NC at Hopscotch: Day Three

September 7, 2019

With over 120 bands across 3 days in September, Hopscotch is known for adventurous lineups, memorable performances, and a fan-friendly atmosphere. From large outdoor main stages in Raleigh City Plaza and Red Hat Amphitheatre to intimate club shows, the festival features music in almost every genre imaginable – rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more – and its schedule highlights this diversity every year.

Here are today's can't miss acts from North Carolina.


North Carolina hip-hop giants Little Brother have curated the Red Hat stage today, and you are in for a treat. Indie rockers Indigo De Souza start the party off at 2:30 p.m. Raleigh’s Kooley High and Charlotte’s Lute will carry the North Carolina hip-hop torch next, setting up for what should be a memorable Little Brother performance at 7:15 p.m.



Country rockers Sarah Shook and the Disarmers from Chapel Hill curated tonight’s show at the Lincoln. Classic country duo Blue Cactus, also from Chapel Hill, kick things off at 9 p.m. and Sarah Shook and the Disarmers will bring the house down at midnight.



The Winston-Salem fuzz-rock trio No Whammy! starts the night off at Neptune’s, followed up by “deathrockers” Secret Shame from Asheville. Durham’s Joyero (one half of indie rock duo Wye Oak) goes on at 11 p.m. as part of an eclectic Imurj line-up.



Raleigh psychedelic rock stewards Birds of Avalon have curated the bill at their home venue of Kings tonight. They perform at 11:30, and are surrounded by some out of state friends, including Brazil’s Boogarins and Moon Duo from Portland.



Slim’s is packed with North Carolina artists tonight. Charlotte’s Acne starts things off with their “dreamy punk,” followed up by Girls Rock NC alums Fruit Snack from Raleigh. DE( )T, another Raleigh act, will lead into blues rock powerhouse and Hopscotch mainstay, Reese McHenry from Chapel Hill.



The Pour House will be grooving tonight, with some danceable offerings courtesy of some special North Carolina acts. Charlotte’s Don Telling’s Island Mysteries will get you moving with the Hawaiian-tinted jazz at 10 p.m. A very special set from Coconut Cake will follow. A Congolese rhythm band led by North Carolina’s prolific Michael Libramento will bring a can’t miss incredibly rare performance at 11 p.m.



Nash Hall will have the experimental music again, Raleigh’s Dreamless starts things off and they’re followed by Manas from Asheville. Take a break from standing and enjoy the rich atmospheres for a bit. Fletcher Hall is the spot for some great singer-songwriters. Al Riggs & Lauren Francis from Durham will start out the evening, with Daughter of Swords (Alexander Sauser Monnig of Mountain Man) playing next. Raleigh’s Gudiya curated a night of experimental music at Wicked Witch, combining electronic music and visual art.

NC at Hopscotch: Day Two

September 6, 2019

With over 120 bands across 3 days in September, Hopscotch is known for adventurous lineups, memorable performances, and a fan-friendly atmosphere. From large outdoor main stages in Raleigh City Plaza and Red Hat Amphitheatre to intimate club shows, the festival features music in almost every genre imaginable – rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more – and its schedule highlights this diversity every year.

Here are today's can't miss acts from North Carolina.



Tyler Ramsey from Asheville kicks off the first outdoor shows of the weekend at the City Plaza stage at 5:15 p.m., treating the crowd to his heartfelt songs with some intricate guitar work. The Nude Party from Boone, N.C. will follow him at 6:10 p.m. Their style, sound, and demeanor harken back to the early 70s-era Rolling Stones and will get the party going.



The Lincoln Theatre will have some Raleigh garage rock to start off their night. Black Surfer goes on at 8:30 p.m. with their Joy Division meets 50s surf-rock sound. They’re followed up by Truth Club at 9:30 p.m.



