Rivers, rains and runaway trains: Tim Surrett of Balsam Range

In its 14 years together, Haywood County’s own Balsam Range has risen into the upper echelon as one of the marquee acts in the national and international bluegrass scene — this once in a generation blend of songbird harmonies and lightning fast finger pickin’. 

That ‘high, lonesome sound’ amid lonesome times

Darren Nicholson has played the Grand Ole Opry and the International Bluegrass Music Association award showcase numerous times. He’s got a bookshelf full of glass IBMA recognitions and more number one bluegrass hits with his band Balsam Range than he has fingers to count with. 

You can’t stop me from dreaming: Bluegrass banjo legend Marc Pruett releases memoir

It’s just after lunchtime at the Haywood County Health Department on a recent chilly afternoon in Clyde. And standing in the front window of the lobby awaiting his appointment for a sit-down interview is Marc Pruett. 

Formerly the county’s erosion control officer for the better part of a quarter-century, Pruett retired some three years ago, only to be asked to come back part-time as the much-needed development services technician (now that the erosion and planning offices have combined). His skill set and personable approach to his position have made him invaluable to those who not only work alongside Pruett, but also cross paths with him — personally and professionally.

In search of that ‘high, lonesome sound’: IBMA awards showcase celebrates 30 years

Just before he entered the main auditorium of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh this past Thursday evening, Darren Nicholson stood back for a moment as he watched the entire bluegrass industry mingle before his eyes.

This must be the place: No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language and knowledge

The first week I lived and worked in Western North Carolina, I slept underneath my desk in the old newsroom of The Smoky Mountain News on Church Street in downtown Waynesville.

Let my life be a light: After banner year, Balsam Range release ‘Aeonic’

Following a second “Entertainer of the Year” award from the International Bluegrass Music Association this past September in Raleigh, the members of Balsam Range went immediately back into the recording booth. 

Hunkered down in the Crossroads Studios in Arden, the quintet burned the midnight oil far into the foliage season, which has resulted in the band’s eighth album, “Aeonic” (out Jan. 4 on Mountain Home Music Company). The record is a testament to the hard work and determination Balsam Range not only possesses, but radiates to inspire those around them, onstage or off. 

Nurturing the ties that bind

I’ve spent most of my career at small newspapers, and one thing I’ve learned is the value of making connections.

I’m not talking connections that bring personal gain, but rather those that bring people together. One of my former publishers used some variation of that word almost every time he talked to reporters and editors responsible for getting out on the street and developing story ideas: “How many people would such and such story connect?” “How can we reach out to that particular community and make some connections?” “We should follow up with that story and connect the dots.”

‘Any old road will take you there’: Balsam Range reflects on successful past, a bright future

In 12 years together, Haywood County-based Balsam Range have played some of the biggest stages in the music industry, and have also taken home some of the highest awards in the bluegrass world. 

Blue collar dreams: Balsam Range wins big at IBMAs

Sitting on a bench in the lobby of the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium last Thursday evening, Marc Pruett waits quietly for the rest of his band, Balsam Range, to arrive for the International Bluegrass Music Association award show. 

Voicing the truths of Southern Appalachia

In the digital age that is the 21st century, and in many aspects of this modern era, the culture and history of Western North Carolina and greater Southern Appalachia is disappearing. 

Whether it be an old-timer passing down their wisdom or listening to a well-aged recording of someone long gone from this earth, or vast shelves of often forgotten books gathering dust at your local library or historical society, how one tracks down the essence of who came before us, and who will surely come after, resides in the annals of storytelling. 

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