A 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.
EDIT: A few days after I wrote the post below, I was able to find the tiniest scrap of audio at the end of one of the recordings where I confirmed the two performers’ names. I’ve obviously lost the recording where I spoke to them about their other details, but at least one small piece of this mystery is solved.
Every so often, I’m terrible at recording buskers. Particularly if I’m feeling harried or distracted, I’ll make some fairly baffling mistakes. I’ll forget to turn on my microphone, for instance. Or I’ll get in a position where the light is constantly changing, blowing out the white levels. Sometimes I’ll even forget the very basics, like saying the performers’ names a few times, having them spell it, or asking where I can find more of their content so people who like them can get in touch.
It takes a brave busker to face the chilly winds and slow foot traffic of downtown Asheville on an early February evening. While the city absolutely throbs with street music during the warm months, it’s largely a ghost town from the start of the new year until the weather finally thaws around mid-March. Undaunted, singer-songwriter Hannah Rebekah took up her guitar and portable amp, facing the challenge head on.
In this unexpected collaboration, country musician Roger Clark and not-so-easy-to-categorize band Deep Chatham (Jeff Loops on bass and Julian Sikes providing the occasional backing vocal) perform an impromptu cover of Hank Williams’ classic tune “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
Clark had encountered the duo in passing as they busked in front of the Iron Sculpture in downtown Asheville in 2011. A casual conversation about old-time country had turned into an off-the-cuff jam session between three musicians separated by nearly two generations. Clark only played a few songs with Deep Chatham, and this was a truly fortunate thing to happen across. Continue reading Roger Clark and Deep Chatham cover “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
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.
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 A Trio Of Tunes From Locust Honey
As I mentioned in the last post about Deep Chatham, it was obvious after just a few seconds that guitarist Julian Sikes and bassist Jeff Loops were immensely talented performers. The performance that sold me on the duo was “Hard To Find,” a rollicking, upbeat, gritty, sarcastic, ironic and otherwise difficult-to-categorize tune. For whatever reason, “Hard To Find” doesn’t appear on their outstanding Words From The Well album, making it, well … hard to find.
It’s easy to get a little spoiled by the busking scene in Asheville. Often it seems like there’s outstanding musical talent waiting to be seen around every corner. On this sunny day in June of 2011, I turned a corner and ran into guitarist Julian Sikes and upright bassist Jeff Loops, better known as Deep Chatham. And they were unavoidably fantastic.
In the three years since this recording, Deep Chatham has made quite a name for themselves, releasing a fantastic full-length album (Words From The Well) and touring several times around the East Coast. Along the way, they’ve picked up two key members in fiddle player Matt Heckler and pianist/accordionist Trevor Grassi, who longtime followers of Busk Break may know better as Balkan Death Grip. Continue reading Deep Chatham perform “The Cursed (Medley)”
One of the most exciting things about Busk Break is revisiting performers over the years. Some performers start off stilted and awkward, borderline terrified of playing on the streets and only agreeing to be recorded after a heavy bribe in their empty tip jars. A year later, those same musicians have often evolved into confident, charismatic, corner-owning rock stars. That doesn’t always happen, of course. In some cases, there wasn’t much that needed improvement in the first place. That was definitely true if F.J.K.
I first met F.J.K. in the pre-video days of Busk Break (the spring and summer of 2010), and his performance persona was already well established. He was confident enough, if a little awkward in casual conversation. He was seemingly ambivalent about being recorded, but perfectly happy to take my money. He played an original, “If You End Up Broke,” which is easily one of the best songs I recorded in 2010.
In many ways, the fall of 2010 was the defining year for the busking scene in downtown Asheville. While street performers were hardly unknown in the city, a number of factors combined during that season to put Asheville on the map for traveling musicians that year. One of those factors was the first Asheville MoogFest, which brought a wealth of national-level electronic musicians to an already music-crazed city during Halloween weekend. Where there’s people and foot traffic, there will be buskers.
That’s not to say that Ben Wilton planned his arrival in town around what would become one of the region’s major music festivals for the next few years. If anything, he seemed a little overwhelmed at just how many people were out on the streets on that chilly October night. Originally from New Jersey, Wilton had been “rambling” around the East Coast with his guitar for the previous three weeks, and was only planning on being in town for a few days. Continue reading Ben Wilton performs “Big Bad World”