There are interviews and observations galore, covering everything from the nature of Southern culture to car camping and festivals as a kind of more appealing version of Thanksgiving. Plus we dive headfirst into the music of every artist on the Friday lineup, thanks to "Taper", our good friend Mark H. Johnson.
Here is another video of the Jon Stickley Trio playing at Spring Skunk Fest 2017. It starts with "Rice Dream" and folds into "Never Stop" & "Della's Walk", with some neat effects courtesy of filmmaker Aaron Morrell. It's a mesmerizing medley which covers the gamut of influences for the band. Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Shark Quest, Aaron Copland anyone?
We're working on more footage from the Trio to go along with their extensive, engaging interview, as well as more episodes of Joe's companion podcast. There is a wealth of great material to draw from and we look forward to presenting it to you here.
Thanks very much for everyone who enjoys what we're doing at Southern Songs and Stories, for helping spread awareness, and especially for our patrons . And a big thanks to the Jon Stickley Trio, to Zig and everyone at the Albino Skunk Farm!
April was a packed month. It began with the conclusion of our spring fund raiser at WNCW, went on with SpringSkunk Fest at the Albino Skunk Farm the next week, followed by a few days off to decompress, and MerleFest a couple of weeks after that. Plus, life -- a week on the air to fill in for vacationing colleagues (a somewhat rare treat these days), baseball games, yard work, and so on. It felt like there was never much time to devote to making the companion audio piece to our video work, which did see a couple of videos released soon after the festival, thanks to Aaron Morrell.
It was time to buckle down and take a crack at making this podcast a reality. It was daunting. Sure, I have produced a lot of audio for WNCW -- interviews, round table discussions, even a long form series on refugees in North Carolina. But this was new territory, with about a dozen interview subjects, the full compliment of music played at the festival, and a story line that remained nebulous.
It wound up being a big project, with more pieces and parts than I had ever managed. But the memories were still with me, the ideas kept coming, and the technical hurdles of dealing with widely varying sets of audio were overcome. I finally began writing, and then stitched together the episode you find here.
I hope you enjoy this, the beginning of a three part documentary podcast series. Please support the artists you like here, as well as the festivals in spring and fall on the Skunk Farm in Greer, SC. We would appreciate your help in continuing our endeavor, too. You can find out how on our Patreon page here. Stay tuned for more video from the Jon Stickley Trio, and a lot more. Fes-taa-vul!!
A week ago today, I was emceeing at Hillside Stage at the 30th MerleFest in Wilkesboro, NC, wrapping up a packed three days of introducing artists and traipsing all over the festival grounds, taking in a lot of great music and talking to friends old and new. It was a hoot, as usual. This year was notable for having artists like James Taylor with the Transatlantic Orchestra, The Avett Brothers doing both their own sets and a tribute show to Doc Watson, and all-star jams with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Jim Lauderdale, Shawn Camp and Donna The Buffalo, for starters.
So, I went straight from my workaday schedule of early to bed and early to rise to the festival schedule of sleep being optional, and walking miles upon miles in weather that was more like mid-June than late April while wearing button-down shirts and slacks. Plus I'm not 25 anymore, so when Monday rolled around I was back at work, but in a semi-vegetative state. Wooo!
As usual, the music was tops. I still keep getting a couple of Stray Birds songs stuck in my head. Catching Mary Stuart for the first time was a real treat. Watching Jorma Kaukonen solo was goose bump territory.
The social scene was better than ever. I got to talk with an old colleague from WNCW, Charlie Purdue, whom I haven't seen in a dozen years or more, and to meet his wife. I just happened to park near Zig from Skunk Fest, who drove up his newly purchased camper van, and hung out there a good bit of the weekend. This lead to lots more interaction with Skunkers and artists alike -- members of bands like Front Country, Stray Birds and Mipso were hanging out almost constantly. I got to talk backstage with artists like Shawn Camp, Jim Lauderdale and Bela Fleck at length, and listen to Doc Watson stories from David Holt and Pete Wernick.
Some funny and awkward moments that stick out: overhearing a stage tech say to himself as he walked by, "And on jazz flute, Ron Burgundy!". Hearing a band member hauling off their gear say to a friend, "Hippy band's up next!". Watching James Taylor being cordoned off and escorted out by what seemed like every single security officer available. Finding out that no, your emcee status over there does not mean you get to hang out with the Avett Brothers over here. Getting to emcee an unfamiliar stage and trying to use the wrong mic to address the audience, leading to the burly stage manager (let's call him "Mr. Chuckles") to march over to me and point out the correct one, just a few feet to the right, barking "Come on, get with it!". Having to be the guy who told Donna The Buffalo that, no, the song they just played was supposed to be their last because time was up, and then watching Jeb Puryear start reciting a poem that said something about death and a raven (he came over and gave me a hug on stage afterward, so that made me feel better). Don't you just love being the messenger in situations like this? Yeah, me neither.
