As 2019 draws to a close, we are reflecting on some of the biggest moments of Come Hear North Carolina this year. We’ve compiled our five favorite moments from In The Water, our live session series that chronicles the spaces and places that shape the sounds and souls of North Carolina musicians, below.
Mary Lattimore’s Performance of “Otis Walks In The Woods”
She may be one of America’s most renowned avant-garde harpists, but Mary Lattimore got her start right here in North Carolina. Raised in Shelby and Asheville, N.C., Lattimore premiered In The Water with a beautiful performance inside the historic Chapel of Rest located in Happy Valley. The halfway point between Mary’s childhood homes, the warm, sunlit interiors of the Chapel of Rest beautifully complimented the near-perfect acoustics offered by the church. Lattimore’s song “Otis Walks In The Woods” (which begins at the 9:30 minute mark) is a tribute to the loss of a beloved family dog from her childhood and team favorite from the shoot. Lattimore possesses the unique musical gift of turning the most ordinary topic – a family dog’s graceful exit – and the most cerebral – an astronaut’s return to earth from space (see “For Scott Kelly, Returned to Earth” at the 17:20 minute mark) – into something beautiful.
Vanessa Ferguson's Performance of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”
Serendipity abounded around our Nina Simone programming this year. Fate smiled upon us when the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the Civil Rights icon and music legend’s childhood home in Tryon, N.C. a national treasure the same year Governor Cooper declared 2019 the Year of Music. It also smiled upon us the day of Vanessa Ferguson’s In The Water tribute to Nina Simone. We’d planned to do the shoot outside, but a major summer thunderstorm forced us inside Simone’s childhood home for the session. It was hot and humid, and we were racing against the clock with the sun going down, but the acoustics and the vibe were eerily perfect inside the home. Vanessa Ferguson was channeling The High Priestess of Soul, and her rendition of “Feeling Good” (minute 8:14) is bone-chillingly good.
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats Finally Declares North Carolina Home
There is often a narrative in the South that you have to be born here to be from here. A little less than six minutes into The Mountain Goats’ In The Water session, lead singer John Darnielle says he’s never loved a place like he’s loves his home in Durham, N.C. He returns to the sentiment at the 16-minute mark of the session and jokes about the moment a friend of his confirmed that Darnielle can now speak about North Carolina as someone who is from here. Like so many musicians and music fans we’ve engaged this year, John is a North Carolina transplant but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that our music heritage and arts community is a magnet for talent and visitors – and it’s often a defining reason people choose to relocate to North Carolina and call it home.
Rhiannon Giddens performs "Pretty Saro"
After months of preparation and planning for this shoot, our location fell through at the very last minute. Dan Brawley from Cucalorus Film Festival came through in the nick of time and offered us a space to film with less than an hour’s notice. That improvisational spirit continued throughout the shoot. Just as we were wrapping the session, Giddens offered to perform a song she'd originally not planned to sing that day – “Pretty Saro,” a traditional ballad taught to her by N.C. Heritage Award recipient Sheila Kay Adams, which turned out to be one of the signature moments of the day. Watch that at 2:45.