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Sunday, September 29, 2013

World of Bluegrass: Saturday's grand finale

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Word began to spread through the throngs of bluegrass fans across downtown Raleigh early Saturday afternoon that plans were afoot for a 2 p.m. "Banjo Flash Mob" at the Sir Walter Raleigh statue in front of the Convention Center. This was high comedy, for anyone attending this week's World of Bluegrass: If you were there, you know that the whole thing was a five-day-long Banjo Flash Mob. From quiet beginnings on Tuesday—just a couple dozen people dotted the pews of the Long View Center for a fest-opening 6 p.m. slot by spirited Austin quartet Wood & Wire—World of Bluegrass gradually...

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The magic of Del McCoury, the splendor of the mood: Spencer Griffith on World of Bluegrass, Night Four

The Punch Brothers break the rules, and Del McCoury runs Red Hat.

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 3:25 PM

With perfect weather and portions of several streets closed down, downtown Raleigh was alive on Friday’s first full day of open IBMA festivities. Along with a strong slate of scheduled free performances—highlighted by Album of the Year winners Balsam Range, Guitarist of the Year Bryan Sutton, Emerging Artist of the Year nominees The Spinney Brothers, classically influenced trio The Kruger Brothers, and mandolinist/guitarist Lou Reid of The Seldom Scene—on or in more than a half-dozen stages or tents, there were impromptu jam sessions on the courthouse steps, in corners of the Raleigh Convention Center and throughout hotel lobbies and hallways....

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Videos: Highlights of the World of Bluegrass, Night Four

The Kruger Brothers, Balsam Range and Michael Cleveland offer the excitement.

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Friday initiated the free, street-fair portion of World of Bluegrass, with numerous stages and rows of bluegrass record labels and vendors. Many of the record labels had performances at their booths, too. Without a formal schedule of all performances stretching between the ticketed, non-ticketed and vendor zones, the best strategy might’ve been to wander around a bit, walk up upon someone picking, and hang out and listen. Indeed, the most pleasant surprise of my Friday came in catching 9-time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, at the Gibson tent. He ran through several fast, driving fiddle...

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Friday, September 27, 2013

A hotel room dalliance: Grayson Currin on World of Bluegrass, Night Three

Béla and Abigail play in a hotel room, and a local picker says hello.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 5:09 PM

I’m still not sure who paid for Room 330 in the downtown Raleigh Marriott this weekend, but when you get told to go to a party, it’s generally best not to stop and ask too many questions. So last night, just after the end of the IBMA Awards, where Tony Rice delivered a dramatic speech and the words “North Carolina” started to feel like nationalist totems, I stood outside of Room 330 with a few friends, each of us attempting to cajole the others into knocking. We hesitated. After all, in quickly scrawled black letters, the neon pink sign on the...

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On Sunday, All Day Records celebrates three years with 21 bands

All Day's record keeps spinning

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 1:23 PM

When Carrboro’s All Day Records opened its doors in 2010, some skepticism would have been understandable. Opening any record store amid the oft-proclaimed death throes of the music industry seems like a crazy prospect; opening one that eschewed CDs almost entirely and focused its wares on the fringes, well, it might’ve been called a hail mary. But it worked. Finding quick and stable footing among adventurous music fans in the Triangle, All Day has been rather successful. Some of this could surely be attributed to its co-owners’ long local music resumes. Together, Charlie Hearon and Ethan Clauset have compiled...

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North Carolina wins, Tony Rice speaks at the IBMA Awards

A lot of music and a minor miracle

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Even for someone like myself, who’d never been to the IBMA Awards Show before last night, one could tell that the association made every effort to point out its move to Raleigh during the nearly three-hour celebration. It’d have been a dangerous drinking game to sip at every mention of Doc Watson or Earl Scruggs, and the program was loaded with North Carolina-based nominees and performers. Hosts Steep Canyon Rangers now hail from Brevard, but they feature UNC graduates among its members. They initially promised “no basketball trash talk” after opening the show with a performance of “Tell The...

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Videos: Highlights of the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, Night Three

See Del McCoury Band and The Gibson Brothers get rowdy at the Lincoln Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Fresh from last night's IBMA Awards, where the Gibson Brothers took home Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year honors, the group made their way from Memorial Auditorium for a celebratory set at the Lincoln Theatre. Perhaps with more pep in their step than normal, they smoked through a 45-minute bunch of tunes to an adoring and packed audience. Despite Leigh Gibson claiming to be under the weather, he fooled us by belting out several solid numbers with brother Eric adding harmonies. They did not play the title song...

