It’s good to be the queen: A conversation with Rhonda Vincent

art frIn art, as in life, what matters most is following your heart, never compromising your beliefs and holding steady to a strong sense of integrity.

Bless Your Heart: The state of women in bluegrass

coverDanielle Bishop only cries when she’s mad.

“And was I mad,” she said.

Sitting in a booth at the Papertown Grill in downtown Canton, Bishop’s eyes light up when asked if her aspirations of becoming a touring musician were ever influenced by the fact that she was a woman. Already an acclaimed fiddler at only 20 years old, she has spent most of her life in pursuit of a dream of taking to the open road and sharing her talents with the world. Recently, a popular regional bluegrass outfit was in need of a fiddle player who could also play mandolin and guitar. Bishop is well versed in all three instruments and decided to call for a tryout.

From the border to the backwoods

art balsamrangeI 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.

Hometown heroes: Balsam Range wins big in Raleigh

coverCaleb Smith had no idea.

“I didn’t hear them announce it,” he chuckled. “I was backstage talking to Del McCoury about a guitar and he says to me, ‘Son, I think they just called your name.’”

This must be the place

art theplaceClaire Lynch likes to blur lines.

Born and raised in Upstate New York, she eventually moved away, crossing the Mason-Dixon Line for Alabama at age 12. She carried in her mind the sounds of the 1960s folk scene of Greenwich Village in Manhattan and show tunes echoing from the record player in her childhood home. Soon, she’d cross paths down South with country and bluegrass melodies radiating from Nashville and beyond. 

French Kirkpatrick: The boy from Laurel Branch


French Kirkpatrick just wanted to play music.

“I kind of wanted to be a singer, but I couldn’t sing worth a hoot,” the 75-year-old chuckled. “I wanted to be a regular picker, a banjo player, I even tried to play the fiddle one time, played the harmonica — I was a multiple-testing type of person.”

Liner notes from "Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band"

art CDLiner notes for the new album released by the Great Smoky Mountains Association — “Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band: Old-time Bluegrass from the Great Smoky Mountains, 1956 & 1959.”

Play me that mountain music: Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band

coverFrench Kirkpatrick can sum up Carroll Best.

“What he did with the banjo was above and beyond,” Kirkpatrick said. “He was the most, probably without a doubt, the most creative banjo player I was ever in a room with.”

Recently at his home in Ironduff, a mountain community a few miles outside of downtown Waynesville, Kirkpatrick, an acclaimed musician in his own right, relaxed further back into his couch and reminisced with a smile about his late friend.

All for one, one for all: Behind the curtain of Balsam Range

coverMarc Pruett has won a Grammy and played the Grand Ole Opry stage, but his biggest concern on this day is sinkholes.

“Where is it? Canton?,” he asked a coworker. 

Director of erosion control for Haywood County, Pruett sits at his desk, which is covered in paper, maps and books. After a heavy midday rain, two sinkholes have emerged in downtown Canton. Pruett puts a plan into motion, workers head for the door. 

Playing the sounds of your dreams

art frHe was a toddler with tenacity and talent.

At three years old, Seth Taylor picked up his first guitar. Seeing musicians on television and hearing them on the radio sparked something inside of the Bryson City native. Once that instrument was in his hands, it was like two magnets connecting, where it would take all your might to pull them apart.

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