Soon we'll unveil more videos and the first part of the podcast in our SpringSkunk and Jon Stickley Trio series. I got another interview last week to add to the podcast, from Country Fried Rock's Sloane Spencer. She and her family are regulars on the Skunk Farm, and her perspective will be a nice addition to the piece.
In the meantime, I hope to catch our first episode's star, Aaron Burdett, when he has his album release show at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall next weekend. Good times! I promise to try to get more rest though. - Joe Kendrick
It was a beautiful Saturday morning with more warmth and an absence of the stiff breeze we witnessed the first day or so of the festival when Aaron Morrell made his way from the mountains down to the rolling foothills of Upstate SC. He jumped into action right away when we saw Alexa Rose and her fiddler Laura Durkin getting ready to go back home.
Luckily we got to sit down and talk with them in the shelter of The Band Done Quit (more on all the colorful names of Skunk Fest later). There were lots of tractors going by, and these distractions actually worked out in our favor. Such was the nature of things that weekend.
You can see our conversation with Alexa and Laura below.
They practically just stepped out of the van, and then delivered this inspired rendition of the Tim O'Brien song at SpringSkunk towards the beginning of their afternoon set, the first of two performances that day.
Also, there was a kids parade, which puts a bow on it all. Stay tuned for a lot more!
Do you have a favorite place that you return to time and again, a happy spot with friends old and new? The Skunk Farm near Greer, SC, is that and a whole lot more for the attendees ("Skunkers") and volunteers every six months when the SpringSkunk Festival and Albino Skunk Music Festival come around. Volunteer chef Matty gave me the title to this post in his interview about his experiences on the farm. He expressed a sentiment shared with almost everyone else that I spoke with there, that they love the festival for more than just the good times. Whenever they can come back, even in between festivals, it is "a little Skunk therapy".
Pictured above is Kev Russell, taken towards the end of Shinyribs' set on Saturday night. We were within feet of the band, which is another unique aspect to add to the long list of unique aspects of everything about the event. No, make that more than an event, since it goes well beyond the three days in the spring and three days in the fall that the festival takes place. It's more of a musical pilgrimage, and a perpetual homecoming.
We'll be wrapping our heads around what this all means in the days and weeks to come as we create a series of concert videos and documentaries about all things Skunk and the Jon Stickley Trio. In addition to our extended interview with the Trio, we interviewed newcomer Alexa Rose, who opened the festival Thursday afternoon. There's a lot to tell. -Joe
We trekked to the Albino Skunk Farm near Greer, SC last weekend to get going on our documentary on the SpringSkunk Fest and the Jon Stickley Trio when they perform there on April 8th. I got to interview Zig and meet some of the Skunk regulars: "Hack", "Ginseng", "Sea Hunt" and others who were given their nicknames by Glynn "Zig" Zeigler in the course of their years of service. As you may be able to tell, this is no ordinary festival. We're looking forward to bringing you more updates soon. -Joe
Look for more music documentary videos very soon! To find out more, check out the link to our Patreon page in the right column. Thanks for being here!
Jazz artist Roy Ayers once said, "The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers." I was reminded again of that connection with an extended musical family of members both old and new recently at the second annual Carolina In The Fall Music and Food Festival in Wilkesboro, NC.
Last year, the monsoon season began with the festival, and it was the rainiest weekend festival I could remember. The people that attended were pretty hard core fans, decked out in rain gear and patiently waiting out some set delays that were largely due to the unrelenting precipitation.
This year the weather did a 180 degree turn, and we had mostly sunny, fairly hot days in store. I was emceeing once again for WNCW, and by mid-afternoon on Friday, decided to ditch my jeans in favor of shorts for the rest of the way.
Some musical takeaways: The Infamous Stringdusters were the most difficult to photograph. They had a fog machine going, which looked great but made the camera lose focus. They also moved around constantly. But they also put on a fantastic set, so no real complaints here. Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line's sound has evolved from a sound rooted in acoustic traditions to a much more electric, honky-tonk style all their own. I was knocked out by their newest material, which will appear on album sometime around or just before spring of 2017. Canadians really can play authentic bluegrass: see Slocan Ramblers (pronounced "Slow-Can"). Flatt Lonesome is as impeccably dressed as their harmonies are spot on. Volunteers are the best -- I had many conversations with people staffing the event and felt like I was right at home.
