Welcome to a special edition of Southern Songs and Stories, where we pay respects to Jeff Eason by sharing some of his work on air at WNCW, where I am program director. Back in 2007, I was the morning music host on WNCW, mixing the tunes from 6 to 10 AM weekdays. I came up with the idea to make a daily music talk segment, with myself as host, joined by guest panelists conversing about everything from record reviews, to moments in history, to editorials and think pieces. If you’re like me, you can talk about music for hours without really even trying, and that sort of spontaneous water cooler talk about artists, songs and such was already a real boost to my workday. So, I gave it a platform, called the show What It Is, and brought in fellow music heads Jeff Eason, who was then a newspaper editor at the Mountain Times in Boone, NC, and Fred Mills, who was then the managing editor for Harp magazine.
Let's say you are not that interested in playing music as a kid, not really into it until early adulthood. However, you decide to partner with your best friend from second grade and form a band, and make it a full time endeavor soon after graduating from college. This coincides with the worst economy in many generations. You not only don't let that stop you, you also decide to start a music festival in the town where you grew up soon after, when people are still pretty wigged out about jobs and money in general. And, you have a banjo in a band that is not a bluegrass act, ensuring that somewhere along the line, folks are going to want to put you in that category. However, the band you’re about to meet, as you might guess, fits all of those criteria, and they have done just fine.
This is our episode on Time Sawyer, the five piece band from Charlotte by way of Elkin, NC. They are lyrically deep, musically rich, and a lot of fun to be around. We get to know all the members of the band, and bring in syndicated radio host Cindy Baucom, photographer and writer Daniel Coston, and sound engineer Jim Georgeson to the conversation as well. Plus, we feature many songs from their live sets along the way.
We encourage you to check out and subscribe to our podcasts here, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, TuneIn, and now, Spotify. Please take a moment to rate the show, and comment on the podcasts on those platforms -- it is tremendously helpful in our effort to spread awareness of Southern Songs and Stories and these artists and histories we showcase. You can also support the show directly on this website via the "Tip Jar" button, or on our Patreon page. Thanks to our supporters, to the Osiris Podcast Network and Bluegrass Planet Radio for carrying our series, and to Dynamite Roasting for sponsoring our show.
We have covered a lot of ground so far, from the origin, to conversations with many key players and participants, and a lot of great music. Along the way, we have run up against biker gangs descending upon clubs and outdoor festival and taking them for their own, to finding a place on the map that no one had bothered to put on that map, to no sink, to snow collapsing a roof, to exploding concert ticket prices, and losses at the door. There’s a whole slew of stories packed into this little spot out in the western NC hill country.
In this episode we conclude our history of Green Acres Music Hall, with a focus on later years in its four decade run, and new interviews with artists like Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Mike Lynch, along with performances ranging from the very first bluegrass show played at the Acres on December 30th, 1978, to shows from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in 1991, Larry Keel with Snake Oil Medicine Show in 97, and Sam Bush’s band Duck Butter also in 1997. composition
Why not subscribe to Southern Songs and Stories podcasts here via the "Blog RSS" button near the top of the right column? You'll be updated with new episodes as soon as they post. We're elsewhere on the internet as well, and you can find us on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Castbox and TuneIn. Please take a moment to rate the show, and comment on the podcasts on those platforms -- it is one of the easiest ways to spread awareness of Southern Songs and Stories, and the artists we spotlight. And we hope you will support the music of the artists you enjoy hearing on the show -- even though the performances we’re highlighting are from decades ago, most all of these artists are still out touring and making music, and they wouldn’t be able to do it without support from people like you.
P.S. I mentioned Duck Butter's cover of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" in the podcast as being a Cannonball Adderly cover. It is also a Joe Zawinul composition.
Do you remember the 1980s? The Cold War, Reagan, big hair, synthesizers, yuppies, AIDS, MTV? It can be easy to point and laugh at times, maybe easier than it is to remember the good things about the era. It did not make national headlines, but one of those good things was Green Acres Music Hall, which came of age in that decade.
