Chris Lyon and Adam Witkowski

Chris Lyon and Adam Witkowski
Chris Lyon and Adam Witkowski
Bluegrass-loving buskers Chris Lyon and Adam Witkowski performed a pair of original tunes for this 2011 session of Busk Break. Switching between mandolin and guitar, the duo each played one of their own songs with the practiced ease of friends who have been working with each other for years.

And that’s exactly the case, as they’d been involved in several projects together in Vermont. This performance near Pack Square is the only time either musician appeared on Busk Break. Continue reading Chris Lyon and Adam Witkowski

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 mashup “Take a Whiff on Me” and “Tell It To Me”

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

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 “The Hills of Connemara”

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 Tomb Nelson and the Stillwater Hobos perform a spirited medley

Damn Girl! perform “La Policia”

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Damn Girl! perform at the Woolworth Walk.
When I first encountered Tom├ís and Derrick, the duo that would later add a few rotating members to their lineup and perform as Damn Girl!, they insisted that they were only passing through town. Perhaps a month passed, and by that point they’d become as established as any local band in the Asheville busking scene. I was hardly surprised. Even in early spring, there are plenty of tip-wielding tourists for buskers to perform to, and, as a rule of thumb, loud buskers do better than quiet ones. This is true even when the songs being played aren’t even in English.

Watching Damn Girl! perform their original tune “La Policia” in front of the Woolworth Walk, the only surprising thing was that the band was still claiming to be passing through town. Continue reading Damn Girl! perform “La Policia”

Balkan Death Grip perform “Men Trinkte Mashke”

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Matt Heckler, Trevor Grassi and Jeff Loops, with unseen members of Balkan Death Grip, perform near Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville, NC.
Matt Heckler and Trevor Grassi lead this incarnation of Balkan Death Grip to hell and back. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a melodramatic way of putting it, but this is a highly melodramatic song. After all, it’s about a man who pays his way by shoveling coal in hell, who plays music that smells of gasoline and who, they say, is around “every time a ship goes down.” It’s also one of the most entertainingly over-the-top tunes ever performed in front of the Busk Break camera. Continue reading Balkan Death Grip perform “Men Trinkte Mashke”

Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform “Caffeine”

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Aaron Gunn and friends perform his original tune “Caffeine” in front of the Woolworth Walk.
It’s not every musician that can write an entirely new song that also manages to feel timeless. That’s doubly true when their chosen genre is the nostalgia-driven jazz, blue and old-time hybrid that has been dominating the regional busking scene for the past several years. I was absolutely certain that “Caffeine” was a cover, like some jazzed-up, long-forgotten companion b-side to Clara Smith’s “Ain’t Got Nobody To Grind My Coffee.” But it turns out that it was written by a guy I’ve known for years. Continue reading Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform “Caffeine”

Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas cover “My Fat Gal”

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Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas perform in front of the Woolworth Walk.
Filmed on a gray spring day outside the Woolworth Walk, Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas performed an exceedingly fun take on the Merle Travis tune “My Fat Gal.” In other hands, it’s one of those songs that could be interpreted as insensitive, or even outright offensive. But here, it’s neither. It’s just a great band playing a truly entertaining song. Continue reading Mister Gunn & The Pistol Packin’ Mamas cover “My Fat Gal”

Blind Boy Chocolate & The Milk Sheiks cover “Jackson Stomp”

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Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks at Bele Chere 2010.
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.