At 37, Grace Potter has already positioned herself as one of the finest stage performers and singer-songwriters of the early 21st century. A signature blend of soul, rock, folk and pop sensibilities, she left her native Vermont as a teenager and never looked back.
Before the shutdown of the entire music industry in March 2020 due to the pandemic, The Infamous Stringdusters were widely-regarded as one of the hardest touring, most talented and innovative acts in the bluegrass and jam scenes.
Coming to a stop at the end of the off-ramp of Exit 40 along Interstate 87 last Saturday evening, I turned right and headed down the Spellman Road. Entering the small hamlet of Beekmantown, New York, it’s a few miles from the off-ramp to my parents’ farmhouse.
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’.
Yesterday, at the corner of Brown Avenue and Hazelview Drive in Waynesville, this weird feeling washed over me. The thought of getting older, and to a point to where most of the people that knew you (your stories, personality and ethos) would slowly fade into the background of time and place.
From 1933-1957, Black Mountain College was formed and thrived within the context of its seemingly unconventional methods and ways, only to simply disappear — into the history books of the town it was named after, into the fond memories of those who passed through the magical space along their respective paths in life.
It was a flood of memories I hadn’t thought of in years. There I was on a date with this girl the other day. She works in town, not far from my apartment. A casual conversation turns into a casual drink. Kind of nice to have that rare interaction these days amid “all this,” truth be told.
The sound of thunder and a heavy rain awoke me from a deep slumber. Opening my eyes, I relaxed into the king-sized bed and stared up at the 19th century moldings on the ceiling. Looking out the large bedroom window, I could see a transit bus parked below and a Starbucks sign on the building at the corner.
On March 14, 2020, Songs From The Road Band jumped onstage in the backroom of the Wicked Weed Funkatorium in the South Slope district of Asheville. What was to be a showcase of the immensely talented hometown string band turned out to be the last show within the city limits for the foreseeable future.
Wander along Everett Street in downtown Bryson City these days and you’ll be hard-pressed to find two things: a parking spot and an open bench to sit and enjoy your sandwich.
Though the dining area and main ordering room for The High Test Deli & Sweet Shop remains closed to the public (due to ongoing safety concerns amid the pandemic), an endless stream of hungry faces and fanatic foodies can simply walk up to the takeout window and select from a sea of gut-busting options.
It was probably one of the most uneasy beers I’d ever drank. Sitting on the back porch of Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville, myself and the rest of The Smoky Mountain News staff gathered for one final adult beverage together before we ventured into the depths of the unknown for the foreseeable future.
Sunday morning. Sunshine and blue skies piercing through my dusty bedroom window. I’ve been up an hour or so. And yet, I can’t seem to fully fall back asleep. I keep trying, but remain in this dreamlike state, that void between the waking world and the depths of your subconscious.
In the depths of The One Stop in downtown Asheville on Saturday, members of the Travers Brothership and Abby Bryant & The Echoes were setting up and sound checking for that evening’s inaugural “Blue Ridge Blues Jam.”
It’s Monday evening. A heavy rain is soaking Sylva and greater Jackson County. Passing by the Sylva Shopping Area, the empty parking lot is illuminated by the bright lights of Harold’s Supermarket. The rest of the plaza is closed and dark, save for one bright light at the end of the row, a large window with the word “tattoo” emblazoned on it.
When the trail bends sharply to the right, I know the waterfall is just behind the brush. I can’t see it, but I can hear it. This eternal rush of water cascading down from the farthest reaches of the surrounding mountains.
Before the pandemic and eventual shutdown, The Get Right Band was one of the hardest work musical acts in Western North Carolina. Based out of Asheville, the power rock trio is a cauldron spilling over with indie, folk, reggae, soul and pop influences — a unique mixture that’s become its melodic signature.
Hoisting myself up onto the leather chair, I flipped over and laid on my stomach. I could feel the sharp razor shaving the back of my right leg, just below the calf muscle. A few moments later, the sounds of a vibrating needle echoed throughout the small room.
It’s 8:45 a.m. and 28 degrees outside of Amici’s in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Waynesville. The sidewalk has been shoveled, while the roof of the fine Italian restaurant is still covered in a fresh blanket of snow that had fallen the night before.
Late Thursday night. I’m sitting in my recliner. Netflix and the half-full lukewarm beer next to the chair have both lost my interest. I lean back into a horizontal position and take inventory of my apartment, the humble abode that I’ve called home going on nine years now.
Western North Carolina has lost a truly kind and beautiful soul. Erica Waldrop passed away in a tragic car accident last week. She was a friend to many in Sylva and greater Jackson County. A shoulder to lean on. A smile to brighten your day. She was also a friend of mine, too. A good one.
