to thank Bob Crawford for his time. To learn more about The Avett Brothers and their music, please visit www.theavettbrothers.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interview, Music

Jim Avett @ In Your Ear Recording Studio – Richmond, VA

Storytelling and Songs

Storytelling and Songs

To launch their 2013 concert series, JAMinc.–a local non-profit organization that promotes music appreciation through education, performance, and support–brought in singer/songwriter/master storyteller Jim Avett from Concord, NC to perform for a sold-out crowd at In Your Ear Recording Studio in Richmond, VA this past Friday night.

As a part of his collaboration with JAMinc., Jim spent time before his evening performance visiting two Richmond schools–Maggie Walker Govenor’s School and Douglas Freeman High School. This push to get talented musicians into Richmond area schools is part of the core mission at JAMinc. Over the past decade, they have successfully reached over 47,000 K-12 students in the Richmond area.

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

During his time with the students, Jim shared his stories and songs, and offered them encouragement rooted in reality. He “encouraged them to be the best they can be,” not only in music, but also in life. This “just do your best” theme is pervasive in any music from the Avett family, indicating a firm belief that each of us has a purpose in life, and doing our best is always enough to make an impact.

Later that evening, music lovers gathered in the listening room at In Your Ear Recording Studio for Jim’s show. Many of those present had never seen Jim perform live, but were eager and excited to hear the music of the Avett family patriarch. Little did they know, they were not only about to hear a gifted singer/songwriter, but also one of the best storytellers this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Unlike the crowd, I have had the pleasure of seeing Jim Avett perform several times. While no two shows are alike, I have heard most of his stories a time or two. Though he is always quick to apologize for his redundancy, it is in his redundancy that lessons are reinforced and new connections to music are created. Therefore, it’s not surprising to still find myself completely engaged and entertained when he dives into one of his old trusty tales about getting his first guitar, the art of picking, or his admiration for great songwriters like Tom T. Hall. Somehow Jim’s stories never wear thin. They never get old. Perhaps it’s his lighthearted country charm and down-home humility, or the simple wisdom and appreciation for what is true that keeps listeners like myself coming back for another helping of Jim Avett.

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

Photo by: Andy Garrigue

Flanked by lead guitarist Ray Morton and fiddlers Ali and Justine Parker, Jim took the stage in his trademark cowboy hat and black leather vest, and did what he does best–took listeners on a musical journey through his life. During the first half of the show, Jim wove childhood stories in with the songs that have shaped him into the musician he is today. His set list was thoughtful–deliberately complimenting tales about growing up in the foothills of NC, learning his first guitar chord progressions, and stealing history lessons from Johnny Horton songs. He delighted the captivated audience with classics like, All I Have to do is Dream, Wreck of the Old ’97, Sink the Bismarck, Keep on the Sunny Side, (Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine, and Hey Good Lookin’.

After a short intermission, Jim, Ray and Ali returned to the stage to play original tunes from Jim’s most recent albums “Tribes” and “Second Chance”–and you better believe that the stories continued as well. As Jim explained the details behind each songs, it was evident that he not only writes from personal experiences, but also through a keen observation of others, which he displayed in songs like Willard and Decisions. Through his tough facade, hardened by a lifetime of honest and dirty work, a sweet and candid family man emerged as he spoke fondly of his his wife Susie and their three children. With ease, he admitted his propensity for writing love songs, before transitioning into some of his favorites including Leaving Knoxville, Through the Passing Years, Tribes, and Saying Goodbye. Jim also treated the audience to a new song called, World Goes Round and Round–a heartfelt story of a grandaddy walking along a wooded path with his granddaughter and offering up a lifetime of advice.

With his first performance in Richmond, VA on the books, Jim proved, once again, that he is a master of lyrical imagery. With his stories and songs, he painted a picture of a simpler, fonder time that many of us long for, as we forge ahead into the tech-savvy, hustle-bustle world in which we live.

In a city so defined by its history, Jim Avett has gifted Richmond with his own little piece of the past–a kind reminder that sometimes we must look back through the history of music to allow ourselves to evolve and move forward in our own story and song.

Take a listen to a short interview with Jim just before his set at In Your Ear Recording Studio:

2 Comments

Filed under Live Shows, Music

A Legend Lost – Doc Watson (1923-2012)

Docs in Boone, NC

This week we lost one of our most treasured Americans.  After a full life of hard work and harder flatpicking, legendary musician Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson peacefully passed on at the age of 89.  Born in Deep Gap, NC, Doc was known far and wide as a masterful guitarist and storyteller whose music spread across countless genres, including folk, bluegrass, country, gospel and blues.

Two years ago I was fortunate enough to catch Doc’s set at the Newport Folk Festival.  I, like many who did not grow up in the south, knew ‘of’ Doc but was not being very familiar with his canon of work.  When I saw that he was in the line-up, I knew I couldn’t miss out on the chance to see and hear him perform live.  On that sunny Saturday in late July, festival goers of all ages funneled their way into the small space between the main Fort Stage and side Harbor Stage to be within an ear shot and maybe even get a glimpse of NC’s native son.  Joined on stage by his longtime musical partner David Holt and grandson Richard Watson, Doc treated us all to an unforgettable musical experience that afternoon.