Neptunes will be the spot for hip-hop lovers tonight. Raleigh’s pat junior hits the stage at 11:30 p.m. and Jooselord Magnus from Durham is right after. For a slight change of pace, Raleigh punk rockers No Love has curated the stage at Kings for the night. They’re bringing along fellow Raleigh-ites Future Now and Charlotte’s Mutant Strain.



Slim’s is where you’ll find your indie rock tonight, and Asheville’s Wednesday kicks things off at 9 p.m. For some more hip-hop you can pop over to Imurj, where Oak City Slums take the stage at 11:30 p.m.



Pour House will be country-galore and is packed with some of North Carolina’s best. Raleigh’s up-and-coming songstress Kate Rhudy kicks things off at 8:30 p.m. with Chapel Hill’s T. Gold coming on right after at 9:30 p.m. Closing out the evening will be The Dead Tongues from Durham, a perfect nightcap.



Asheville’s Nest Egg has curated tonight’s stage at Wicked Witch, inviting in some out of towners to show off the more experimental side of the festival. Nest Egg will perform at 11:30 p.m.

NC at Hopscotch: Day One

September 5, 2019

With over 120 bands across 3 days in September, Hopscotch is known for adventurous lineups, memorable performances, and a fan-friendly atmosphere. From large outdoor main stages in Raleigh City Plaza and Red Hat Amphitheatre to intimate club shows, the festival features music in almost every genre imaginable – rock, hip-hop, metal, folk, electronic, experimental, and more – and its schedule highlights this diversity every year.

Here are today's can't miss acts from North Carolina.


Thursday’s Neptune’s set is one of the ten North Carolina artist curated stages at Hopscotch this year. Crowmeat Bob handpicked artists pushing the envelope of jazz and brass bands for the evening. Highlights include Durham’s D-Town Brass, Raleigh’s Savage Knights, and a new project involving the curator himself alongside Tashi Dorji and Luke Stewart.



Chapel Hill’s Solar Halos have curated a stage at Kings, bringing along Greensboro’s Mourning Cloak for a night of psychedelic, sonic metal. They welcome White Hills from New York City and the dynamic Boris from Japan. Bring your earplugs.



Charlotte’s TKO Faith Healer will bring their throwback garage rock to Slim’s, and Asheville’s MJ Lenderman and Raleigh’s Lonnie Walker will provide some laid-back indie rock to the Pour House crowds.



The third and final artist curated bill of the night comes courtesy of Wilmington N.C.’s Museum Mouth. Hurricane Dorian has unfortunately led Museum Mouth to cancel their appearance, but their fellow guitar wielding friends including Kississippi and Charly Bliss will keep the rock and roll alive through the rain tonight at Imurj.



Fletcher Hall has been the home to some of Hopscotch’s most innovative and sonically expansive music, and this year is no exception. Durham’s Rosenau & Sanborn close out the venue tonight and will wow the audience with their blend of Chris Rosenau’s (Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees) acoustic guitar work and Nick Sanborn’s (Sylvan Esso, Megafaun) synthesizer prowess.



Wicked Witch will house the noise tonight, and Asheville’s Ahleuchatistas will kick off the cacophony. Despite being a two-piece band, they pack some serious decibels, and will be the perfect opening group for a night that includes the Fugazi-adjacent Messthetics and noise-rock patriarchs Wolf Eyes.

Warm-Up to the Sounds of Symphonies Across North Carolina

January 30, 2019

North Carolina’s roots in classical music run so deep that our state passed the Horn Tootin’ Bill in 1943 to ensure that the North Carolina Symphony – founded in 1930 — would tour throughout the state, a practice that continues today in over 90 North Carolina counties.

Symphonies in N.C. offer dazzling musical entertainment in settings that vary from historic buildings to glitzy concert halls. Orchestral performances have been held at breweries and even at a newspaper distribution platform!

Below is a list of stand-out symphonies funded through the North Carolina Arts Council’s State Arts Resources category. These are professional orchestras that offer an array of outside-of-the auditorium experiences for residents and visitors.

Come Hear NC this winter by exploring the sounds of classical music!

