Life is good.

That’s the vibe one gets when chatting with Chris Robinson these days. Former lead singer for legendary rock-n-rock act The Black Crowes, Robinson has spent the better part of the last five years dusting off his feathers as he takes flight into the heavens above with his popular melodic odyssey — The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

It is the rhythm of life.

When you hear the guitar mastery of Tim Reynolds, you’re listening to the joyous and violent sounds of the cosmos. Each note an ocean wave crashing onto the shore, each note a break of sunlight through the dark clouds of the night.

What a year.

That is about all you can say about the past 12 months for Jackson County bluegrass act Mountain Faith. And yet, this past Thursday evening was the cherry on top for the rapidly rising family string band when they received “Emerging Artist of the Year” at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards in Raleigh.

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• Waynesville songwriter nominated by IBMAs
This must be the place: SMN at IBMA

“To be honest, we were just expecting to go to the IBMAs and have a great time jamming and hanging out with our bluegrass friends. We absolutely were not expecting to win an award,” said lead singer Summer McMahan in her trademark modest tone. 

This must be the place

I underestimated it.

Stepping into the grand ballroom at the Raleigh Convention Center last Thursday morning, I really didn’t think the occasion would be as big as it actually was. It was the awards luncheon for the International Bluegrass Music Association and I was among those nominated for “Bluegrass Print/Media Person of the Year.” 

This must be the place

I teared up immediately.

The RPMs hovered around 4,000, the truck huffing and puffing up the steep hillside.

Approaching Sam’s Gap (elevation 3,760 feet) on Interstate 26, I wondered if my old GMC Sonoma (aka: “Grace”) would be able to reach the crest before stalling out and rolling back down into rural Madison County. With Asheville and greater Western North Carolina fading into the rearview mirror, the blazing Friday afternoon sun began to fall behind the Bald Mountains nearing the Tennessee state line.

Celebrating Southern Appalachian culture through concerts, living-history demonstrations, competitions and awards programs, Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on the campus in Cullowhee.

This must be the place

It pushed me back a couple of feet.

Where to from here?

It’s the lingering question within bluegrass and string circles nowadays. Amid the traditional pickers and grinners, there is an urgency arising in recent years, one that wonders just what will happen to the beloved, deeply held music once the last of the elder statesmen vanish.

It’s a feeling rather than an attitude.

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