New Hampshire-based cellist Anna Trevor gave me a wry smile before putting the bow to the strings of her cello. I was trying to convince her to perform an original tune, but although she assured me that she had written several songs on guitar, she hadn’t worked them all out on the cello. So I switched gears, and asked her if there was a song she simply loved to play on the cello. That’s where the smile came from.
There’s something to be said for anyone in the modern era attempting to play a credible version of any Sam Chatmon song. In the wrong hands, his done-wrong Delta blues can come across as cartoonish rather than heartfelt. But even though they’re about 100 years younger than Chatmon, Clarence and Will surprised me with this version of “Who Gonna Love You Tonight.”
I was walking back from filming the Asheville Holiday Parade on a surprisingly warm November day, when I saw two guys setting up in front of the Iron Sculpture. Both were dressed as if it was a good ten degrees cooler than it was, and putting on a great show of being barely interested in the tip-bearing crowd passing by. They’d clearly spend some time developing their old-time musician personas, from Dust Bowl-hinting clothing to their practiced, skeptically detatched drawls. Continue reading Will and Clarence cover “Who Gonna Love You Tonight?”
“It’s really cold in New Hampshire right now,” Anna Trevor explained with a laugh. I’d asked her why she was performing on the streets of Asheville on this chilly, windy winter day in Asheville. “It’s still a beautiful place, and I love it there, but I also love to play music. It’s hard to play music outside when it’s snowing. So, I’ve been traveling around, trying to get down South … as far South as I can.”
I met Sparrow the weekend of the first MoogFest in downtown Asheville. Even on an average weekend, the city could be mistaken for a costume party that had somehow spilled out onto the streets, but add Halloween weekend and a major, national-level electronic music festival to the mix, and the experience began to border on the hallucinatory. Continue reading Sparrow performs “Walt’s Waltz”
We’ve covered Now You See Them‘s Shane Conerty before, as he’s one of the most active buskers in the Asheville music scene. He’s also one of those rare performers who is perfectly willing to give his all in every song, even if there’s no audience to speak of when he’s playing it.
In the summer of 2010, New York-based musician Jessica Dennison was passing through Asheville, and decided to give busking a try on our streets. By the time I ran across her, however, the looming clouds and drizzle made it very clear that her next song would be the last in her set. So, armed with her ukulele and charm, she performed her original tune “Grave” for the Busk Break project. Continue reading Jessica Dennison and her ukulele perform “Grave”
To point out an awkward truth about Asheville’s music scene, there simply aren’t that many black performers on the city’s cultural radar. It’s a town where even the best-known rap and hip-hop acts are mostly composed of white men, and where the most known black busker is an elderly sax player who often doesn’t even bother playing through the first chorus of the song. But there are exceptions. Leeda “Lyric” Jones, for instance, and Kevin Jerome. Continue reading Kevin Jerome performs “To the Mountain Top”
When Kevin Jerome told me that he wanted to “reclaim” the 1929 Albert E. Brumley hymn “I’ll Fly Away” for “the black man,” I was dubious. Jerome is an unquestionably talented performer, but was he really up to the task of reworking one of the most recognized gospel songs of all time? In a word, yes. Continue reading Kevin Jerome reclaims “I’ll Fly Away”
Shortly before the release of his album The Taking or The Leaving, alt-country and Americana artist Brian McGee spent the the better part of a day busking song from the recording in front of the Iron sculpture in downtown Asheville, NC. He was joined midway through the set by drummer Kevin “Krum” Rumley, whose unique talents include the ability to seamlessly keep time while puffing away on a cigarette. Continue reading Brian McGee and Krum perform “First Kiss”
With their high-voltage style, musical saw and general whimsy, novelty jazz band Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks may be one of the most easily recognized bands in Asheville’s street music scene. Here, the group perform their version of the Mississippi Mud Steppers’ tune “Jackson Stomp.”
This video also shows the value of checking your battery before you start recording. Approximately 30 seconds into filming, my camera stopped recording due to a low charge. As a result, there isn’t a video of this memorable performance. Instead, we’re setting the separately recorded audio to a funny cartoon from yesteryear called “Accidents Don’t Just Happen,” courtesy of the public domain Prelinger Archives.