PS: If you’re on the road there are several all-classical music public radio stations in North Carolina that you can tune into before or after your symphony experience including 89.9 WDAV in Charlotte,  89.7 WCPE in Raleigh, 88.5 WFDD in Winston-Salem, 88.1 Blue Ridge Public Radio in Asheville and 90.3 Public Radio East in New Bern.

North Carolina Symphony

Each year, the North Carolina Symphony’s 300 concerts, education programs, and community engagement events are enjoyed by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties. The Symphony’s full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn, delivering orchestral experiences of the highest quality and collaborating with renowned performers that range from classical artists, to bluegrass musicians, to jazz bands.

NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra in the U.S.—serving nearly 70,000 students across North Carolina each year. This commitment to music education began with the Horn Tootin’ Bill of 1943, which established state fiscal support for the Symphony’s music education program.

The North Carolina Symphony has earned national recognition for its creative programming—including its innovative partnerships and its dedication to giving voice to new art. The Symphony has presented 49 U.S. or world premieres in its history and is an orchestra industry leader in performing work by women composers.

In upcoming months, NCS carries out its mission of artistic excellence, statewide service, and music education with concerts and events in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, Wilmington, and numerous other North Carolina communities—in addition to performances at its Raleigh state headquarters venue, Meymandi Concert Hall, and its Cary summer home venue, Koka Booth Amphitheatre. These concerts feature everything from classical symphonies, to Broadway hits, to the music of pop and rock legends.

Additional spring highlights include collaborations with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Master Chorale, and Paperhand Puppet Intervention; a live recording for an upcoming commercial album release; and the commission of a new work by Pulitzer Prize winning composer and North Carolina native Caroline Shaw.

By the way, the symphony is an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources https://www.ncsymphony.org/

Asheville Symphony  

In the nearly 60 years since it was formed, the Asheville Symphony has become a driving force for creativity, artistic expression and collaborative exploration in Western North Carolina. The Asheville Symphony’s recent recording projects include The Asheville Symphony Sessions, which features songs that combine the unique styles of locally based musicians along with the Asheville Symphony, and Mozartistic, which blends the talents of hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, pianist Orion Weiss, DJ Marley Carroll, and the Asheville Symphony.

The biennial Asheville Amadeus festival, launched in 2015, is a 10-day event celebrating the things the Asheville Symphony believes Mozart would have loved, including music, dance, beer, food and film. The 2019 festival, which runs March 15-24, features two legendary headliners: rock guitarist Warren Haynes and pianist Garrick Ohlsson. 

Each year the organization presents a core schedule of seven Masterworks Series concerts, plus a New Year’s Eve concert, chamber music, piano recitals, music in the schools events, youth orchestra concerts, and more. Darko Butorac, the symphony’s new music director, was selected after a national search generated nearly 400 applications last summer. https://ashevillesymphony.org/

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

When not leading the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, internationally renowned Music Director Christopher Warren-Green is the Music Director of the London Chamber Orchestra and has conducted music for several high-profile royal weddings, including those of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Prince William and Kate Middleton. Not to mention the 80th birthday celebration of Queen Elizabeth.

Royal engagements aside, Warren-Green inspires the nearly 60 full-time musicians in a dynamic season that runs September through May and includes Classical, Pops, and Family Series, among other special performances with notable soloists, a summer series, films in concert, and an annual favorite, the Magic of Christmas.

The Charlotte Symphony performs everywhere from community parks and schools to breweries and senior care centers. The popular On Tap series at NoDa Brewing Company and the On the Go neighborhood series mark an important expansion of programming in the community – bringing the orchestra experience to wider audiences.

The next generation of musicians and music lovers are nurtured by the CSO with two youth orchestras, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees. Each season, the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras present several concerts, including a side-by-side with the professional orchestra, and perform as prelude acts before Symphony mainstage events.


