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

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

F.J.K. performs “If You End Up Broke”

F.J.K.

F.J.K.

I’ve written before that F.J.K.’s “If You End Up Broke” is one of my favorite recordings from the pre-video era of Busk Break, and four years into the project, that’s still true. One reason for this is something that I wasn’t able to appreciate at the time I recorded it: It’s a terrible song for busking.

In general, if you’re going to make money playing tunes to people walking by on their way to somewhere else, it pays to go with something bright, high-energy and recognizable. F.J.K.’s “If You End Up Broke” is none of those. It’s a melancholy tune on the surface, but the lyrics are surprisingly mellow and hopeful. That’s not the kind of subtlety most passersby are likely to notice.

It’s not that most musicians I’ve met on Busk Break don’t have songs like this in their repertoire — of course they do — but few would ever decide to play them on the street. Less people stop for a melancholy tune than for an upbeat one. Less people stop for an original than for a pop hit. What makes this song so wonderful is that it’s a rare thing to find in the wild. Continue reading

Ben Wilton performs “Big Bad World”

Ben Wilton

Ben Wilton

In many ways, the fall of 2010 was the defining year for the busking scene in downtown Asheville. While street performers were hardly unknown in the city, a number of factors combined during that season to put Asheville on the map for traveling musicians that year. One of those factors was the first Asheville MoogFest, which brought a wealth of national-level electronic musicians to an already music-crazed city during Halloween weekend. Where there’s people and foot traffic, there will be buskers.

That’s not to say that Ben Wilton planned his arrival in town around what would become one of the region’s major music festivals for the next few years. If anything, he seemed a little overwhelmed at just how many people were out on the streets on that chilly October night. Originally from New Jersey, Wilton had been “rambling” around the East Coast with his guitar for the previous three weeks, and was only planning on being in town for a few days. Continue reading

Ashton and Rama Cheromaya perform “Mayan Queen”

Ashton and Rama Cheromaya

Ashton and Rama Cheromaya

In this archive recording from 2010, Ashton and Rama Cheromaya perform their original duet “Mayan Queen” in front of Malaprop’s cafe and bookstore in downtown Asheville. If you like powerful female voices in the acoustic folk genre, this will be well worth listening to. The duo was also known for a time (and may still be known, actually) as Sweet Water Revolver, and there are many additional recordings of them floating around the internet if you like what you hear.

What’s up with that video, though? WLike many of the very early Busk Break recordings, there is no original video to accompany the audio, and I’ve once again paid a visit to the public-domain Prelinger archive content at Archive.org to make some thing suitable for sharing. In this case, I’ve edited down a 1954 educational film called “Habit Patterns” to be more in fitting with the audio. The original is largely about the terror that comes from having lazy habits, and tells the story of a girl who no one likes because she wore a stained top to school one day.

The edited version is more a story of unrequited teenage attraction that neither the young girl or the society lives in is able to accept. It’s a little hokey, but if you watch the original film, I think you’ll agree that my version tells a better story. Continue reading

Alex Williamson is just “Looking For Some Time”

Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson

“This is called ‘Looking For Some Time.’ It’s my ode to North Carolina,” he said, followed by an almost embarrassed laugh.

I met Alex Williamson on a cool afternoon in late October 2010. It was just before the start of MoogFest, and the city was swarming with world-class musicians and their crews, all frantically trying to settle in before the madness of that Halloween-fueled festival. He was playing on the corner of Battery Park and Page Avenue in downtown Asheville, a good block from two of the best-established busking hotspots, and I assumed he was from out of town. But he wasn’t. He was a local guy who either hadn’t done enough busking to know where the money spots were. Continue reading

New Busk Break Collection!

Best of Busk Break: Volume 2

Best of Busk Break: Volume 2

We proudly present our second collection of recordings from the street corners of Asheville, NC! It’s the Best of Busk Break: Volume 2, now for sale at Bandcamp!

The new collection includes outstanding performances from Charles Clyde Toney II with Kris Wahl and Eris Valentine; Amy Alvey and Blake “BlakeAbyss” Larson; Brian McGee and Kevin “Krum” Rumley; Taylor Martin and Lyndsay Pruitt; Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos; Alex Travers; 37; Shane Conerty; Anna Trevor; Logan Mason; and Patrick and Cody. All proceeds go toward keeping Busk Break project alive, upgrading our equipment and tipping future buskers for their contributions. And for $1 a track or a mere $7 for the whole thing, what more could you ask for? Click the link for details.

Distinctly Original Tunes By 37

37

37

When you record as many buskers as I have, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of prejudice. Having seen a lot of skinny white girls with dreadlocks busking on the street corners of Asheville, I’d built up a certain set of assumptions. These can be summed up with the following sentence: “I’ll be gobsmacked if she can play anything other than Dave Matthews Band covers.”

It’s great to be proven wrong, and the young woman calling herself “37” was definitely not the kind of person I was expecting to record. I’d been expecting three-chord covers, and instead I was blasted away by a seamless fusion of folk, ska, punk and other influences that simply couldn’t have come together by mere accident.

Highly original, clearly talented, and a little skittish mixed with a heap of defiant, it’s hard not to be strangely charmed by 37’s persona. Continue reading

PJ Bond and Lauren Baker

PJ Bond and Lauren Baker

PJ Bond and Lauren Baker perform in front of Kim’s Wigs in summer 2010.

Last week, we featured a song by then-local singer-songwriter PJ Bond from the pre-video days of Busk Break. This week, we’re adding the second tune from that recording in July of 2010, as Bond was joined in front of Kim’s Wigs by his friend Lauren Baker.

Baker is probably best known as the musical saw player from local “absurdist, gypsy, folk, funk, punk” band Sirius.B. (To be fair, like most members of that band, she’s a multi-instrumentalist, but the musical saw thing tends to stick out.) Continue reading

PJ Bond performs “You Know The Drill”

PJ Bond

PJ Bond performs in front of Kim’s Wigs in 2010.

On a warm July night in 2010, singer-songwriter PJ Bond stood in front of a wig store and played his heart out. This was in the early days of the Busk Break project, and it set the tone for the rest the performances that summer.

Bond had only been living in town for a year or so, but his brother, Pancho Romero Bond, was already established as the frontman of local “absurdist, gypsy, folk, funk, punk” band Sirius.B. Although not nearly the same level of showman as his brother, I’d argue that PJ Bond is clearly the better songwriter. But PJ never really found his niche in novelty-act living Asheville, and his time as a busker didn’t last long. Continue reading