Garret K. Woodward

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Bordering the bustling Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville, you wouldn’t know where Echo Mountain Recording is unless you were told. 

An old church turned into a state-of-the-art production studio, the property is purposely minimal, this sort of physical doorway into a melodic universe of potential and possibility. 

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This past Saturday morning, I awoke in the top bunk of an RV in downtown Sylva. I got up and looked around the space. My friends were still asleep in the other beds. Time to head back to my humble abode in Waynesville. 

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Standing in the lobby of the Smoky Mountain Cinema in Waynesville this past Monday morning, owner Greg Israel is putting the final touches on two years of planning and renovations to the theater for its grand reopening on Tuesday.

“I’m tired, mostly,” Israel chuckled. “But, I’m happy. Very pleased. I think it’s come a long way and people are going to be very happy about it.”

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The hardest part of being a journalist, and especially one whose core focus is music, is seeing those you were lucky enough to meet, interview and write about, pass away. 

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The history of rock-n-roll music is as wide and deep as an ocean, each drop of water a band, song or feeling radiating a sense of self into the endless universe.

And within that massive and undulating history, no wave was larger than that of the British Invasion in the 1960s. Sparked by The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 1964, the musical charge “across the pond” from England to the United States included the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Zombies and Herman’s Hermits. 

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Sliding into the booth at Waffle House, I cracked open Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers. Taking a sip of my coffee, I dove into the world of Danny Deck and his life in Houston, Texas, and greater America in the early 1970s. 

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Simply put, singer/guitarist Denny Laine is one of those mystical characters you cross paths with almost serendipitously. 

He’s an old soul really, someone who’s seen and experienced the world over. But, Laine is also happy to share that wisdom with whoever will sit and chat for a moment. It’s a cosmically curious conversation between two souls playfully in search of the answer to the eternal question — what does it all mean? 

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On Monday morning, as I woke up, packed and said goodbye to Bonnaroo for this year, I can say — in all honesty — that I’ve never had more gratitude in my life than at that moment in time. 

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Want to learn theatre? 

This fall, there will be a slew of theatre classes offered by the HART Arts Academy from Sept. 13 through Nov. 3 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville. 

Adult classes include directing, beginner tap and musical theatre vocals. Kids classes include a wide-range of dancing, acting, singing, directing, and improvisational courses. 

Learn more about these opportunities and sign up for classes by visiting www.harttheatre.org, clicking on the “Kids at Hart” tab and scrolling to “Classes & Camps” page. Masks and social distancing will be required for all courses.

Five years ago, Michelle and Robby Railey had one question in mind. “How do we get to the next level?” Michelle said.

It’s just after 5 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 64 and N.C. 107 in the village of Cashiers. Otherwise known as the “Crossroads,” the junction — atop a mountainous plateau at the southern end of Jackson County — is usually buzzing with tourists and second-homeowners spring through fall. And, normally, it’s relatively silent when winter rears its head. 

Halfway up a steep hill in downtown Waynesville, and just a stone’s throw from the Haywood County Historic Courthouse, sits Orchard Coffee.

“I love coffee because I love people,” said Cabell Tice, co-owner of Orchard Coffee. “I’ve always really enjoyed connecting with people. Coffee is a vessel for reaching people — there’s nothing like a conversation over coffee.” 

Though his fingers seemingly wrap around a walking cane more than his trusty banjo these days, Raymond Fairchild remains one of the finest musicians who ever picked up the five-string acoustic instrument — alive or six feet under. 

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.

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According to recent numbers, there are around 75 breweries within Asheville and greater Western North Carolina. And 19 of those breweries are located west of Asheville. 

But, back in 1999, when The Smoky Mountain News launched, this was the number of breweries in our jurisdiction — zero. None. Not a single one. The idea of craft beer, let alone something concocted in your backyard, was not only somewhat unheard of, it never was thought to be something of an economic driver. 

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Actor/comedian Ken Jeong will be performing live at 9 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Event Center. 

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The first time I was aware that my grandfather, Frank Kavanaugh, served in the military was being nine years old in 1994 and watching him talk on the local North Country TV channel, Home Town Cable. 