Greensboro Symphony Orchestra 

The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has attracted national attention for innovative programming including the 2017 world premiere of Not So Classical, featuring Hollywood star Ken Jeong, and its newly-founded HOPS Series @ Preyer Brewing in downtown Greensboro, offering regularly sold-out chamber music performances in a pub setting.

For nearly 60 years, the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has provided residents and visitors to the Triad area with quality musical entertainment and educational opportunities.  

Some of North Carolina's most talented musicians perform as members of the orchestra as do an array of internationally acclaimed artists. GSO’s mainstage programs include the Masterworks, POPS, Chamber, and Holiday Series, all of which reach over 50,000 Triad residents each year.

The Symphony also offers diverse outreach through its Keep Kids In Tune music education series with targeted programs for preschoolers, elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as adult learners. https://greensborosymphony.org/

Salisbury Symphony Orchestra     

It’s unusual to find a full-size professional symphony orchestra based in a town the size of Salisbury, and its more unusual to offer a free outdoor concert at the newspaper distribution platform at the back of the local newspaper building. 

But the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony does just that. First hosted in 2005 as part of the Salisbury Post’s centennial celebrations, the “Pops at the Post” concert has turned into a widely anticipated annual event held in early June with more than 3,000 people attending each year. As it turns out, the Salisbury Post’s covered platform not only has a protected area for the musicians and very desirable acoustic properties, but it also conveniently faces a large parking lot which can accommodate tailgating, food vendors and thousands of folding chairs.

The Salisbury Symphony has been a major player in Rowan County’s arts scene for over 50 years, with a professional orchestra ranging from 60 to 90 members led by Dr. David Hagy, who has served as Music Director for over 30 years. The Symphony performs six concerts on the Catawba and Livingstone College campuses each year. https://www.salisburysymphony.org/

Western Piedmont Symphony

The Western Piedmont Symphony (WPS) has provided enriching musical performances to the Hickory area since 1964 and through growth and artistic quality has expanded to serve Western N.C.

The symphony’s fourth conductor John Gordon Ross, who led from 1991 to 2018, worked to balance classical music with modern pieces, and attracted high-profile artists to the area to perform with the symphony, including Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Charlie Daniels and Bela Fleck among others. Also during Ross’ tenure, over 40 original pieces had their world premieres with WPS, and a Quartet-in-Residence was implemented, which expanded the orchestra’s outreach to include performances in schools, nursing homes, libraries and other locations. https://wpsymphony.org/

Winston-Salem Symphony

The Winston-Salem Symphony (WSS) has serenaded the Triad region for 72 years, offering not only the best in classical repertoire but also choral music, opera, ballet, popular music and more, welcoming such distinguished guests as Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, and Chris Botti.

The Winston-Salem Symphony especially celebrates the sounds of North Carolina, collaborating with a diverse array of artists including Mandolin Orange, Rhiannon Giddens, Chris Thile, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Ricky Skaggs.

Established in 1946 originally as a civic orchestra on the campus of Salem College, the Winston-Salem Symphony incorporated in 1952 and hired its first full-time conductor in 1955. Four permanent music directors have led the WSS since its inception. Over the years the WSS has offered a wide range of repertoires including classical orchestral and choral concert music; opera, oratorio, and ballet; and popular music. www.wssymphony.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter: @wssymphony.

Classic North Carolina Albums - Part 5

January 28, 2019

We’re back with the final installment of our Classic North Carolina album list. We kick off this final installment with a classic from J. Cole who turns 34 today. Enjoy!

J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

 “J. Cole went platinum with no features!” echoed throughout the social media-verse after the rapper’s third studio album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, sold its millionth copy. With the world of hip-hop dominated by collaborations, name drops, and flavors of the week, J. Cole managed to dominate the charts on his own, an impressive feat and testament to his talent. The album, named after his childhood home address in Fayetteville, N.C., tackles J. Cole’s meteoric rise from a kid in North Carolina to an international superstar.

