Adam and Emma cover “Red Rubber Ball”

Busk-Adam-EmmaA few days ago, I featured these two performers in a post about my occasional epic fails in recording street musicians. Normally, I make a point of getting at least a reasonable amount of information from the buskers I record, as showcasing them is really the only point of the project in the first place. Not having something as fundamental as the performers names really chewed on me, as that’s not a mistake I generally make.

My assumption was that I’d lost the recording where I actually talked to them about who they are and why they’re busking. Continue reading

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

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

The Slaughter Brothers Band perform their untitled, bluegrass-inspired tune

The Slaughter Brothers Band

The Slaughter Brothers Band perform at Pack Square.

By their own admission, the Slaughter Brothers have been playing in Asheville for the last few months largely because they were “stranded” here after playing a birthday party. But they don’t seem too bummed about where fate has landed them, and now they’re in town “doing their thing.”

Raised in Dayton, Ohio, and professionally based in New Orleans for the last several years, the brothers are joined by local drummer Daniel Hensley on this unnamed tune inspired by “Asheville’s bluegrass music.” Continue reading

Jackson Porter improvs on the ukulele

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Jackson Porter in front of the BB&T building in downtown Asheville.

Sitting alone in front of the BB&T Building near Pack Square, his large backpack casually flopped to one side, Jackson Porter was quietly playing to himself when I met him. He wasn’t exactly busking, as he didn’t have a hat out or anything, but he wasn’t no-busking either. He told me he was taking some time off from school, and had been backpacking and hiking around, doing sections of the Appalachian Trail among other adventures. He’d only been playing the ukulele for a short time, but found that his guitar experience transferred pretty well.

Here, Porter improvs a little ditty, which he called “Living on the Streets.” Continue reading

The Gypsy Swingers perform “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”

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Sean Mabe, Wendi Loomis and Mario Piccolo playing as The Gypsy Swingers.

In most other cities, you’d never see musicians like clarinet player Wendi Loomis and guitarists Mario Piccolo and Sean Mabe busking for tips. You’d only see them performing in night clubs and upscale bars as the evening’s featured entertainment. And, as the Gypsy Swingers (or, in a slightly different arrangement as the Red Hot Sugar Babies), that’s generally how you’d encounter them as well. But the lure of playing for tips in the height of Asheville’s tourist season brings even the professionals out for a piece of the busking action.

Here, the trio performs “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me,” a jazzy, bluesy classic written nearly a century ago. Continue reading

Angel the Balloon Man makes an awesome octopus

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Angel the Balloon Man, with friend.

.If you’ve been near Pack Square on any tourist-heavy day, odds are you’ve seen a swarm of enraptured children and bemused adults watching Angel the Balloon Guy at work. With deft, well-practiced movements and an artist’s detachment, he warps, twists, deforms and inflates globs of inflated rubber into an attention-grabbing hat, a surrogate puppy or pet dragon, and a monster-slaying/sister-hitting sword. Raised by his first-generation-American immigrant family who had ties to the circus, and eventually trained by Ringling, Angel has spent decades working on his craft. Continue reading

Marshall Railroad takes a tour break to busk in Asheville

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On tour from their home in Phillipsburg, NJ, Jason Deemer and Joe Varga stop to busk near Pack Square in downtown Asheville, NC.

On a DIY summer tour to promote their new album, Jason Deemer and Joe Varga of the Phillipsburg, NJ,-based Marshall Railroad didn’t actually have a show date in Asheville. But, as is often the case with bands on an East Coast leg of a tour, Asheville proved a handy stopping point between gigs, and a good place to busk for a little gas money. Continue reading

Taylor Martin and Lyndsay Pruitt perform “Devil’s in the Barroom”

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Lyndsay Pruitt on fiddle, Taylor Martin on guitar and vocals.

When I first met her, I was almost certain that the last thing Lyndsay Pruitt wanted was to be recorded. She was sitting on a bench near a noodle shop in downtown Asheville, and she had a distant way of talking, almost like she’d rather be anywhere other than in a conversation with a stranger. But, as I explained my project and its goals, she warily agreed to let me record her. Little did I know that this slightly awkward chance encounter would result in one of my favorite early recordings. Continue reading