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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.
It was only a matter of time before we brought Tellico into the spotlight. After Anya Hinkle made a guest appearance on our first episode with Aaron Burdett, we knew that we should work with her band Tellico sooner or later.
Next month we begin filming our third episode with the quartet, and we'll be traveling to the hills and hollers of Appalachia to capture the band live as well as find out about their lives and some of those that are close to them. From the bigger picture of the musical heritage of the western North Carolina region, to the story of how Tellico chose their musical path, to building guitars and behind the scenes views of what makes Anya, Aaron, Stig and Jed tick, we have our work cut out for us.
We're launching our crowd funding campaign soon, but you can be a part of making our episode a reality right here and now by clicking on the "Action!" button above. This will help us get off to a strong start and keep us afloat as we work in the coming weeks to produce the show.
It was the closest thing to being in a band that I have experienced. From late April to early June, I logged over 1500 miles traveling to The Honeycutters' shows, to interviews and Moonlight Mile studio, where the episode was produced. I would wake up with Amanda Anne Platt's songs in my head, and work many a late night on promoting the crowd funding campaign to raise money for the production. My partner Tony Preston was working plenty of overtime as well, with the bulk of it in the editing room at Moonlight Mile. It was a vivid and intense six weeks, and it was great fun.
At the end, we sat on a stockpile of footage: sixty hours' worth, easy. To distill that into a half-hour episode was no small feat, but all that video gave us such an abundance of choices that we got to pick out the choicest gems from the mine of material. It would be easy to make an hour-long episode on The Honeycutters, and perhaps we will someday.
The episode begins with Amanda and yours truly taking a walk in one of her favorite spots, the graveyard behind her house. It's a place where she can reflect and relax while enjoying the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Our walk in the graveyard is the thread that weaves through the episode and tells Amanda's story. Of all the conversations that we had with her, these were the ones that revealed her spirit the best. We were lucky that her brother Andrew was visiting that day as well, and their time on camera was too good to pass up.
We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we do. Wish us luck as we continue our endeavor with this series and start work on the next show!
First off, thanks to everyone who contributed to our crowdfunding campaign which made the episode possible! We give a big shout out to: Bernie Kelly, Christina Nicholson, Jim Putnam, Barry Aycock, Debra Heimerdinger, Bill Bush, Jack Catalano, Richard Feimster, Jon Wygal, Earl Seagrave, Steve Levin, Holly Paul, T. Taylor, Brian John Mitchell, Tom Thompson, Rob Daves, Lisa Davis, Doug Keel, Terri Dosher, Shannon Preston, Mitch Miller, Melissa Fountain, Patrick Adams, Bill Buchynski, Zach Neil, Sarah Tarpey, Dick Huey and Steven Harrison.
Of course, we thank The Honeycutters for inviting us along for the journey in making this episode, and Organic Records for helping us in the endeavor as well. In addition, we were given a big welcome at MerleFest, The Willow Tree, The Double Door and The Purple Onion, which made a big impact on the quality of our video and sound. It was truly wonderful to be a part of the band, in a way, for the months of May and June this year!
We will make the finished episode available soon, so stay tuned. Feel free to let us know if you're interested in a download or DVD copy, and if you would like to order a t-shirt. Shirts are $20 + S&H, and run a bit small. I'm wearing an XL here, and Amy is wearing a Large.
Now to find a home for the show, and continue the series! -Joe
Host Joe Kendrick weighs in on how The Honeycutters were a big hit from the start at WNCW, and how their sound is so instantly recognizable and enjoyable.
Adam Tanner spoke with us about his memories of the early days of The Honeycutters in this scene from our upcoming episode. Enjoy!
We have begun filming the episode, trekking to their shows at MerleFest, the Willow Tree Coffeehouse in Johnson City, Tennessee and The Double Door Inn in Charlotte. We wrap up the production on June 11th with their performance at our invitation-only session at Moonlight Mile in Arden, NC, where we will also film a portion of the documentary. We hope you will join us in our endeavor! Click here to visit our Indigogo page where you can learn more.
We're excited to unveil our episode with Aaron Burdett, just in time to whet our appetite for his upcoming album, Tinderbox.
Our friends at Blurt Magazine can do an even better job of telling you all about it, however.
Stay tuned as we go forward with another episode on a new artist, put together a crowd funding campaign, and search for a platform to carry the series. Plus some sponsors. We should have all that done in a jiff ;-)
While we have been quiet here lately on southernsongsandstories.com, our documentary work has continued steadily, as we have rethought the first video, going on more shoots to add footage while culling some scenes and using some footage and songs that were not included before.
Videographer and editor Tony Preston and myself have added scenes with Aaron Burdett at his home in Saluda, NC and with Scott Woody and Ty Gilpin at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in Asheville, NC. I have written a narrative thread that ties the newer and older scenes together, working to draw out who Aaron is as an artist and person, and introducing some key people around him while keeping the western NC region and culture in focus. We have spent days upon days to arrive at a show that runs about 25 minutes long, and while it has been a demanding process, it has been invigorating all the same. After spending three or four hours at a time watching a computer screen and reading narration in a sound booth, it is a wonderful feeling to know that we got what we wanted.
While the rough edits are all done, the title sequence remains. I'm excited to bring photographer and writer Daniel Coston in to help us create this key piece of the documentary. Once we have the show completed, we will work to screen it throughout the region, beginning the process of finding Southern Songs and Stories a home.
Stay tuned as we wrap up our documentary on Aaron, and drop us a line if you would like to know more about the project. Onward! - Joe Kendrick