In our first episode, we touched on some of the history of the music scene in the region and how rough things could get in the 70s, with biker gangs taking over outdoor festivals and rock clubs, and in this episode we get to some more of the history of the live music business in the 80s and early 90s. You know, the days when you didn’t buy tickets online, but at a window after you waited in line. When being social was always in person rather than often on a network. This was the heyday of Green Acres Music Hall.
This episode features conversations with artists like Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Darin Aldridge, the band Acoustic Syndicate, Sandy Carlton, Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, Green Acres regular and frequent emcee Vicki Dameron, Carol Rifkin, former club owner Phil Dennis and Mettie, the “Little King”, Steve Metcalf. We’ll also feature more live music recorded at the Acres, as we have been able to dive into more tapes from Steve Metcalf’s collection, and live shows from archive.org.
Plus, we travel to a place in neighboring Cleveland County called Brackett Cedar Park, which also brought in artists that were fusing bluegrass and country with rock elements, and is still going.
You can subscribe to Southern Songs and Stories podcasts here via the "Blog RSS" button near the top of the right column, as well as iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud and TuneIn. Please take a moment to rate the show, and comment on the podcasts on those platforms -- it is tremendously helpful in our effort to spread awareness of Southern Songs and Stories, and the artists we spotlight. And we hope you will support the music of the artists you enjoy hearing on the show -- even though the performances we’re highlighting are from decades ago, all of these artists are still out touring and making music, and they wouldn’t be able to do it without support from people like you.
I'll admit, I got nothing. We all have access to the same words, but very few of us can write a really good song. This is what lifelong musician Sandy Carlton told me in the course of our interview about his experiences at Green Acres Music Hall and beyond, as I captured more voices for our upcoming podcast on the venue. Sandy is from nearby Shelby, NC, and he revealed some interesting history of other venues there that I was not familiar with, like Brackett Cedar Park, the Ponderosa and the Bluegrass Inn. It seems there was more going on back in the day than I had originally thought!
After our first episode on Green Acres released, I have been fortunate to come across people like Sandy who have revealed more of the history of that venue, the surrounding region, and the era. Sandy will be featured in our next installment later this month, which will draw more from of my interviews with Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Acoustic Syndicate, and Darin Aldridge among many others. There will be plenty of music from shows at the Acres too, and observations about what it was like to be a player and a participant in the live music scene decades ago. In very many ways, the old saying holds true: "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Most artists are still playing music because they love it, not because they can get rich (and very few are getting rich). A good song is still more important than flashy technique. Music still moves people in profound ways. But thirty years ago, a lot about music was very different, sometimes a lot better, and that is some of what we will reveal in this upcoming podcast.
You can check out and subscribe to our podcasts here, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud and TuneIn. Please take a moment to rate the show, and comment on the podcasts on those platforms -- it is tremendously helpful in our effort to spread awareness of Southern Songs and Stories and these artists and histories we showcase. You can also support the show directly on this website via the "Tip Jar" button, or on our Patreon page.
It all started with a cinder block building that was also an auction house, on farmland in the foothills of western North Carolina. The bathroom had a toilet but no sink. There was no phone, and it was heated by a large wood stove. The owner had a band, and brought in others that played there often as well, starting around the mid 1970s. It went on to add an outdoor stage, amenities, and thousands of fans. It became a key stop for bluegrass, "newgrass" and roots music artists of all kinds. Even the likes of Garth Brooks and Merle Haggard came calling to play there.
This is part one of our series on Green Acres Music Hall, with interviews from artists like Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Carol Rifkin and the band Acoustic Syndicate, along with the man who helped take it from its humble beginnings to its peak, Steve Metcalf. Joining them are some of the folks who frequented the venue, myself included. Of course, the music itself is here too, with audio from shows by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the John Cowan Band and others.
We hope you enjoy the show! Please help spread awareness about this independent endeavor, subscribe, and comment on this and other episodes, especially on platforms like iTunes. Becoming a supporter is easy to do, by clicking on the "Tip Jar" button on our site's front page, or by chipping in monthly on our Patreon page, which offers a lot of great bonus material. Thanks for listening, and thanks to our supporters, our sponsor Dynamite Roasting, and to Osiris Podcasts and Bluegrass Planet Radio for carrying our series.
