Like many recent businesses opening in downtown Canton, it’s usually a story of someone deciding to take a chance on a quiet town — a community full of potential that many have either disregarded or overlooked.
Just east of Hot Springs, I pulled off U.S. 70 and turned into the small, muddy parking lot. Emerging from the truck, I threw on the rest of my trail running gear. Heading northbound on the Appalachian Trail, the destination was the Rich Mountain Tower.
Right at the line of Graham and Swain counties, along a stretch of N.C. 28, is the entrance to the Tsali Recreation Area. It was late Monday afternoon and the sun was quickly falling toward the horizon.
In the realm of string and jam music, few acts are as intricately varied as Railroad Earth. Recently crossing over the 20-year mark together, the ensemble is a rich, vibrant blend of bluegrass, roots and folk music, all swirling around a multifaceted penchant for deep improvisation within a live performance.
Stepping into the Cresskill Tavern in Cresskill, New Jersey, last Wednesday evening, the place looked the exact same. It had been just about a decade since I last wandered in there. Electric blue painted walls. Pool table. Jukebox. L-shaped bar. Just enough room for you and your friends, but that’s about it.
It’s Saturday evening here at my parents’ 1840 farmhouse in Upstate New York. The temperature is hovering around 15 degrees with a wind chill ducking below zero. It’s Jan. 8 and I was supposed to be back at my humble abode in Western North Carolina on Dec. 30.
In the long, storied history of jam bands and the rollicking aura of time and space surrounding each unique musical entity, comes the notion of artistic themes and pure mischief at the hands of those on both sides of the microphone.
All bundled up and sitting on the frozen, snowy summit of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in the heart of the Adirondacks of Upstate New York on Christmas Eve, I let out a sigh, my breath visible in the 12-degree weather.
It’s 8:53 a.m. Room 159. Super 8 Motel. Christiansburg, Virginia. Upon exiting the room in time for the 9 a.m. breakfast cutoff in the lobby, the frozen December air hit my face like a frying pan. Some 27 degrees with sunny skies in the depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
On Aug. 13, Hannah Burnisky’s longtime dream of owning a pottery studio and art gallery came to fruition when the Cold Mountain Art Collective opened its doors. But, just four days later, on Aug. 17, the downtown Canton business closed — its future uncertain and in limbo.
It’s 9:21 a.m. Monday. Room 130. Super 8 Motel on the outskirts of Valdosta, Georgia. The air in the space is cool from the ragged old air-conditioner underneath the window. TV blaring some holiday rom-com flick, but the sound is muted. The Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” swirling around the bed from the laptop speakers.
It’s 11:16 a.m. Wednesday. Sitting in the lobby of the Dunes Inn & Suites on Tybee Island, Georgia, I can finally collect myself and write this column, seeing as the Wi-Fi is only good in the lobby and not the motel room (#132) at the back of the property.
Finishing up my scrambled eggs and black cherry yogurt, I washed the dishes in the small sink. Dried off my hands and took another sip of my coffee. Mosey over to my ragged desk in my humble abode, in front of a dusty window with a slight view of Russ Avenue in downtown Waynesville.
Within this modern realm of bluegrass music, there’s a particular sonic revolution occurring — one where once-fringe elements of progressive styles and artistic experimentation have now become the center of the acoustic landscape.
On his way from performing at a Sunday church service in Highlands to an afternoon gig at Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg, Darren Nicholson pulled over somewhere outside of Cherokee, right where there was enough cell service to conduct a phone interview.
Standing in the photo pit last week between heavy metal icons GWAR and a sold-out roaring audience at The Orange Peel in Asheville was something to behold — more so a spectacle of unknown possibility and artistic merit.
Hunkered down at a table in the depths of the cavernous DeSoto Lounge in West Asheville, J.D Pinkus takes a sip from his vodka soda. He adjusts his cowboy hat, leans back into the vinyl bench seat and grins — in awe of the road to the here and now.
In a modern world of meaningless priorities, constant distraction, finger pointing and incessant white noise, Hiss Golden Messenger remains a safe haven for those looking to peel back the layers of heaviness we all seem to be carrying around these days.
Standing in a sea of thousands of music freaks at the Asheville Civic Center (aka: Harrah’s Cherokee Center) on Sunday evening, it was surreal — more so poignant — to absorb the sights and sounds of Billy Strings on Halloween night.