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When you find yourself in the presence of Marty Stuart, you find yourself in the presence of the entire living, breathing history of country and bluegrass music. 

Hailing from the small rural town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the legendary singer/musician took off for the open road at age 12, performing with various groups throughout the Southeast. By the time he was 14, he had secured a position in bluegrass forefather Lester Flatt’s band. 

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Sitting high up in the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville last Thursday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what my Uncle Scott would think about all of this.

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Up-and-coming on the Americana/indie scene, Grizzly Goat was formed in Provo, Utah, and is now based in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

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It’s part Simon & Garfunkel, part Abbott & Costello. 

When you listen to The Milk Carton Kids, you’re hearing some of the most poignant, soul-searching and timeless acoustic music of this century — perhaps any century, truth-be-told. 

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The world has gone haywire and David Crosby is mad as hell about it.

And though the years may change on the calendar, the issues affecting our society tend to remain front and center — corruption, discrimination, poverty, pollution, and so forth. 

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With the wind howling in my face, the Polaris ATV rounded the third curve of the Rockingham Speedway. The odometer read 60 mph. It was midnight. Sunday into Monday. And all I could think of was the absurdity of this serendipitous moment.

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Halfway up a steep hill in downtown Waynesville, and just a stone’s throw from the Haywood County Historic Courthouse, sits Orchard Coffee.

“I love coffee because I love people,” said Cabell Tice, co-owner of Orchard Coffee. “I’ve always really enjoyed connecting with people. Coffee is a vessel for reaching people — there’s nothing like a conversation over coffee.” 

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Crossing the threshold of Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in West Asheville recently, I scanned the space looking for my old friend, Heather. And there she was, sitting on the patio, sipping a beer and looking over the menu deciding how hot she was willing to order her chicken tenders. 

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Though his fingers seemingly wrap around a walking cane more than his trusty banjo these days, Raymond Fairchild remains one of the finest musicians who ever picked up the five-string acoustic instrument — alive or six feet under. 

“I just count myself another mountain picker. I don’t think I’m no better than anybody else, but I think I’m as good as any of’em — that’s the legacy,” Fairchild said with his trademark grin. “When they ask me when I’m going to retire, I say when somebody comes along and beats me at picking the banjo — and they said, ‘you’ll never retire.’” 

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These days, Megan and Bryan Thurman call a 31-foot Airstream home. The iconic silver travel trailer is currently parked on a picturesque property in the rural southern edge of Sylva. 

Last Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

It’s been on mind all this week, between new reports remembering that day and also my own personal thoughts. I was 14 years old and in eighth grade on April 20, 1999. It was spring break. My parents, little sister and I piled into the old minivan in Upstate New York and headed for Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

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When it comes to the truly innovative and distinct jam acts of the modern era, Perpetual Groove is a name that’s been roaring back into the scene in recent years.

Formed in Savannah, Georgia, in 1997, the group was ahead of its time with a seamless blend of exploratory rock-n-roll and electronica influences. The foundation was built upon the curious melodic nature and reflective songwriting of Phish and Widespread Panic, but was also highly immersed in the sonic possibilities found in the late-night rave and festival circuits back then.

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After a long week and weekend grinding away, I had to bust out and disappear into the woods. And yet, I looked out my apartment window on Sunday afternoon and it was pouring rain. 

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Who: Melody Trucks Band & Donna Hopkins Band

What: Daughter of the late Butch Trucks, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for The Allman Brothers Band, Melody has hit the road with a group of her own in recent years — a large and very talented ensemble of the best of what Florida song and dance has to offer.

Where: From 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin. The Melody Trucks Band will also perform with the Taylor Martin Band from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Salvage Station in Asheville.

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In a leap of faith move last summer, Americana/indie act The Brothers Gillespie left its native Waynesville and took off over the state line to Johnson City, Tennessee. 

Comprised of three Gillespie siblings — Davis (singer/rhythm guitar), Clay (drums), Aaron (lead guitar) — and longtime friend Max Pollifrone (bass), the quartet chose Johnson City to create and perform its music as Clay finished up college at nearby East Tennessee State University (where he’s currently studying Appalachian music). 

