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 →
It may be surprising given how confidently he plays, but klezmer and old-time inspired banjo player Adam Kobetich had only been working on his busking set for a few months when I first encountered him. Although hardly new to the Asheville musical community, at this time Kobetich was still learning the ropes of street performing, and spoke with me about the trail-and-error process of discovering good tunes for busking.
In this pair of videos from 2011, Kobetich performs the classic gypsy-inspired tune “Odessa Bulgar” and then puts his personal spin on the traditional old-time standard “Sally Ann.” Continue reading →
A great band can turn even the most cliche of tunes into a memorable moment of music. Here, New Orleans-based buskers Natchez On Fire play their version of the extremely familiar traditional folk tune “The Crawdad” song, and manage to keep things interesting. Continue reading →
Way back in May of 2011, Busk Break caught a few songs from New Orleans-based buskers Natchez On Fire during their brief visit to Asheville. One of those songs, their version of the classic “Crawdad Song,” was released at the time, but this song never made it out of the archive. Now, for the first time ever, we present Natchez On Fire’s “The Yo-Yo Song”! Continue reading →
Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos at Bele Chere 2012.
You might not think that a half-dozen clean-shaven young men belting songs from the 1930s about cocaine addiction would be a natural crowd pleaser in a street festival, but you’d be wrong. Maybe it has something to do with their mashup addition of the thematically similar Old Crow Medicine Show tune “Tell It To Me,” which certainly seemed to please many in the audience.
Or maybe it was the brigade of mostly female fans, many of whom made it very clear that they were enjoying the testosterone on display at least as much as the music. That, or cocaine use is just a heckova lot more popular these days than I realized.
Here, the guys from Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos perform the American folk song “Take a Whiff on Me” (covered by everyone from Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie to The White Stripes and Old Crow Medicine Show) to the passersby during Bele Chere 2012. Continue reading →
Banjo Ben Shirley performing in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.
In the muggy heat after a week of rain, Richmond, VA-based busker Banjo Ben Shirley performs the traditional tune “Sugar Hill” in front of the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC. You may know him from his previous appearances on Busk Break with Abby the Spoon Lady, but he’s not exactly a slouch when it comes to solo performance. With a clear voice, a tambourine on his foot keeping time, and no shortage of talent, there’s a lot to like in his take on a classic tune. Continue reading →
Banjo Ben Shirley performing near the Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville, NC.
“I’m going to play this song because your fuzzy microphone cover reminds me of a rabbit,” Ben Shirley told me as he warmed up. After a moment, he added, “It was on the Three Pickers record, so this can be a tribute to Doc and Earl passing this year.”
I first met “Banjo Ben” Shirley last year, when he came through town with Abby “The Spoon Lady” Roach on their never-ending busking tour. Continue reading →
Caster performs the Bo Carter tune “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me” in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville, NC.
Recently unearthed from the Busk Break archives, Caster covers this classic “dirty blues” tune in 2011!
At the time of this recording, banjo-playing busker Caster had yet to write a song he felt comfortable playing in front of a camera. So I asked him, “Do you have a cover that you feel you really love? A song that you’ve truly made your own?”
He paused, stroked his thin chin beard, and thought. Then with a smile that seemed to indicate he was a little embarrassed, he said “I’ve become rather attached to a song called ‘Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me'” Continue reading →
The Archaic perform near Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville, NC.
It’s hard not to have a hint of prejudice when you encounter a guitar-and-banjo busking duo. Almost certainly, you’ll prepare yourself to hear some nasal-pitched bluegrass tune, or maybe some gritty, jazzed-up novelty blues song. What you probably won’t expect is to hear music that owes as much to Marcus Mumford and Thom Yorke as it does to Earl Scruggs or Lawrence Marrero. That’s exactly what makes The Archaic so interesting. Continue reading →
Patrick and Cody playing in front of the Woolworth Walk on a sweltering summer day.
It was scorching hot on the streets of Asheville when I met Patrick and Cody, but you’d never know it from how chill these two were during the recording. They were hanging out in the shade in front of the Woolworth Walk, brought there by local busker Charles Clyde Toney II, and all three were performing together as I approached. Continue reading →