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Unlikely settings and technical compensation: Grayson Currin on World of Bluegrass, Night Two

Della Mae, Frank Solivan, James King and the rooms they were given

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 6:14 PM

In a modest city such as Raleigh, one situation that arises with large-scale, multi-venue music events is that many rooms must deviate from their general programming—and so, their customary clientele. For the last four years, it’s been evident when Hopscotch puts, for example, experimental artists in a flesh-and-sweat dance spot like The Hive. (Note: I have worked for the last four years as the co-director of Hopscotch.) And for the last two days, with the arrival of World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, it’s been evident again with string bands occupying rock clubs such as Kings and The Pour House (and...

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Videos: Highlights of the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, Night Two

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 2:59 PM

I rambled again last night at the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass 2013. Here's the best of what I saw. Peter Rowan, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" After playing one of the most recognizable songs in bluegrass, Peter Rowan told stories of his former boss, Bill Monroe, and led his own group through a fast set that spanned his catalog. The most poignant moment came in the encore, when Rowan played "Doc Watson Morning" solo acoustic. The large Lincoln Theatre was pin-drop quiet, though an eruption of applause immediately followed.  James King Band, "Devil's Train" Looking fit, James King...

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Live: Béla Fleck is best with his banjo, if only Grant Llewellyn would stop talking

Bluegrass, banjos and a symphony

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Béla Fleck & the North Carolina Symphony Meymandi Concert Hall Tuesday, Sept. 24 World of Bluegrass has arrived in Raleigh, and everyone who cares is finding their own way into the action. At Quail Ridge Books on Sunday, for instance, I spied a window display that welcomed members of the International Bluegrass Music Association and lured them with albums by their heroes and books about the traditional music culture of Western North Carolina. (On that note, get the excellent Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina.) The News & Observer has been running a series of thoughtful stories on bluegrass...

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Strange encounters and surprising sounds: Spencer Griffith on World of Bluegrass, Night One

Folks from Alberta, outlaw roots from Nashville

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Arriving yesterday in the early evening at the Raleigh Convention Center’s registration area for World of Bluegrass 2013, I first met a pair of young guys from Alberta. “We decided to come down on a whim,” one told me. I tried to imagine flying across the continent on an impulse to see bluegrass in Raleigh. I couldn't, but I didn't need to: I simply needed to walk down the street, to the Long View Center. Indeed, I was anxious to hear something—anything—as soon as possible. Kristy Cox & Calder Highway were just beginning their set. Cox’s vocals and the complementary...

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Simple Music Video Series: Bluegrass legend Peter Rowan pays tribute to Doc Watson

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 2:01 PM

At each performance Peter Rowan gives, someone will inevitably yell out for the hits—"Panama Red," "Free Mexican Airforce," "Midnight Moonlight." There is nothing particularly wrong with that. Many artists in their 70s, like Rowan, might just lean on their earlier work and be burdened by nothing but the hits. But Rowan is not most artists. In fact, at 71, Rowan appears to be in the midst of an artistic renaissance, with his two most recent albums being as strong as any in his enormous discography. 2010's Legacy and 2013's The Old School show Rowan surrounded by both strong songwriting...

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Videos: Highlights of the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, Night One

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 1:39 PM

The bluegrass started last night in Raleigh, as the 2013 World of Bluegrass festival, conference and awards ceremony takes control of the city for the rest of the week. Below, catch a few clips of the bands who showcased last night and offered a look into the wide variety of offerings at IBMA. It wasn't strict bluegrass: Some acts had a country lean, while others grappled with Cajun influences and folk ballad styles. The action continues tonight, so keep an eye here for more reviews and videos. And check our comprehensive festival guide for a handbook to the rest of...

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Video: Country singer Sturgill Simpson delights a small Raleigh crowd

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Fresh from a stop at the Grand Ole Opry, Sturgill Simpson made his first appearance in the Triangle last week at The Pour House in Raleigh. Touring on his debut solo release, High Top Mountain, Simpson and his three-piece delivered an uncommonly refreshing country sound. Covering all the main points from the Waylon Jennings playbook, Simpson played the sad ones, the ones with the heavy back beat and the ones meant for buck-dancing. "There's about 20 more of you than I thought there would be," he offered at one point. Seemingly impressed by the small crowd's enthusiasm and their requests...

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Video: Blind Boys of Alabama, live in Durham

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

The Blind Boys of Alabama kicked off a two-night stand at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center last Friday night, in celebration of their new record, I’ll Find a Way. Bon Iver frontman and former Raleigh resident Justin Vernon produced the album, while his longtime collaborator and Durham resident Phil Cook worked as musical director. The evening began with a solemn memorial and recognition of two members of the group who have passed in recent years, Johnny Fields and George Scott. They also called Durham home, and both founding members had spouses and family members in attendance. The Blind Boys started with...