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Pulling off US-11E and into some random person’s backyard last Saturday afternoon, I handed the woman $10 and was directed to park my truck along the tree line behind the rickety garage. 

Stepping out of the vehicle, I could hear the sounds of 110-mph stock cars roaring around the half-mile track across the street at the Bristol Motor Speedway — “The Last Great Colosseum” — in the rolling hills of Eastern Tennessee.

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The voice of Claire Lynch is incredibly soothing — in conversation and in front of a microphone.

With a songbird tone and cadence, the singer is like a free-flowing breeze, something that swirls around you and picks you up, as if you’re a fallen leaf at the peak of beauty, eager to once again sit high in the sky.

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This past Saturday, I went on a first date. It had been a very long time since I’d actually gone on a date, let alone a “first date.”

But, there I was, trimming my beard in the bathroom mirror and making sure I brushed my teeth one more time before I headed out the door and into the unknown night. 

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So, there I was last Saturday afternoon, sitting on a couch in the depths of country music legend Marty Stuart’s tour bus. Right across from me, positioned on the other side of the table — the other side of my tape recorder — was Stuart himself, his trademark silver mane fluttering whenever he’d move his head while in thought and within conversation. 

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Leaning back in his chair, in an office tucked in the depths of a large studio building, a slight grin rolls across the face of Steven Lloyd. 

“I would never have envisioned this,” Lloyd said in a humble tone. “I would have never thought 30 years ahead and have pictured this. But, everything has evolved.”

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When you run through the gamut of truly great rock bands, the name Foreigner tends to usually be somewhere near the top. With over 80 million records sold, the group soaked the radio dial through the 1970s and 1980s with a string of iconic hits, many of which becoming lifelong anthems for countless fans. 

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Right around this time of year, journalists from across the state gather at the North Carolina Press Association awards ceremony in Raleigh. It’s a chance for all of us “in the trenches” to catch up, compare notes, and simply take a moment to reflect on another year in the books.

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In terms of journalism and media in North Carolina, very few names are as recognizable as that of Frank Stasio. Host of the WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio) weekday program “The State of Things” (based out of the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham), Stasio and his platform have become a beacon of light for politics, culture, history and societal dialogue across the Tar Heel State. 

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Arguably the hardest working man in rock-n-roll, guitar legend Warren Haynes has never been one to shy away from testing his own boundaries, blurring the lines between the knowns and unknowns of music — especially when performed live. 

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Since he first burst out on the music scene with his debut album in 2002, soul/rock singer-songwriter Citizen Cope has remained a warrior for social justice and compassion through his perceptive, poetic lyrical wordplay within a signature fiery live performance.

With his latest release, “Heroin and Helicopters,” Cope once again aims to not only shed light on the flaws in our country and the greater world at-hand, he also constructs a melodic bridge between you and me (and us).

And though it seems we may be spinning our wheels in the mud year after year, Cope pushes ahead, head held high, knowing damn well that as long as you have hope, the good of humanity will prevail.

Want to go?

Citizen Cope will hit the stage at 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at The Orange Peel in Asheville. Tickets are $35 per person. David Ramirez will open the show. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, click on www.theorangepeel.net.

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Way out in Graham County, high up in the rugged wilderness of the Nantahala National Forest, is a lonely stretch of N.C. 28.

To the north lies Robbinsville, to the south the Swain County line. But, where you’re standing, seemingly in the middle-of-nowhere, is actually the hottest ticket in Western North Carolina — the “An Appalachian Evening” series at the Stecoah Valley Center.

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It was 60 years ago this past weekend (March 2, 1959) when Miles Davis’ seminal “Kind of Blue” album was recorded. This is an immortal masterpiece, a cornerstone of not only American music, but the music of the world, too. 

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The hardest balance for a rock band is to straddle the line between honest emotions in your lyrics and also simply being able to get people to groove along to what beats and tones swirl around the wordplay. 

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In a recent New York Times article, “What Charles Bukowski’s Glamorous Displays of Alcoholism Left Out,” the piece analyzed and deconstructed the legendary (albeit infamous) poet/writer, ultimately putting a spotlight on someone greatly idolized, but also just as greatly detested for his behavior and antics. 

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