In an effort to bust out of her Virginia hometown and head for the bright lights of Nashville, rising singer-songwriter Karly Driftwood put down her guitar and reached for the stripper pole — eventually gathering up enough dollar bills to fill the gas tank, the hood of the car soon aimed for Music City.
By the time you read this, my folks will be motoring through Southwestern Virginia, probably deciding whether to just keep driving back to their native Upstate New York via Interstate 81 or maybe east onto I-64 and Charlottesville to visit Monticello again.
With a slew of chart-topping bluegrass hits, including the No. 1 “Dark Side of the Mountain,” Cherryville-based string quintet Unspoken Tradition represents the latest chapter of the “high, lonesome sound” in Western North Carolina and greater Southern Appalachia.
Amid the rich, vibrant musical tapestry of bluegrass, Americana, blues and folk at the core of Western North Carolina’s storied music scene, there are a handful of rising stage acts taking those roots influences and putting a more contemporary spin on it.
It was mid-afternoon Sunday and I couldn’t stand to be in my apartment another minute. I was done with all my writing for the day. I’d already eaten a hasty breakfast and had two iced coffees. It was time to disappear into the depths of Mother Nature.
On its new four-song EP, “Bloomin’,” Athens, Georgia-based rock outfit Futurebirds tapped Carl Broemel to not only produce the album, but also collaborate, as heard on the powerhouse track “Blue Eyed Girl.”
Finishing my beer and burger, I emerged from the depths of Jimmy V’s bar in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel in downtown Raleigh last Thursday evening. In a sport coat, dress shirt and bolo tie, I headed for the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Putting the truck into park, I hopped out of the Tacoma in front of the legendary WNCW studios on the campus of Isothermal Community College in Spindale. Last Wednesday. Late morning. The long haul down there from Waynesville.
Situated on Pisgah Drive/N.C. 110 in the outskirts of downtown Canton is the WPTL studio, a Haywood County community radio station (101.7 FM/920 AM) featuring Appalachian music, high school sports and local news.
At the core of iconic rock guitarists, Jorma Kaukonen resides in the same company of his 1960s peers, which includes Jimi Hendrix, Terry Kath and Jerry Garcia. And though that trio of his contemporaries are long gone from this earth, Kaukonen remains — this cosmic soul of sonic power and melodic passion.
Kudos to the town of Sylva for hosting its inaugural Pride celebration this past Saturday in downtown. A day filled with activities, a parade and drag shows all in the name of showcasing and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community that lives and works (and thrives) in our mountain communities.
When the entire music industry shutdown for the foreseeable future in March 2020, many artists and bands didn’t know what to do with themselves. For most, all they’d known for years, perhaps decades, was rolling down the road to the next town, to entertain a raucous audience in a packed venue.
Charlie Watts. Drummer of The Rolling Stones. The backbone of rock-n-roll. Gone last Tuesday at age 80. The engine in the muscle car that is (or was, sadly) the Stones. Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.” And I think that sums up Charlie Watts.
Standing next to a debris pile as tall as he is, Steve Chaney scans up and down U.S. 276 at the countless other debris piles, one for each home in Cruso that was ransacked by the devastating floodwaters two weeks ago.
In the world of electric guitar, few stand taller than Bill Frisell.
Frisell is to jazz and fusion music as Jimi Hendrix is to rock, Eric Clapton to blues, Chet Atkins to country. It’s a short list of six-string aces — each as unique, innovative and intricately talented as the next.
Since they set up shop in Sylva just about three and a half years ago, Don and Cecelia Panicko have opened a café and a speakeasy, had a child and got married, all while weathering a global pandemic and the continuing economic fallout within the restaurant industry nationwide.
The green peppers. All of those damn green peppers. Throughout the coverage of this devastating flood from Tropical Storm Fred last Tuesday here in Western North Carolina, I keep seeing green peppers. Everywhere.
It’s late Friday morning. With cloudy skies above and a cool breeze swirling around her, Aubrey Ford gazes out onto what’s left of her front yard and the multiple homes on her family’s property following the raging floodwaters Tuesday night. She lights a cigarette and exhales with a sigh.
It’s about a mile past Jukebox Junction, down along U.S. 276 heading towards the small mountain community of Cruso, when the strong, pungent smell of mud wafts into the open truck windows and up through your nostrils.