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers – Rare Bird Alert (2011) 

Formed in 2000 while students at UNC Chapel Hill, the Steep Canyon Rangers cut their teeth playing music festivals across the country. In 2007 they won “Emerging Artist of the Year” at the International Bluegrass Music Association Award ceremony. This caught the attention of famed comedian/banjoist Steve Martin, and he invited them to perform a benefit show in 2009. The collaboration was a success, and they took the show to Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and Prairie Home Companion. This 2011 album features 13 Steve Martin originals with the Rangers on instrumentation, and a little help from the Dixie Chicks and Sir Paul McCartney. A big project for one of the biggest bluegrass bands in our state today.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig (2010) 

Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops after attending the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University in 2005. Their mission was big: to rewrite popular narratives of string band and old-time music by celebrating African and African-American’s contribution to the genre. Five years later Genuine Negro Jig, their third full length album, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. The original members of the band have since parted ways, embarking on their own solo careers.

Thelonious Monk – Underground (1968)

This album’s striking cover art, depicting Monk as a French Resistance fighter in World War II, along with the its title Underground, is thought to be Monk’s nod to the growing youth subculture of the day and perhaps his acceptance of his place in it – a rebel now showing his age but also his experience. Underground premiered four new original compositions and was the Rocky Mount native’s second to last studio release. It marked the final recording done by the famous Thelonious Monk Quartet, whose comfort and growth as players is evident, with solos and riffs effortlessly weaving in and out of each other as if played by one musician on four different instruments.

Anthony Hamilton – Comin’ From Where I’m From (2003)

Neo-soul star Anthony Hamilton’s breakthrough album Comin’ From Where I’m From stayed on the Billboard charts for 76 consecutive weeks and went platinum in 2004. Born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., Hamilton introduced a new set of music fans to our state through this album, which is packed with stories about his life in North Carolina. Highlights include “Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens,” and “Mama Knew Love.” 

Classic North Carolina Albums - Part 4

January 21, 2019

Four weeks into the new year, we offer up our fourth edition of classic North Carolina albums to help get you through the week. Enjoy!

Avett Brothers: Mignonette (2004)

Before they were selling out stadiums, recording albums with Rick Rubin, and serving as subjects of HBO documentaries, Concord, North Carolina’s Avett Brothers were putting out folk rock albums on Ramseur Records. Mignonette, the Avett’s third release on Dolph Ramseur’s record label, saw the group come into their own with tight harmonies, polished songwriting, and a balance of tender love songs and energetic barn-burners that they would ride to international acclaim.

Fantasia: Free Yourself (2004)

The first of three American Idol victors from North Carolina, High Point’s Fantasia Barrino’s debut album, Free Yourself, saw her collaborating with some of the best in the business – including Jermaine Dupri and Missy Elliott . The album sold 250,000 copies in its first week, eventually receiving platinum status and earning three Grammy nominations.

Eric Church: Carolina (2009)

Country music superstar Eric Church’s sophomore release is a literal acknowledgement to his home. Carolina, released in 2009, helped Church solidify himself in the country scene, giving him three Top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country charts. The night before the album was officially released, Church returned to his alma mater, Appalachian State University – just up the road from his hometown of Granite Falls – and passed out copies to students.

Branford Marsalis Quartet with the North Carolina Symphony: American Spectrum (2009)

A North Carolina based living jazz legend teams up with America’s first continuously state-funded orchestra for a fantastic revue of American classical music. Marsalis’ quartet along with the 66-member orchestra, conducted by Grant Llewellyn, brings us beautiful renditions of Michael Daugherty’s “Sunset Strip”, John Williams’ “Escapades” from Catch Me If You Can, and Christopher Rouse’s “Frandises” suite.

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1965)

Coltrane made an appearance earlier this month via his momentous collaboration album with Thelonious Monk, but there is no way we couldn’t include what might just be the most important jazz album of all time. Composed entirely by Coltrane, A Love Supreme is a meditation on faith, personal growth, addiction and acceptance. Through the songs “Acknowledgment,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance”, and “Psalm.” Coltrane utilized what he referred to as “musical narration” to portray a message without words. At just over 30-minutes, this recording is concise but pointed, with every note intentional and full of purpose.

