Archived Arts & Entertainment

Happy to be here: David Holt headlines Oct. 14 Bridge Park Project fundraiser

By Chris Cooper

David Holt is a happy guy. In a recent phone (cell phone, no less) conversation as he strolled down the streets of San Francisco, he let me know one of the reasons why. “I just played the biggest show I’ve ever played,” he said. Accompanying that living, breathing piece of bluegrass history that’s known as Doc Watson, the previous afternoon found Holt playing the Golden Gate Park festival for, oh, about 100,000 music lovers. Which kind of beat me to the whole “favorite moments in your career” question I’d planned to ask later.

Besides dedicating himself to becoming a historian of the folklore, instruments and music of the mountains we call home, David Holt is at heart just another picker that loves what he does. “You’re only as good as your last show,” he said as the traffic rumbled in the background. “Awards don’t make you happy as a musician — at the end of the day, I’d be playing music anyway.” This coming from not only a multiple Grammy award winner, but also a nominee for at least as many efforts as he’s won. Be it hosting the long running Folkways program on PBS, his vast recorded catalog of both solo and accompanist/group material or goofing it up in the Coen brothers’ “Oh Brother Where Art Thou,” Holt personifies the concept of the Appalachian renaissance man.

Holt will bring his formidable talents — as well as those of his talented band of friends known as the Lightning Bolts — to Sylva on Sunday, Oct. 14 to support the benefit for the Bridge Park Project. Holt originally assembled the band, which includes banjo player and former student of Holt’s Laura Boosinger, fiddler Josh Goforth, percussionist (as well as a cartoonist that should seem familiar) David Cohen and bassist Jeff Hersk to perform at a festival in Switzerland. Obviously, something clicked. But the joy isn’t only making the music; it’s in the company. “This is an incredibly versatile band, we have fun with it and it feels like a family,” said Holt. “Since we don’t play together as regularly as my other projects, every musical experience with the Lightning Bolts is special.”

Holt is currently working on a few new projects, including an acoustic slide album and a recording with the Lightning Bolts, which will have a “...real North Carolina flavor.” He’s also looking for some new material, or some lost tunes yet to be re-discovered, from local musicians.

Long a mostly unused stretch of land adjacent to Scott’s Creek and Poteet Park, the site that will become Bridge Park is quickly taking shape. Its significance is clear to Holt, “It’s an important thing for the musicians as well as the community of Sylva. I’ve seen the town not only grow culturally but really ‘come together’ over the years.” The result of this unified vision to better the town will include a pavilion to host festivals, theater and any number of music related events, as well as providing a better layout for the Saturday farmer’s market and simply a beautifully landscaped area to wander through and enjoy.

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On the bill as well will be local hotshot pickers Balsam Range, whose self titled CD was recently reviewed in these pages. Another collection of remarkable talent, this band will surely deliver the high-octane bluegrass goods with fabulous musicianship and gorgeous harmonies. Rounding out the evening will be Sylva mainstays Cooking With Quanta, whose blending of acoustic bluegrass flavor with jam oriented ideas has long made them local favorites. Needless to say, we’re looking at a full day of fantastic music, and even better than that, it’ll be free. Since this is a fundraiser, however, feel free to chip in and help speed the completion of this much-needed addition to Sylva’s downtown.

But David Holt summed the spirit of the day up the best with this, “What better place to be than outdoors in a town like Sylva listening to live music?”

(Chris Cooper can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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