After the late night jam early Sunday morning, I got a few minutes with Jay Lapp of The Steel Wheels and asked him about the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that they host, about touring by bicycle, and their next record.
It was heartwarming to reconnect with old friends Jeff Eason, Holly and Mike Paul, Tom and Gail Watts, and The Kruger Brothers. New friends like Stu Vincent were a joy, and getting to know festival organizers Dale and Michelle Isom better was another high point for the weekend.
This month I hope to reconnect with both my musical and biological family when I take my cousin Richard to his first LEAF festival in Black Mountain. Hope to see you there! -Joe
I got the email months ago from artist manager Katie Benson, asking what my interest might be in doing a live broadcast on WNCW with Asheville, NC quartet River Whyless at their album release show at Harvest Records. Immediately I wrote back, "My first thought is, 'Heck yeah!'. My second thought is of twisting anyone's arm necessary to make it a reality."
We set the wheels in motion at WNCW and headed up the mountain on a gorgeous late summer afternoon to capture the performance. Midday host Scotty Robertson worked as engineer for the session and I got to interview the band. They played six of their favorite songs from We All The Light live on air, and I got to interview them as well.
Luckily, WNCW fan and cinematographer Aaron Morrell of Grae Skye Studio was listening and heard about the show, and decided to come over and take video of the event. He crafted an exquisite video, which you can see below. Thank you Aaron, Katie, Matt and Mark at Harvest, everyone in River Whyless, and Scotty Robertson for making all of this possible! Enjoy - Joe Kendrick
I was lucky enough to see our friends The Honeycutters at their album release show in Asheville recently, and it was a great time to reconnect with the band, with Organic Records and friends in the music world. It was also a reminder of just how many punches that Amanda Anne Platt and The Honeycutters have in their arsenal. Their record is called On The Ropes, and it is obvious that they're not the ones tucking in and covering up from a rain of blows: they're the ones dealing out the damage, one lick and one lyric at a time. When you get hit by their music, though, it feels just fine.
This is the second record with The Honeycutters' current lineup, and their fastest turnaround for an album. Just a year ago we were starting to latch on to Oh Me Oh My, and the band wasted no time in getting back into the studio last winter. At this pace, you might be prepared for a slight drop-off in overall quality, but not here. On The Ropes is arguably their best record yet, finding the band building momentum with songs that are instantly memorable.
Here's hoping that The Honeycutters keep pulling punches for many years to come. Country music needs hits like these. -Joe Kendrick
Over the past weeks, our own Tony Preston has been working diligently to forge our first episode with Aaron Burdett into a new creation. We both re-imagined the way that the show should flow, which performances from Aaron and his band to show for how long and where, and the way that this would all serve as a blueprint for future episodes.
What we present to you is an episode with lots of footage yet to be seen, along with a new introduction, narration and graphics. Tony and I believe that it does a much more comprehensive and dynamic job of showcasing Aaron and telling his story, and those around him.
You remember when you were playing as a kid and you could call "Do over!"? We kind of did that here, but it entailed combing through hours and hours of footage and then distilling that into another finished product. Next, we turn our sights on remaking our episode with The Honeycutters, and then jump into our extensive footage of the many scenes we shot with Tellico for episode number three. We hope you enjoy the new version of our documentary on Aaron, and will consider helping us go forward with our endeavor. - Joe Kendrick
It was an unusually warm March evening when my friend Jason Lineberger and I drove east to take in a show featuring some old friends in both Zoe & Cloyd and Tellico, and a quartet that I had not heard yet from Austin Texas called High Plains Jamboree. Eighty degrees in piedmont North Carolina is usually not seen until around May, and we had been enjoying several days of it already. There was a little extra bounce in my step as we walked up to the historic old courthouse in Dallas, NC that evening, and a budding optimism about the night ahead.
The show was part of MerleFest On The Road, a tour of artists playing together ahead of the big festival in Wilkesboro, NC late in April. What we witnessed was a blend of styles and influences that showcased several distinct Southern musical dialects, from Texas to Virginia and from old-time to country.
Tellico is from Asheville, NC, mainly, with dobro player Aaron Ballance living in the high country of Boone. We were less than two hours away from both those towns, but Anya noted the cultural boundary that they had crossed: "It's really different here, isn't it?" she asked me. Having lived in piedmont North Carolina most of my life, I knew exactly what she meant. This was a county whose largest employers used to be cotton mills, whereas the mountains historically had a lot of small farms. It's a difference in mindset that is subtle but still there to see for those who look closely, even in decades long removed from life surrounded by hogs and hay or spindles of yarn.