We wrap up our two part series on Southern music and culture with a focus on notable artists from the last half century, including icons like Doc Watson and more recent bands like Southern Culture On The Skids. Our guests from episode one are all here: Laura Boosinger, Daniel Coston, Ty Gilpin, Kim Ruehl, Stu Vincent and Garret Woodward, with conversations about Southern hospitality, how it can be sheik to be from the South nowadays, as well as the darker side of culture and history in the region. We also welcome writer and editor Fred Mills as well as Kruger Brothers banjo player Jens Kruger to this podcast, which features music from the likes of Pete Fountain, Doc Watson, Tom Petty, Laura Boosinger, R.L. Burnside, and many more.
Thanks to our supporters on Patreon, to Dynamite Roasting, and to Bluegrass Planet Radio for carrying our series. Please spread awareness about this independent endeavor and consider helping us by subscribing and commenting on our show, and by becoming a supporter. It's easy to do, either with a one-time donation via the blue "Tip Jar" button on our site's front page, or by chipping in monthly on our Patreon page, which offers a lot of great bonus material. Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy the show!
It's a question which is at the heart of everything we do on Southern Songs and Stories, and we always pose it to artists and bands: How does your music speak to the South, and how does the South reflect itself in your music? It can go as broadly as a 'who are we and how did we get here?' exercise in philosophy and history, on down to the more anecdotal and local 'what foods do you miss the most when you're touring far away?' variety of queries.
With our latest podcast, we break from the deep dives into artists and bands that we have been doing for the last several episodes to pose this question to some of our favorite music professionals: Laura Boosinger, Daniel Coston, Ty Gilpin, Kim Ruehl, Stu Vincent and Garret Woodward. Their answers are thought provoking, and reveal a good bit of the unique nature of Southern music and culture, highlighting how it evolved and continues to change and expand into the larger world.
This is part one of a two part episode, where we focus on origins and feature more of the roots end of the Southern music spectrum. Part two will continue forward in time and touch on the grittier side of the Southland as well as how music acts as a unifying element, and look at where these intersections of culture and music have been in the more recent era as well as where they may be in the near future.
Thanks to our sponsors, Dynamite Roasting, and our supporters on Patreon. Please spread awareness about this podcast and consider helping us by subscribing and commenting on our show, and by becoming a supporter, either with a one-time donation via the blue "Tip Jar" button on our site's front page, or by chipping in monthly on our Patreon page. Thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!
David Childers laid out his approach to songwriting by saying that, for him, less is more: you don't have to say so much. There can be great depth in the straightforward. What seems simple at first reveals, upon reflection, a wealth of meaning. This applies to David the man as well, I believe. He is, as producer Don Dixon said, "deceivingly sophisticated".
In this episode, we explore the world of North Carolina singer songwriter, painter and former lawyer David Childers, showcasing his music and some of his influences, along with interviews of David, son Robert, label head Dolph Ramseur, producer Don Dixon, Avett Brother bassist Bob Crawford, and writer, musician and WNCW radio host Carol Rifkin.
This episode is sponsored by Dynamite Roasting, organic and fair trade coffee, by Ramseur Records, and we’re sponsored by you when you support Southern Songs and Stories on our Patreon page, or directly on our website, with links to both in the right column on this page. We’re glad you’re with us, and hope you may support the music of David Childers and other artists you enjoy hearing here, and can spread awareness of their work as well as ours at Southern Songs and Stories.
Our next podcast episode focuses on NC singer songwriter David Childers, and it will feature Ramseur Records founder (and Avett Brothers manager) Dolph Ramseur and famed producer and music artist Don Dixon, among others.
Here's a video filmed at David's house in Mt. Holly, NC, of the song "Greasy Dollar" which is on his new album Run Skeleton Run. David will be playing at the Purple Onion Cafe in Saluda NC on Sunday, November 19th, and has a show at the New Belgium Brewery in Asheville NC on Friday, January 12th. Stay tuned!
