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

Natchez On Fire play “The Crawdad Song”

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Natchez On Fire in Asheville, 2011.

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

Natchez On Fire perform “The YoYo Song”

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Natchez On Fire playing in Asheville, NC.

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

SolStar performs “Reaching Forward” at Bele Chere 2012

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SolStar perform at Bele Chere 2012.

What can you say about Atlanta’s genre-crossing band SolStar? How many bands can you think of that feature an electric violin and African dancing as key elements to the performance? Having only encountered the band by accident before, and having only a cellphone camera to capture the performance, it was a great turn of luck to run into them again.

Here, the five-piece version of the group performs to a packed crowd in front of the Woolworth Walk in Asheville, NC, during the 2012 Bele Chere street festival. Continue reading

Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos mashup “Take a Whiff on Me” and “Tell It To Me”

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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

Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos perform an Irish medley at Bele Chere

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Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos playing to a sizable crowd on the streets of Asheville during the 2012 Bele Chere festival.

What do you get when you combine Asheville’s most high-profile busking boy band with the largest street festival in the region? You get a great performance, that’s what. Playing this medley of Irish tunes “The Foggy Dew” and “Come Out, Ye Black and Tans,” Tomb Nelson and The Stillwater Hobos had drawn a crowd to rival acts on the actual Bele Chere 2012 stages.

For those of you who aren’t aware of Asheville’s Bele Chere festival, it’s very much like many street festivals across the world. There are vendor booths, activities for kids, tons of food (with heavy emphasis on local eateries in recent years) and several stages of live music. Continue reading

Pilgrim, Elmore and Bob play “Black Eyed Suzie”

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Pilgrim, Elmore and Bob play during a rainstorm in the entrance to the Miles Building.

What’s a group of buskers to do when they’re ready and willing to play, but the weather has different plans? Hiding out in the entrance of the Miles Building during a fierce rainstorm, traveling buskers Pilgrim, Elmore and Bob had planned on busking in front of the Iron sculpture in downtown Asheville. As a result, they were instead playing tunes largely to entertain each other until the torrent passed. Continue reading

Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos perform “The Hills of Connemara”

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Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos, giving the people all the shouty, beardy, suspendery action they can handle.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned just how excited some folks (mostly my female coworkers at the time of the recording) were about this group of five strapping young men who sing Irish folks songs. Sure, you could say that their brand of shouty, beardy, suspender-clad music is nothing new (Marcus Mumford has been doing it for years), but there’s no getting away from the fact that, on this warm spring day at least, they were causing random passersby to swoon. And even if you’re not the swooning type, there’s still plenty to like. So, just to quench that burning desire for more lads in suspenders belting out classics from the 1800s, here’s Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos performing that classic tune about Irish moonshine, “The Hills of Connemara,” near the Iron sculpture in downtown Asheville. Continue reading

Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos perform a spirited medley

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Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos in the act of stopping ladies in their tracks.

I have rarely seen any group of buskers command quite the level of instant attention that Texas-based Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos did on this sunny May afternoon. The five-member version of the band had been playing their boisterous music for the better part of an hour by the time I was able to get down to the street and record them. They were already quite warmed up, and decided to perform this ambitious medley of the traditional tines “I’ll Tell Me Ma” and “Oh, You New York Girls (Can’t You Dance the Polka?)” Continue reading