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Friday, September 13, 2013

VIDEO: Austin Lucas performing "Alone in Memphis" and "Wild Hog in the Woods" at Bull City Records

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Austin Lucas, one of the moment's hardest-working folk singers, returns to Durham on Sunday. At Motorco, Lucas will present material from Stay Reckless, his latest release and first for the well-regarded New West Records. When we recorded this session late last year at Bull City Records, his song "Alone in Memphis" knocked me over. It perfectly captures the loneliness of a traveling musician, balancing love for what they do with the grind of doing it. I don't want to be alone in Memphis I don't want to be alone in New Orleans I don't want to dwell in cheap...

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pace yourself: Hopscotch 2013 Day 3 highlights

Posted By on Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that "Hopscotch is a marathon, not a sprint"; his analogy gives and gives. Like in a distance race, you have to keep yourself hydrated; you need to wear the right shoes and know how to pace yourself. And, like in a distance race, you're going to feel awful, awful, awful if you get to the end of it and realize you have eaten only hot dogs. While part of me wishes Hopscotch volunteers set up tables and handed out orange slices, marathon-style (hint, hint), I will say I made it to the end...

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Day party afternoon: Hopscotch 2013 Day 3 highlights

Posted By on Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 10:20 AM

My one constant rule since the first Hopscotch has been to always see Spider Bags when given the opportunity, no matter when or where they're playing. But, considering the capacity crowd for their 2 p.m. set at Kings that caused me to miss the start of the set, it seems there must be others out there with the same philosophy. Maybe I should have foreseen this, given the way the Bags crammed people into Slim's during Churchkey's Friday day party. The Durham trio proved why I spent most of my day Saturday with a handful of fine Triangle acts, like...

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

One in, one out: Hopscotch 2013 Day 2 highlights

Posted By on Sat, Sep 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Last night at Hopscotch was a night of one in, one out. Even early on, during Seattle's Rose Windows, the now much smaller Berkeley Cafe had a line out front; Slim's, that night's home of metal, was the same way all night. And even on the City Plaza Stage, during Future Islands' set, came the announcement that New York rapper and chef extraordinaire Action Bronson threw his back out and wouldn't be at Lincoln Theatre; his slot had been filled by old school hip-hop veteran Big Daddy Kane: Kane in, Bronson out. With Bronson the centerpiece of my loosely fleshed-out...

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Hopscotch 2013: Day 1 highlights

Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

It's funny how Hopscotch works. If you're like me, you spend hours prioritizing bands within a time slot and even planning out the most efficient way to hit several venues in a matter of forty minutes or so, hoping to maximize your time and alleviate as many of the inevitable conflicts as possible. When the festival starts, though, that well-made plan seems to go out the window once the night's vibe alters your momentary sweet spot, a friend insists that you must see a certain act, or a venue or two runs slightly off schedule. With a couple of...

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"New Vinyl" from King Mez

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 3:15 PM

King Mez has avoided becoming a walking, rapping contradiction for so long now that he's plateaued somewhere in the pre-boil plains, where he's both grounded by chastity and tempted by upscale tastes. On "New Vinyl," the DMV producer Oddisee outfits the Raleigh-raised MC with an elegant drum lounge—just a few BPMs and horn blares away from a splurge. This MC/producer combination could scream perfection if King Mez screamed at all, but its strength lies in teaming two elite members of hip-hop's humble-brag society, where less is more as long as your less is 100 percent untouchable. In one verse, King...

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Video: Josh Moore solo at the Local 506

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Sunday night, local singer-songwriter Josh Moore opened for Deep Chatham at the Local 506. Considered by many to be one of the more under-rated and under-appreciated acts in the Triangle, Moore has begun working on his first solo album as he nears his 30th birthday. Although he has a few releases under his belt with acts like Beloved, in recent years Moore had fallen into the background, popping up here and there to contribute to his friends' efforts. Now Moore is focusing on his own release, with those same friends helping him along. He's been working with Jeff Crawford of...

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NC Music Love Army to release LP at Cat's Cradle in November

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 9:49 AM

On Labor Day, the "Moral Monday" protesters that spent the summer raising their voices against the state's Republican-dominated legislature reaffirmed their stance, decrying lawmakers who will vote Tuesday tooverturn a pair of vetoes by Gov. Pat McCrory—one on a bill requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, the other on a measure that expands the definition of "seasonal labor." They haven't forgotten their cause, and neither have the NC Music Love Army, the loose but impassioned contingent of area musicians who spent their summer soundtracking the "Moral Monday" movement. When they started up in July, they promised an LP of...

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