Aaron Basskin performs “What To Do”

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Aaron Basskin performing in Asheville, NC.

Recorded in the same session as his cover of “If I Only Had a Brain”, local busker Aaron Basskin performs his original tune “What To Do” in front of the Iron sculpture on downtown Asheville, NC.

Most of the time, the buskers I meet aren’t aware of the Busk Break project, but as it turns out, Basskin was. He’d seen one of the several videos documenting local jazz band and busking scene favorite Big Nasty, and was highly impressed.

“Those guys are so cool,” he explained with a smile. Although Basskin was mostly playing covers, it wasn’t too hard to talk him into playing an original for his second contribution to the Busk Break series. Continue reading

Anna Trevor performs the first movement of Sonata in G minor by Henry Eccles

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Anna Trevor and her cello.

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 definitely a very sad classical tune that I really enjoy playing,” she said. Continue reading

Doc may have strained his voice, but not his harmonica

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Doc performs at the corner of Lexington Ave. and Walnut in downtown Asheville.

At first listen you might not think much of this ditty by the Walhalla, SC,-based busker known simply as Doc. It’s certainly a well-performed tune, and clearly there’s passion behind this original composition, but something is obviously missing. That something is lyrics, and to appreciate the song in context, it helps to realize that Doc was bone tired from performing, and had completely strained his voice the previous day. He could barely talk, in fact, and was nursing herbal tea between songs in an attempt to soothe his vocal chords. Continue reading

Knoxville’s Bill Page sings about trading places

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Knoxville’s Bill Page playing in front of Malaprop’s.

For quite some time, Bill Page was one of a very small number of busking musicians on the streets of Knoxville, TN. It’s not a town that has traditionally been known as a busking hotspot, but over the last few years this has been changing, and Page is at least part of the reason why. Some of it is his music, to be sure, but just as importantly, it’s because of his defiance of anti-busking policies by the Knoxville police.

Back in the summer of 2010, Page was issued a citation for obstructing a 10-foot sidewalk with his performance. According to Page, the initial interaction with the police was more them telling him to move along, and him refusing to because busking isn’t illegal in Knoxville. The police said it was, and when it turns out they were wrong, Page says they “went fishing” for something to cite him with. Continue reading

Erin Brown performs “Killer Bee”

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Erin Brown performs at Bele Chere 2012.

Asheville’s Bele Chere festival is a swarming, sprawling mass of sights and sounds, and it’s easy for busking musicians to get drowned out in the chaos. But that didn’t stop Durham-based singer-songwriter Erin Brown from giving it her best.

Here, she performs her original tune “Killer Bee” at the corner of College St. and Lexington Ave. to a small crowd of festival goers. Continue reading

Logan Mason performs “Carved Shaped Heart”

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Singer-songwriter Logan Mason performs in front of Malaprop’s in downtown Asheville, NC.

He’s more introspective and earnest-seeming, and far less bombastic than most of the street performers in Asheville, but that’s to Logan Mason’s advantage. His songs seem intensely personal, and his downcast-eyes style of performance makes him seem like an unlikely musician to be playing to strangers for tips. He’s almost the definition of unassuming, wearing a plain white T-shirt and a “Bass Pro Shops” cap that I’m fairly certain isn’t some ironic hipster statement.

When I asked why I hadn’t seen him play before, Mason told me that he’d only just moved to town a few months ago from Jackson, MS. “I just kind of ended up here,” he told me with a shrug. Continue reading

Logan Mason performs “Love Shall Fill”

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Singer-songwriter Logan Mason (aka Elk Tracks) performs in front of Malaprop’s.

There aren’t a lot of quiet, introspective buskers on the streets of Asheville, NC. And for obvious reasons. When you are competing with the rumble of engines, the sounds of construction, the incessant nattering of small talk from passersby and even the sound-diluting downtown wind, it’s hard for a quiet song to compete. And if your song is actually about something truly interesting, or even beautiful, it’s a rare person who will stop in their tracks and listen. Loud performers with simple, belting songs tend to attract the most attention, and the lion’s share of the tips.

But there’s something to be said for contrast, and in a town filled with performers who are more than content to be the center of attention, it’s a quiet performer like Logan Mason who really stands out. Continue reading

Dan Cioper and Shawn Bayley perform “Wheel By Wheel”

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Dan Cioper and Shawn Bayley perform in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville, NC.

Austin-based folk musician Dan Cioper may not actually be on a formal tour, but he has been playing around the region with his New Orlean’s-based guitarist pal Shawn Bayley for the last few weeks. Here, the duo perform Cioper’s original song “Wheel By Wheel” in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville, as darkening skies threatened rain. The duo had been packing up to move on when I encountered them, but it didn’t take much convincing to get them to play one last song, even as the clouds above began to drizzle. Continue reading

Charles Clyde Toney II with Kris Wahl and Eris Valentine

Charles Clyde Toney II, Kris Wahl and Eris Valentine

Eris Valentine, Kris Wahl and Charles Clyde Toney II

Few encounters I’ve had with busking musicians have been as memorable, high-energy and fun as the night I met Charlie, Kris and Eris. Although there were many buskers and their friends hanging out on the corner that evening, it quickly became obvious that these three were people to watch. But they were far more interested in performing for each other than getting cash in their guitar cases. Continue reading

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