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

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

Kevin Jerome performs “To the Mountain Top”

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Kevin Jerome sings about the Mountain Top.

To point out an awkward truth about Asheville’s music scene, there simply aren’t that many black performers on the city’s cultural radar. It’s a town where even the best-known rap and hip-hop acts are mostly composed of white men, and where the most known black busker is an elderly sax player who often doesn’t even bother playing through the first chorus of the song. But there are exceptions. Leeda “Lyric” Jones, for instance, and Kevin Jerome. Continue reading

Kevin Jerome reclaims “I’ll Fly Away”

Kevin Jerome did far more than reclaim “I’ll Fly Away,” he reinvented it.

When Kevin Jerome told me that he wanted to “reclaim” the 1929 Albert E. Brumley hymn “I’ll Fly Away” for “the black man,” I was dubious. Jerome is an unquestionably talented performer, but was he really up to the task of reworking one of the most recognized gospel songs of all time? In a word, yes. Continue reading