Hiss Golden Messenger: Heart Like a Levee (2016)

“You can’t choose your blues / But you might as well own them” a triumphant refrain in the chorus of this album’s second track, “Tell Her I’m Just Dancing,” and as good a summary for M.C. Taylor’s output with Hiss Golden Messenger as any. His seventh LP, and second with North Carolina indie powerhouse Merge Records, gives the listener a full peek into everything Taylor and co. have to offer – blue-eyed soul, neo-folk, bluesy psychedelia – all drenched in a distinctly North Carolina slow-drawl.

Blind Boy Fuller: East Coast Piedmont Style (1991)

We close this week with another compilation album, which is a necessary concession for a Piedmont blues artist like Fulton Allen aka Blind Boy Fuller. This collection of songs, recorded from 1935 to 1938 and remastered in 1991, were all singles captured and released by ARC (American Record Corporation), with whom Fuller recorded over 120 songs. This record showcases his skills as a guitarist in the Piedmont blues style, clever songwriting and his clear and direct voice. Many of Blind Boy Fuller’s songs have become blues standards, including “Rag Mama Rag.” 

Classic North Carolina Albums - Part 3

January 14, 2019

We’re back with part three of our list of classic North Carolina albums.

Flat Duo Jets - Flat Duo Jets (1990) 

As true a “garage band” as there ever was, Flat Duo Jets' eponymous debut was recorded directly to a two-track recorder in guitarist and chief songwriter Dex Romweber’s Carrboro garage. A mainstay of 1980s and ‘90s underground scenes in the Triangle and beyond, the sound, style, and ethos of Flat Duo Jets greatly influenced Jack White of the White Stripes, who adopted their appreciation for gritty but classic rock and roll.

Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom (2017)

This recording from up-and-coming hip hop star Rapsody garnered national acclaim and two Grammy nominations. The Snow Hill, N.C. native’s flow and lyrical chops on this album, which features Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes and Anderson.Paak are insightful, soulful and, at times, cocky. Catch a big North Carolina shout out on the jam “Chrome (Like Ooh) as well as production appearances from fellow North Carolinian and legendary hip-hop producer 9th Wonder.

Roberta Flack – First Take (1969)

This debut album from Black Mountain’s own Roberta Flack took some time to get off the ground, but when Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film Play Misty For Me featured the track “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” both the song and album skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts. The song went on to win a Grammy for Record of the Year and Flack won a second Grammy the following year with “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” She remains the only performer to win consecutive awards in that category.

Gov’t Mule – Live at Roseland Ballroom (1995)

Asheville’s Warren Haynes might be the busiest man in music. When he has a break from playing guitar for The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, or any side project of the three, he is playing with his own group, Gov’t Mule. For a man always on the road, a live album might just be the best representation of his work. The second release from Gov’t Mule, and their first of many live releases, displays his talents and leaves no doubt as to why he is recruited to perform with Southern rock greats.

Sylvan Esso –  Sylvan Esso (2014)  

This debut from Durham-based synth pop duo sees Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun, Made of Oak) utilizing little more than a laptop, a Moog synthesizer (made in Asheville, N.C.), and Meath’s voice to create lush landscapes, effectively translating their folk songwriting roots to an electronic palate.

Angel Olsen –  Burn Your Fire For No Witness (2014)  

Recorded at Echo Mountain Recording in her adopted hometown of Asheville, N.C. Angel Olsen’s release very much feels like the place it was written. Olsen’s equally somber and triumphant voice lends itself beautifully to a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop.

Etta Baker – One Dime Blues (1990)

Though an active musician for all of her life, Morganton’s Etta Baker released her first solo album when she in her late seventies. Playing and singing beautifully at this stage of her life. One Dime Blues highlights her entire life of writing and playing. The 20 songs on this album showcase the musicianship and authenticity which earned her a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and and crystalized her reputation as a master of Piedmont blues. 

