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Appalachian blues: A conversation with Scott Low

Scott Low will play Highlands March 7. Donated photo Scott Low will play Highlands March 7. Donated photo

At 46, Scott Low has a lot to be thankful for.

Beyond his enduring career as a beloved singer-songwriter in the mountains of Southern Appalachia, he’s also a husband, father and fly-fishing guide, one who also owns and operates the Hatch Camp & Art Farm in the rural countryside of Clayton, Georgia.

“I see 50 years old a few miles away and knew it was time to let the art flow and nail some chapters down in my trail of art,” Low said. “I’ve often been jaded by the music business, but now that I have a stage in my front yard, I’ve found a new path with blue and Appalachian music — I feel surrendered to the art.” 

That liberation of the creative self at this juncture of his life is at the heart of Low’s latest album, “The Appalachian Blues.” A raw mixture of blues, indie-folk and alt-country ala Charlie Parr or Taj Mahal, it’s a real portrait of an artist seeking truth through passion.

“Happiness, joy and bliss, even through sad music or the blues, has become the goal — make art that makes the soul move,” Low said. “I’ve never been one to search for hits, maybe to my detriment. So, now I’ve found this sound of Piedmont blues meets Delta blues with a little traditional Appalachia mixed in — it feels like home, I cannot put this down.

To be blunt, it’s one thing to do your own thing as an artist in this modern era of knowns and unknowns, it’s another to do it and do it well, all with integrity and curiosity intact — Scott Low harnesses both in abundance.

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“A venue owner once put a note in my tip jar that read ‘keep making art, not just entertainment.’ That hit me like a train,” Low said. “Music serves so many different purposes to everyone and at different times of the day or life — it means different things to you and me.” 

Originally from Pinehurst, Low grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, only to spend his teenage years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And it was there in the Great Lake State where Low had his epiphany of becoming a musician, specifically witnessing the legend and lore of live performance from the likes of Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan and Phish, who each took the stage at the Kalamazoo State Theater.

“Buddy Guy in 1992 moved me,” Low said. “And I go back and listen to the great Piedmont  and Delta blues artists, where the guitar is really an extension of the voice with call and answer, not drawn out solos over 12-bar blues — Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Blind Willie Johnson.” 

From Kalamazoo, Low hit the road and began the long, winding journey to North Georgia. Initially playing in Michigan punk bands, Low eventually found himself in a jam-band in Bellingham, Washington. Then, there was jazz school in Vancouver, Canada, only to soon land in the Atlanta live music scene.

“To some, music is just background noise. Some folks have their 27 songs they stand upon, while some folks’ music is purely coincidental,” Low said. “But, then there’s the other side, music that makes you crazy obsessive and you know every word and album and even the personal details of an artist’s life — I’ve always followed what moved me from blues to grunge, jam to jazz, southern rock to songwriters.” 

So, why the blues? What about this sacred music and its history?

“Even though it comes from African American oppression and finding some joy or escape in the darkest times, the blues lives within all American music,” Low said. “When I began this road, I was worried about cultural appropriation and I’ve tried very hard to respect the hard, terrible things that racism and slavery have done to this country. And I’ve found what I feel is an authentic way to serve my songs and the history and culture of the blues.” 

With “The Appalachian Blues” now making its way around the back hollers and Main Streets of North Georgia and greater Southern Appalachia, Low is looking forward to not only hosting a slew of gigs this summer at Hatch Camp & Art Farm, but also simply wandering and pondering this all too crazy world of ours, a grin ear-to-ear in gratitude — business as usual for this old soul, carefree being.

“Like John Prine said, ‘I remember everything, ’ and I want to — my kids’ first fish, my wife’s most recent kiss, the song that moves everyone it touches,” Low said. “As artists, we get to leave a trail of our art as a story that can last as long as it’s kept alive — I hope my kids and family can look back and remember the joy, love and heartbreaks I’ve experienced and remember.”

Want to go?

Singer-songwriter Scott Low will be hosting a special album release party for his latest record, “The Appalachian Blues,” at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 7, in The Ruffed Grouse Tavern at the Highlander Mountain House in Highlands.

ae The Appalachian Blues Scott Low

Admission is $5 at the door. There will also be a $20 “Burger & Beer” special. For more information, go to facebook.com/scottlowsongs or highlandermountainhouse.com.

To learn more about the Hatch Camp & Art Farm and its upcoming schedule of events, go to facebook.com/hatchcamp.

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