In this episode we dive deep into the conversation and live music of the Jon Stickley Trio that we recorded at the Spring Skunk Music Festival earlier this year, which was excerpted in the video released earlier with Grae Skye Studio. This podcast also features former bandmates of the trio, with Robert Greer of Town Mountain, Brett Johnson, formerly of Atmosphere, Mike Ashworth, now with Steep Canyon Rangers, and Galen Kipar all reflecting on their time playing with Jon, Patrick and Lyndsay. We also highlight some of the music of all of those artists as we go.
This episode is sponsored by Dynamite Roasting, organic and fair trade coffee, and we’re sponsored by you when you support Southern Songs and Stories on our Patreon page, or directly on our website, with links to both in the right column on this page. We’re glad you’re with us, and hope you may support the music of the Jon Stickley Trio and other artists you enjoy hearing here, and can spread awareness of their work as well as ours at Southern Songs and Stories.
Guitarist Jon Stickley, violin player Lindsay Pruett and drummer Patrick Armitage played two rousing sets at the SpringSkunk Music Festival, and took time to talk with Joe Kendrick and Aaron Morrell about everything from their favorite instrumental bands, the making of their latest record, Maybe Believe, how "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has found its way into their take on "Blackberry Blossom", their memories of Skunk Fests past and much more.
We hope you enjoy the video and will consider supporting the band, Skunk Fest and Southern Songs and Stories by watching, spreading awareness and supporting our endeavors. All of us involved in this project could never have done this without each other, and we hope you will join in too!
The Jon Stickley Trio at SpringSkunk Music Fest
Did you play music growing up? Were you like me, taking lessons for years only to leave it behind once you got to college? This is the category that most of us who did play some music fall into, I bet. Fewer people play into adulthood, and fewer still have played shows, were paid for gigs, or recorded a record. Acoustic Syndicate's story started out a lot like mine, perhaps like yours -- the core of the group got instruments for Christmas when they were kids, and were put on the impromptu stage of the family living room soon after. But they kept at it, even when they didn't know that there was a bright future for their music. Through many twists and turns, they managed to stay together, bring on new members, and play for a quarter century, making seven records along the way and winning fans all over the country.
This is the story of Acoustic Syndicate: Steve McMurry, Bryon McMurry, Fitz McMurry, Jay Sanders and Billy Cardine, plus others who were key to their success, like Steve Metcalf of Little King Records and Green Acres Music Hall. I got to interview the band after their show in Durham, NC, on a sweltering August evening. This far-reaching conversation includes many musical highlights from the band as well as side projects.
Playlist: Acoustic Syndicate: "Sailor Suit", "Rainbow Rollercoaster", "Billy The Kid", "Powderfinger (live)" Snake Oil Medicine Show: "Jumpin' Jehosaphat", Acoustic Syndicate: "Vanity", "Long Way Round", E Normus Trio: "Dear Diary", The Billy Sea: "Bil Bhai Rav", Acoustic Syndicate: "Coming In From The Cold", "North Country Girl (live)"
We are planning a monthly series of podcasts in addition to our video documentaries. Also, we're giving away prizes on social media for people who spread the word to help grow the Southern Songs and Stories audience. Stay tuned for our first batch of goodies including some Jon Stickley Trio shirts and CDs plus two passes to Jam In The Trees.
In case you haven't caught our most recent work, you can check out the series of podcasts on the SpringSkunk Fest on iTunes and on the website here: Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Plus, videos of the Jon Stickley Trio and our interview with Alexa Rose.
We appreciate your interest in our endeavor, and hope that you may help us spread awareness of our shows as well as the artists and music professionals you enjoy on the series. We would be most grateful for your help when you become a patron as well -- that page is here.
We're looking forward to a banner month, and hope you can be a part of it!
Here's the finale of our series of performances, interviews and commentary on SpringSkunk 2017. In this episode, there's music from Mourning Dove, Parsonsfield, Jon Stickley Trio, T Sisters, Scott Miller and Shinyribs, and we get to talk to Skunk regulars about their experiences and observations on the festival, plus make a few of our own.
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.