Classic North Carolina Albums - Part 2

January 7, 2019

We’re back with part two of our list of classic North Carolina albums.

Flat & Scruggs – The Essential Flatt & Scruggs: ‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered (1997)

Is it cheating to pick a best-of compilation album when we’re dealing with one of the most important bluegrass bands of all time? We think not. Banjo virtuoso Earl Scruggs – a Shelby, NC native – met Tennessee guitarist and vocalist Lester Flat through Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass,” in 1945. They played in Monroe’s quintet until striking out on their own in 1948. For the next two-decades, the duo marshalled bluegrass to an international stage, and this album chronicles 19-years of their recordings, including the bluegrass standard “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood.

Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975)

In 1975, Kinston native Maceo Parker abandoned his post with the Godfather of Soul and hopped aboard Kannapolis born George Clinton’s Mothership. The result was one of the most important funk records of all time, and North Carolina is all over it. Clinton brought the interstellar P-Funk vision, Parker brought the tight horn section from his time with James Brown, and together they “Tear the Roof off the Sucker.” The Library of Congress added Mothership Connection to the National Recording Registry in 2011, citing the album’s “enormous influence on jazz, rock, and dance music.”

Superchunk – No Pocky for Kitty (1991) 

Superchunk was a key player in Chapel Hill’s indie scene in the 1990s. Recorded over three days with legendary producer Steve Albini (whose worked with Nirvana, Joanna Newsome, and Cheap Trick), this album encapsulates the sound of their era – great songwriting intentionally obscured by harsh tones, blurring the lines between punk rock and indie rock. Originally released on Matador Records, the album was re-released in 1999 on Superchunk founding member’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance’s Durham-based label, Merge Records.

Elizabeth Cotten – Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar (1958) 

This collection, recorded by musician and folk music documentarian Mike Seeger, brought attention to Wlizabeth “Libba” Cotten’s  repertoire, which consisted of blues from the North Carolina Piedmont along with reels and folksongs that pre-dated the blues. Being left-handed, she played a right-handed guitar upside down, and the result was a truly unique sound coined as “Cotten picking.” Inspired by the trains running near her childhood home in Carrboro, North Carolina, she penned the second track, “Freight Train,” when she was 11-years-old. 

Shirley Caesar – First Lady (1977)

Born in Durham, NC in 1938, gospel singer and pastor Shirley Caesar is often referred to as “First Lady of Gospel Music.” With 11 Grammy Awards, 17 Dove Awards, and a National Heritage Fellowship Award to her name, she is one of North Carolina’s most decorated musicians. This classic 1970s recording blends sacred music with the sounds of funk and soul. 

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000) 

After cutting his teeth in Raleigh’s underground circuit with his alt-country outfit Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams – born and raised in Jacksonville, NC – set off on his own with Heartbreaker.  This debut effort let the world know he was ready for fame. Among many of the album’s memorable tracks is “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” an ode to his home state that features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals. 

Billy Strayhorn – The Peaceful Side (1961)

Composer, arranger, pianist, and lyricist Billy Strayhorn has long been recognized as the right-hand man of Duke Ellington. Strayhorn spent many of his childhood summers with his grandparents in Hillsborough, N.C., where he was first drawn to the piano. Taylor’s work for Ellington created some of the most recognizable sounds of jazz music, but this is his only solo recording. His skills as a pianist shine on the album, which primarily consists of solo piano takes on 10 of his most popular songs, including “take the A Train.” 

Classic North Carolina Albums - Part 1

January 2, 2019

Hello again and welcome back to Come Hear North Carolina, your home for all things North Carolina music in 2019. Every week in January, we are publishing a list of iconic albums made by North Carolinians. Our hope is that you spend time listening – really listening – to these records. Some of the artists featured on this list have national and international influence, while others are regional heroes with voices that illuminate local traditions and culture. The humanity, honesty and sheer genius captured in the sprawling sonic and lyrical landscapes of these works embody the diversity of North Carolina’s people and geography.