Texas is its own kind of South, and High Plains Jamboree represented the musical heritage of the Lone Star state well. From playful story songs about breaking down after neglecting to change an old Datsun's oil to harmonic cries for rain, the quartet played a solid set. I will seek them out again when MerleFest rolls around.
I left with even more bounce in my step than when I came in. Chalk this up as another example of how music and culture can be made new when they blend. The members of Zoe & Cloyd, Tellico and High Plains Jamboree have roots in places ranging from Massachusetts to Mississippi to Alaska, but on a warm late winter night in North Carolina, they reminded us that sharing our traditions and songs can make for the best kind of harmony.
We're happy to share two new videos of Tellico's performance with producer Jon Stickley guesting on guitar. These will be a part of our upcoming episode on the western NC quartet. Enjoy!
Ever wish that you could go back in time? Yeah, us too.
In the midst of working on our third episode with the band Tellico, we realized that with documentary film making, you actually can. Why not go back to the first two episodes and give them a more cohesive feel, a new intro, and take what we have learned to make them better while crafting a new template that would strengthen our series?
We are now remaking our first episode with Aaron Burdett, and will follow that with a new take on our show on The Honeycutters. With this new approach plotted out, we go to our many hours of footage of Tellico next and put together their episode. Expect to see new scenes and performances in our first two episodes, along with a more balanced pace and stronger story lines for the series.
The band Faces had a big hit with the tune "Ooh La La", which put to song a refrain that so many of us have identified with from time to time: "I wish that I knew what I know now/When I was younger". We are humming that in the studio as we remix and reimagine Southern Songs and Stories.
Those two lines stayed with me the long after Anya Hinkle sang them the other night. It had been a joyous evening at our screening of Tellico's upcoming episode, and friends both old and new filled the studio with conversation and laughter. Now, the band had settled in to perform and be filmed for the third episode of Southern Songs and Stories, and all the pressure was off. It was time to relax and not be bound up in plans and checklists. It was time to breath out, and take in the music.
Those lyrics are from "Ever What They Say", a song from Tellico's debut album, Relics and Roses. It's a song about leaving and loss, about facing grim consequences and pressing on. It's a heart breaker. but beautiful too, and is a fitting gateway to the heart of the quartet's music.
We now have performances and interviews of Tellico and many other artists and friends from nine different locations and two states, filmed over the past several months. Our event at Moonlight Mile studio was a celebration of this work, and a chapter in the episode itself. There is much to be done, and in the coming weeks we hope to bring into focus a show that captures the band, those close to them, and their musical traditions and community. It will be a steep hill, but we are encouraged by both the quality of Tellico's artistry and their integrity as people. Plus, now we have witnessed that there is an audience anxious to see the final video!
Many thanks to Tom Watts, who took the photos shown here. David Simchock, a professional photographer who spent all night getting shots, has a photo gallery you can view here. Thanks to everyone who came out and who helped us put the event together! Stay tuned and we look forward to showing you the finished product soon.
Last month's event to screen our episode with Tellico and film their performance in studio was postponed when lead singer Anya Hinkle became ill the day of the show. Thankfully, she has recovered and we are ready to reschedule the festivities.
Join us Sunday, January 17th at 6pm for the screening of our episode with Tellico ahead of their performance in the intimate concert space at Moonlight Mile studio in Arden, NC.
We have been quite busy over the past several months making this episode, which features scenes from Tellico performances in Franklin, NC and Asheville, NC, as well as Anya in a trio setting in Floyd, VA. The episode also features interview footage of all four band members in separate settings, as well as legendary fiddler Arvil Freeman, and musicians Mac Traynham, Jackson Cunningham, and Galen Kipar.
We hope to see you at the show!
We're traveling to Floyd VA this week and are filming scenes there as well as in western NC to wrap up the episode on Tellico. You can get a sneak peek at the show at our event November 15th at Moonlight Mile studios where Tellico will also perform and be filmed for their documentary. Join us by purchasing your tickets here. We hope to see you there!
Filming has begun on our third episode of Southern Songs and Stories. Soon we will be posting updates on our travels across the western NC and southwestern VA mountains as we get at the heart of what makes the band tick, what traditions inspire them, and shoot their performances.
To help us along, visit our Kickstarter page here. We would be grateful for your support, and among the many incentives we offer, you would have the chance to be in the audience at our exclusive screening of the episode along with Tellico's performance at Moonlight Mile studio on November 15th.