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Birds or Monsters, Red Clay Ramblers, David Holt

Three weekend performances give the state's musical roots new light 

Bright future

At least once a week, someone mentions a new Triangle band that's soon to play its first show or cut its first demo. Indeed, there's a wealth of local music so broad that it forms an expansive canopy above, teeming with a panoply of forms as varied as you can imagine—country and country-rock, noise and noise-pop, free jazz and Latin jazz. Wander a bit, and you can hear it all.

That canopy is supported from beneath by a roots system so deep that it sometimes surprises even natives like myself. From the string-band music associated with the state's western reaches to the jazz luminaries whose birthplaces form a connected-dot web of influence across these 100 counties, North Carolina's musical heritage stands as a singular well that's supported the growth of some of the country's best traditions.

This week, we look at three North Carolina bands that use a cultivated understanding of and respect for that past to move forwad. These acts aren't tributes or even necessarily that nostalgic: As Birds or Monsters, Carolina Chocolate Drop Justin Robinson works old ideas into nebulous structures, glancing at hip-hop and grandiose indie rock through his traditional-music lens. Headed into its fourth decade, the Red Clay Ramblers wrap a wealth of Tar Heel history into complex, captivating musical sprees. An immigrant to the mountains, Grammy winner David Holt surrounds his brilliant renderings of century-old songs with an enthusiasm for sharing their context.

All three bands take to various Triangle stages this weekend, presenting you new sight lines into our old but surviving sounds.

  • Birds or Monsters, Red Clay Ramblers, David Holt

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