During his set I felt like I was sitting on Doc’s front porch listening to him pick, sing, and tell stories, rather than standing shoulder to shoulder in the hot sun with hundreds of fans.  His songs told stories of love, the Lord, and life’s lesson.  Between songs, he captivated the audience with tales of his childhood and his lovely wife Rosa Lee.  Despite his age, Doc still possessed an impressive nimbleness in his fingers and a childlike spirit.  There was a natural ease about him as he talked to his fans as if they were kin.  Throughout the set, bouts of laughter and song rang out from the crowd, and it was easy to see how this humble, honest man from NC had made such a profound impact the world of music over his lifetime.

Doc Watson was one of the greatest musicians of all time, and he selflessly shared that gift with the world over the past eight decades.  While Doc certainly leaves behind a tremendous musical legacy, he also leaves each of us a sweet reminder to make the best of the life we are given.  Though he wanted to be seen as “just one of the people”, Doc will always be remembered as a gift from above.  Rest in peace Doc.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Music that Matters – Raleigh’s Racing The Cure Benefit

Brotherly Love

There are certain lengths that a friend will go to help another friend in need.  For Grayson Currin, this meant organizing and seamlessly executing the Racing the Cure Benefit for Oliver Gant, a one-night four-venue music event that raised over $45,000 to help a brave young boy fight the battle of his life (Read: Oliver Gant’s story).

Last Friday night in downtown Raleigh, over 1,700 music fans were treated to the sounds of North Carolina’s finest musicians–including The Avett Brothers, The Love Language, Bombadil, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Jack the Radio, Annuals, and The Old Ceremony–all in the name of charity.

The venues, ranging in capacity from ~250 to 800, provided music lovers with a more intimate environment in which to experience their favorite bands.  This was especially true for fans of The Avett Brothers, who currently sellout venues that hold several thousand.  The chance to see The Avett Brothers in a venue that holds 250 people drove some of their more diehard fans to start lining up at King’s Baracade as early as 9 o’clock Friday morning.  By the afternoon, the line of fans camped out in chairs neared the block’s corner.  Curious pedestrians inquired about the line and quickly learned about Oliver’s event.  I can imagine that soon thereafter, a feverish round of desperate texts and tweets were fired off by said curious pedestrians to track down the last few tickets floating around Raleigh.  This was an event not to be missed!

I was lucky, or crazy according to some, to have scored the first spot in line at King’s that morning.  Some people questioned my judgement, my employment status, and my priorities, but I didn’t care.  We should be using vacation days to support events that are rooted in everything good in our world–friendship, music, philanthropy, and community.  These are the things that matter in life.  The experience of connecting with other fans in line, meeting those closely connected to the cause, and standing center stage in front of Scott and Seth Avett while listening to their beautiful music, was well worth the time and energy I spent.  I’d surely do it again in a heartbeat.

Seth Avett

The brothers Avett, stripped down with only a guitar, banjo and microphones, took the stage around midnight.  The crowd erupted with applause and excitement as those homegrown, humble boys from Concord opened with their heart-wrenching family ballad, Murder in the City.   Family is an omnipresent theme at all Avett shows, and it was evermore present that night as Scott and Seth played and sang from their hearts to honor their friend Jed Gant (Oliver’s dad) and his family.  For these Avett boys, family extends far beyond one’s genetic code.  It is a pervasive term that leeches its way into the all of the lives they affect with their music, art, and generosity.

Scott Avett

What was supposed to be a 25-minute set, thankfully stretched into a 50-minute set with gems like When I Drink, January Wedding, Denouncing November Blue, In the Curve, Go to Sleep, I Killed Sally’s Lover, and At the Beach.  Scott and Seth gave every bit of energy they had and looked like they were having a blast doing it as well.  Half-way through the set, after thanking Jed for inviting them to be a part of such an important event, Seth said, “We’re gonna play one of the songs we always used to play back when we first met Jed many years ago.  This one’s called Cigarettes and Whiskey.”  The crowd went crazy as the brothers added their own Cabarrus County charm to this old country classic.  They quickly downshifted into a beautiful version of Doc Watson’s Look up Look Down that Lonesome Road.  Minus a few token cat calls, the audience had hushed to hear that Avett harmony, all while near or distant memories of love lost stirred deep within.  This is why The Avett Brothers have fans lined up at 9am for a midnight show.  Their music digs up raw human emotions that make us feel reborn and alive.  They make us remember what we’ve been through and look ahead to better days.

They ended their set with a song that has become a staple in their shows as of late–gospel hymn A Closer Walk with Thee.  What a fitting way to end a show of this magnitude–with grace, hope and faith.  To Grayson Currin and everyone else involved in making the Racing the Cure Benefit for Oliver Gant a success, thank you for promoting music that really matters and for supporting a cause bigger than all of us.  To the Gant family, our prayers are with you always.  Keep fighting Oliver!

6 Comments

Filed under Live Shows, Music, Review