Balsam Range will be beefing up its annual Art of Music Festival next year thanks to a $35,000 grant from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.
“It’s exciting to think about what Haywood County could be. The desire is there.”
— Buddy Melton, fiddler/singer, Balsam Range
It’s inspiring when you come across people who have both a vision and the wherewithal to turn it into reality. It makes me want to climb on board with them and be a part of that success. That’s what I see happening with local bluegrass supergroup Balsam Range and its “Art of Music Festival.”
I’ve lived in Haywood County 1,931 days. It’s also the exact number of days I’ve known Balsam Range.
Within the first hour of my first day in these mountains, I befriended the members of this Western North Carolina bluegrass act. The engine of my truck was still hot due to a nonstop 16-hour/1,000-mile overnight drive from my native Upstate New York to my new gig as the arts and entertainment editor of The Smoky Mountain News in Waynesville.
Leading this year’s International Bluegrass Music Association awards with eight nominations, Haywood County group Balsam Range is atop the mountain of bluegrass.
The eternal struggle of bluegrass is being able to balance evolution with tradition.
How does one adhere to the pickin’ and grinnin’ ways of the old days, but also be able to stretch the boundaries into new and innovative realms? That dilemma currently lies at the feet on the bluegrass world. And yet, as that question remains, so does the internal drive by all of the genre’s musicians to ensure the preservation and perpetuation of this melodic force at the foundation of this country.
Though they walked away empty-handed at last week’s International Bluegrass Music Association award show in Raleigh, acclaimed group Balsam Range has plenty to be proud of.
“David Holt’s State of Music — Live” will take to the stage from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University.
Acts scheduled to join Holt, an icon of traditional music and storytelling, are international sensation Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, award-winning bluegrass favorites Balsam Range, emerging ballad singer Josh Goforth, and the African-American gospel duo of Wilbur Tharpe and Lena Mae Perry, performing as The Branchettes.
It was another banner year for Western North Carolina bluegrass acts at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards in Raleigh last Thursday evening.
Despite torrential downpours, and the possible threat of Hurricane Joaquin making landfall, the industry showcase once again brought together musicians, promoters and bluegrass fans alike for a week of memorable moments, onstage and off.
It’s been two years since Bruce Yarrington and his Knights of Columbus buddies started volunteering at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville. Twice a month the crew makes the trip from Waynesville to cook for the veterans at the center.
I didn’t know who Balsam Range was when I first met them.
On Aug. 10, 2012, I had just moved to Waynesville — literally. A week prior I had accepted the position at The Smoky Mountain News, packed up whatever could fit in my old pickup and drove 1,016 miles overnight from Upstate New York to Haywood County.