In his over 30 years of being part of the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville, longtime Executive Director Steven Lloyd has held pretty much every job title within the organization, from stage actor to set designer. But, there was one duty he’d yet to partake in, that is until recently: volunteer.
It was just about a month ago when I received a text from a dear friend, a truly cosmic and beautiful soul. She was heading back to her native home of Western North Carolina to visit family for the first time since November 2019, first time since “all of this” became our new normal.
It’s a label that some avoid at any and all costs. But, for Becky Robinson, it’s a sincere and genuine term of endearment that she wears like a badge of honor: “dive bar.”
“We do wear it as a badge of honor. And I think it’s the comfortability factor,” Robinson said. “I feel that you can come in here and you can be comfortable. You can come in and have a good time. Everybody is welcome. You don’t have to pretend to be somebody else in here — you can just be yourself.”
I didn’t grow up, nor have I ever lived, in the state of Vermont. That, and I’m not a musician, not professionally or in any sort of a talented way in my free time. And yet, I was recently asked by a member of the Vermont musical community to contribute to an uplifting video collage for 2021 and the message of hope for the uncertain future of live music and performers.
An internationally beloved musician, Claude Coleman, Jr. would often find himself in Asheville while on tour drumming with his band, iconic rock juggernaut Ween. Each time wandering through, he would become more enamored with this region. So much so, Coleman relocated here from New Jersey in 2012.
Finishing up my second cup of coffee at Orchard in Waynesville, I gazed out the large bay window onto Depot Street. There’s the historic Haywood County Courthouse, a few vehicles parked on the hill. Snowflakes fluttered down from high above on this Friday morning.
In the pantheon of legendary jam-grass acts, a handful of pioneering bands broke new ground in the 1980s and 1990s by creating a sonic landscape that was a harmonious blend of bluegrass, folk, jazz and acoustic rock sensibilities — this emerging scene focused on rollicking live shows and keen improvisational aspects.
Christmas Eve. Downtown Waynesville. Sitting alone in my one-bedroom apartment, I was bummed that I couldn’t be back home in the North Country for the holidays with my family and friends. Putting on the baseboard heater, I proceeded to make my way to the fridge for a beer.
With a frigid wind pushing across the parking lot of the Clyde Volunteer Fire Department last Saturday afternoon, Santa Claus stood at the base of the World Trade Center memorial in front of the building and paid his respects.
I live in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Waynesville. Been here going on eight and a half years. Aside from my shelves of old books (many already read, most to get to, someday) and vinyl records, there are a handful of old guitars in the corner, of which I’ll pull one or two out around my third beer of the evening, usually strumming some uplifting chords, either through memory or by way of simple curiosity along the fretboard.
I looked at my smart phone. Monday evening. It nearing 9 o’clock and it was high time I made it back home. Finishing my drink, I paid my bar tab at the neighborhood watering hole in downtown Waynesville and went home — just around the corner, a hop, skip and jump from there to here.
For the better part of the last 25 years, the Drive-By Truckers has remained a melodic beacon of truth and light.
A bastion of hard rock and soulful lyrics, the Athens, Georgia-based quintet drags hard truths out of the darkness and into the spotlight for all to see, understand and embrace — realizations that expose decades and centuries of racial injustice, social tragedies and economic strife.
Stepping out of my truck, it was a cold wind rolling off the nearby mountains late Monday afternoon. A stiff breeze pushed across Lake Junaluska as I took the first strides of my four-mile run around the manmade body of water. Heavy snowflakes hit my face. I zipped the jacket closer to my chin.
Though the baseboard heat was on in the living room, my downtown Waynesville apartment was quite chilly come Tuesday morning. Under warm covers with the anticipation of a blanket of white over the mountainous landscape outside the front door.
It’s an unusually warm and sunny day for late November in Macon County. The patio tables at Lazy Hiker Brewing in downtown Franklin are filled with locals and visitors alike, each enjoying the concoctions pouring out of from the large warehouse behind the taproom.
Like every Thanksgiving, I’ll figure something out.
With my family over 1,000 miles away back up in the North Country, I tend to be an orphan during this holiday feast in Western North Carolina. Luckily, over the last eight years here, I’ve been invited into homes all over Southern Appalachia, where the food is plentiful and there’s always an extra seat at the table for you.
Friday morning in downtown Waynesville and Orchard Coffee is bustling. There are those entering and waiting patiently for strong coffee and freshly baked goods, those exiting with full hands and big smiles.
Well, physically, I’m sitting in the back of our office, by myself in the conference room near the kitchen and mini-fridge. The blue coffee cup next to my laptop is full of the caffeinated black liquid that gives me the strength to type fast enough to meet those pesky deadlines.
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