Nina Simone – Silk & Soul (1967)

How does one choose only one album to represent the “High Priestess of Soul”? A daunting task indeed, and one not taken lightly. Silk & Soul kicks off with a rip-roaring “It Be’s That Way Sometime,” highlighting all of Simone’s skills as bandleader, pianist, and vocal improviser; the record also features Grammy-nominated “Go to Hell” (bested by Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”), and, most notably, a cover of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” composed by North Carolina Award recipient and Greenville native Billy Taylor, which became a Civil Rights anthem.

James Taylor – James Taylor (1968)

James Taylor is one of North Carolina’s most famous musicians. This 1968 debut album was recorded in London and released by the Beatles’ label Apple Records It features vocal and instrumental appearances by George Harrison and Paul McCartney,  and the first recordings of “Something in the Way She Moves,” and “Carolina On My Mind,” arguably our unofficial state anthem.

Plant and See (Willie French Lowery) – Plant and See (1969, 2012)

Pioneering interracial swamp-psych band Plant and See was the short-lived project of influential songwriter, singer, and guitarist Willie French Lowery—an icon of North Carolina’s Lumbee community, the largest tribe East of the Mississippi—and his bandmates, African American drummer Forris Fulford, Latino bassist Ron Seiger, and Scotch-Irish backup vocalist Carol Fitzgerald. Lowery, who grew up in tri-racial Robeson County, soon renamed the band after his tribe, Lumbee, and went on to tour with the Allman Brothers and to write the unofficial tribal national anthem “Proud to Be a Lumbee.” Plant and See’s humid, storm-cloud guitars, ductile vocal harmonies, and intuitive, loose-limbed drumming are redolent of a specifically Southern syncretic musical identity and sense of place, testifying to the outstanding, colorblind musicianship of its members. The album was reissued by North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors in 2012.

Little Brother – The Minstrel Show (2005)

Little Brother’s Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder met at North Carolina Central University in 1998. The underground hip-hop trio was signed by Atlantic Records after they released their first full-length studio album in 2003. This critically acclaimed release is a concept album based around a fictional television station that satirizes the stereotypical portrayal of African Americans in the media. The albums critique of modern rap and the mediums that distribute it created controversy and a music video ban by BET. It’s far and away one of the most important hip-hop records made by North Carolinians. 

Doc & Merle Watson – Two Days in November (1974)

The album title references the two days it took father/son duo Doc and Merle Watson to cut this fantastic collection of songs. The tight, ten-track record shows off their skills as pickers, songwriters, arrangers, and re-interpreters and earned them the 1975 Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording. Doc and Merle first cut a record together in 1965, and they released their last album in 1985, the same year of Merle’s tragic death. Doc established MerleFest, a folk music festival in 1988 in honor of his son.

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall (Recorded 1957)

In 1957, Thelonious Monk took up residency at a little club in New York CIty called the Five Spot Café, accompanied by Wilbur Ware on bass, Shadow Wilson on drums, and a fellow North Carolina ex-pat, John Coltrane, on tenor sax. Contractual problems hindered significant recorded output from this quartet, but in 2005 the Library of Congress, through Blue Note Records, discovered and released a performance with these jazz titans, recorded from Carnegie Hall on Thanksgiving in 1957. Newsweek described the recording as “the musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest.” Take a climb.

Caroline Shaw – Partita for 8 Voices (2012)

“To the side. To the side. To the side and around.” With those simple lyrics, the world of classical music was introduced to the organized chaos of square-dancing calls, and Caroline Shaw introduced herself as one of today’s most innovative and joyous composers. Composed by the Greenville native from for her acapella group, Roomful of Teeth, this stunning work was awarded a Grammy and later won Shaw a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013. She is the youngest award recipient in the history of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer has since gone on to record with Kanye West, The National and Nas. 

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