Nikki Talley, July 2011

Nikki Talley in 2011.

Nikki Talley in 2011.

About the last person I expected to see strumming away outside Malaprop’s was Nikki Talley. Yet, there she was, playing a busted up guitar while leaning against the wrought-iron “Shopping Daze” sculpture. It had been years since I’d seen her, and given the hellish weekend ahead of me, she was a welcome sight. In just as few hours, the Bele Chere festival would be upon us, taking over the whole of downtown in a mass of vendor tents, outdoor stages, and drunk, sunburned tourists. Being a journalist in Asheville meant I was covering Bele Chere, and I’d barely have time to sleep until it over. Continue reading

Ian Moore performs “Hard Times”

Ian Moore performs near Pritchard Park in 2010.

Ian Moore performs near Pritchard Park in 2010.

On a blustery November day in 2010, local fiddle icon Ian Moore (then of The Rib Tips) performed the classic tune “Hard Times (Come Again No More).” Written in 1854 by Stephen Foster, “Hard Times” had a particularly poignant feel in the still slow economy of 2010. In fact, even Moore — a well-established regional performer — had been struggling, taking a job as a truck driver to make ends meet. Continue reading

Adam and Emma cover “Red Rubber Ball”

Busk-Adam-EmmaA few days ago, I featured these two performers in a post about my occasional epic fails in recording street musicians. Normally, I make a point of getting at least a reasonable amount of information from the buskers I record, as showcasing them is really the only point of the project in the first place. Not having something as fundamental as the performers names really chewed on me, as that’s not a mistake I generally make.

My assumption was that I’d lost the recording where I actually talked to them about who they are and why they’re busking. Continue reading

Adam and Emma cover “Drinkin’ in the Morning” by Trampled By Turtles

EDIT: A few days after I wrote the post below, I was able to find the tiniest scrap of audio at the end of one of the recordings where I confirmed the two performers’ names. I’ve obviously lost the recording where I spoke to them about their other details, but at least one small piece of this mystery is solved.

Busk-Chino-1.Still002Every so often, I’m terrible at recording buskers. Particularly if I’m feeling harried or distracted, I’ll make some fairly baffling mistakes. I’ll forget to turn on my microphone, for instance. Or I’ll get in a position where the light is constantly changing, blowing out the white levels. Sometimes I’ll even forget the very basics, like saying the performers’ names a few times, having them spell it, or asking where I can find more of their content so people who like them can get in touch.

While most of my mistakes come one at a time, every so often I’ll be looking at a video I took and realize I’ve created a perfect storm of embarrassing incompetence. This is one such video. Continue reading

Hannah Rebekah performs a duo of originals

Hannah Rebekah

Hannah Rebekah

It takes a brave busker to face the chilly winds and slow foot traffic of downtown Asheville on an early February evening. While the city absolutely throbs with street music during the warm months, it’s largely a ghost town from the start of the new year until the weather finally thaws around mid-March. Undaunted, singer-songwriter Hannah Rebekah took up her guitar and portable amp, facing the challenge head on.

It helps that Rebekah is a recent arrival in Asheville, having only arrived in town a little less than three weeks ago. What brought her here? Continue reading

Roger Clark and Deep Chatham cover “Your Cheatin’ Heart”

Roger Clark (guitar), Jeff Loops (bass) and Julian Sikes (backing vocals).

Roger Clark (guitar), Jeff Loops (bass) and Julian Sikes (backing vocals).

In this unexpected collaboration, country musician Roger Clark and not-so-easy-to-categorize band Deep Chatham (Jeff Loops on bass and Julian Sikes providing the occasional backing vocal) perform an impromptu cover of Hank Williams’ classic tune “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

Clark had encountered the duo in passing as they busked in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville in 2011. A casual conversation about old-time country had turned into an off-the-cuff jam session between three musicians separated by nearly two generations. Clark only played a few songs with Deep Chatham, and this was a truly fortunate thing to happen across. Continue reading

The Leather Britches perform “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor”

The Leather Britches: Nick DiSebastian (guitar), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Jen Starsinic (fiddle) and Charles Muench (bass).

The Leather Britches: Nick DiSebastian (guitar), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Jen Starsinic (fiddle) and Charles Muench (bass).

Listening to how neatly the members of The Leather Britches fit together as performers, you’d be hard-pressed to guess that the group had only been playing together under that name for the better part of an afternoon.

Composed of four friends who came to Asheville for, as they sheepishly put it, “this fiddle gathering … like a convention.” Of course, anyone who follows the Asheville music community would instantly know what they were talking about: The Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College.

The quartet wouldn’t exactly characterize themselves as a band, although Nick DiSebastian (guitar) and Charles Muench (bass) were both members of the Lancaster, PA, group River Wheel. Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle) and Jen Starsinic (fiddle) also had a musical project together, and three of the four lived in the same town and attended the same school, and had played together under various names over the years. On this day, they had decided to call themselves The Leather Britches.

Here, the quartet perform the cross-genre standard “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor.” Continue reading

A Trio Of Tunes From Locust Honey

Locust Honey (Sarah Jamison on guitar, Chloe Edmonstone on fiddle and Ariel Dixon on banjo)

Locust Honey (Sarah Jamison on guitar, Chloe Edmonstone on fiddle and Ariel Dixon on banjo)

The moment I rounded the corner from Battery Park to Haywood, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. In the recessed alcove of Kim’s Wigs were three young women playing to a clutch of captivated passersby. Not just any young women, either. They were obviously talented players, and knew the idiom of traditional and old-time American folk tunes well. For the purposes of video, however, the jackpot was that they were all attractive in that tangible, earthy way folk musicians should be.

It was Busk Break gold, right from the start.

It’s safe to say that the three were still getting used to the attention of that afternoon as I approached. It was the July 4th weekend of 2011, and a great time to be a busker in downtown Asheville. The air was warm, but not yet oppressively hot. They were huge crowds of three-day-weekenders pumping through the city’s veins, happy to part with coins and small bills for a moment’s entertainment. By the time I approached, camera-in-hand, they were already receiving waves of compliments from strangers. Continue reading

Deep Chatham performs “Hard To Find”

Deep Chatham

Deep Chatham

As I mentioned in the last post about Deep Chatham, it was obvious after just a few seconds that guitarist Julian Sikes and bassist Jeff Loops were immensely talented performers. The performance that sold me on the duo was “Hard To Find,” a rollicking, upbeat, gritty, sarcastic, ironic and otherwise difficult-to-categorize tune. For whatever reason, “Hard To Find” doesn’t appear on their outstanding Words From The Well album, making it, well … hard to find.

By the time encountered Loops and Sikes, they’d already started working with Matt Heckler, having crossed paths with him a world away in the tiny town of Talkeetna, Alaska. Continue reading

Deep Chatham perform “The Cursed (Medley)”

Deep Chatham's bassist Jeff Loops and guitarist Julian Sikes.

Deep Chatham’s bassist Jeff Loops and guitarist Julian Sikes.

It’s easy to get a little spoiled by the busking scene in Asheville. Often it seems like there’s outstanding musical talent waiting to be seen around every corner. On this sunny day in June of 2011, I turned a corner and ran into guitarist Julian Sikes and upright bassist Jeff Loops, better known as Deep Chatham. And they were unavoidably fantastic.

In the three years since this recording, Deep Chatham has made quite a name for themselves, releasing a fantastic full-length album (Words From The Well) and touring several times around the East Coast. Along the way, they’ve picked up two key members in fiddle player Matt Heckler and pianist/accordionist Trevor Grassi, who longtime followers of Busk Break may know better as Balkan Death Grip. Continue reading