Why should we care?
“They headed down south and they’re still running today…”
As The Steve Miller Band blasted through the hit song “Take the Money and Run” last Friday evening at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, I found myself standing there, amid several thousand roaring fans, in awe, not only of the music, but of time and place itself.
It was a year-and-a-half ago that Western Carolina University’s director of athletic bands, David Starnes, was asked by United Sound founder Julie Duty to help put together a board for her nonprofit organization, which provides musical performance experiences for students with special needs.
It’s all about the song. That’s what the goal is for Joe Lasher Jr. At 19, the country singer has spent the better part of the last four years zigzagging around Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia, stepping in front of the microphone in countless dive bars, restaurants, festivals and your backyard if the mood is right.
Hailing from Weaverville, Lasher proudly embraces his Southern roots, with a keen awareness of family and friends, that feeling of your place in the world amid those who know you best — around the bonfire, on the lake, in the backwoods and everywhere in-between.
It is for all special occasions.
Pulling off the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway onto the Cabin Flats Road, within an earshot of Waynesville, a cold wind whipped against the pickup truck, signaling to any and all that winter is far from over here in Western North Carolina.
The quiet road soon turns from pavement to gravel to dirt. And just as quickly the Balsam Mountain Inn appears, looming high above Cabin Flats like a postcard of a forgotten era, perhaps lost in the mailroom of time, a point in history when style and class were synonymous.
Heading west on Highway 76, the last of the warm sunshine falls behind the silent Blue Ridge Mountains. With the small town of Clayton, Georgia in the rearview mirror, your eyes aim ahead intently. At the last second, you see Persimmon Road on your right. Not enough time to place your blinker on, but just enough of a moment to tap your brakes and yank the wheel down the road, which shoots out for miles into the backwoods of Southern Appalachia.
There are singers, there are performers, and then there’s Laura Reed.
Wandering the numerous floors and stages of New Mountain Asheville (a wild, freewheelin’ venue) last February, I eventually found myself downstairs in the main room, immersed in a sea of joyous faces, all eager to boogie down to legendary New Orleans funk-n-soul group Dumpstaphunk (featuring Ivan Neville).
The alarm went off on my phone. Monday morning. 6:45 a.m.
It is quite the conundrum, ain’t it?
In an era where mainstream radio hits are shellacked in “sugar and spice and everything nice,” there is an underbelly of sorrow, redemption and flawed beauty (the only true kind of beauty) that is slowly emerging from the depths.