48th Annual LEAF Festival Celebrates Music, Arts, World Culture with Flair & Heart

The 49th Annual LEAF Festival kicks off Thursday, May 9 in Black Mountain and features a dynamic lineup of performing artists including four-time Grammy Award winner singer India.Arie, folk duo, Shovels & Rope, and Trevor Hall, who performs an eclectic mix of acoustic rock, reggae, and Sanskrit chanting.

Staged around beautiful Lake Eden, LEAF celebrates world culture through music, arts, and creativity to inspire artistic expression, cultural awareness and community building for festival-goers. LEAF is a family event meant for all generations. The theme this year is “Breaking Ground.”

“For the 48th LEAF Festival, we’ve scoured the globe to select artists who are architects of positive change using the strength and resilience of their creative expression to uplift our communities,” said artistic director Ehren Cruz. “Like all our festivals these artists defy expectation, remain true to their path, allowing authenticity to guide them to ever higher heights of accomplishment and impact.”


For more than 20-years LEAF Festival has grown into an epicenter of music, art, creativity, and culture for thousands of families across the U.S. who experience six performance stages, five family adventure villages, over 400 performing artists representing nine different countries, over 80 craft and culinary vendors and dozens of interactive activity centers on the beautiful 200-acre campus amid the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Additionally, there will be more than 50 healing arts, music, and earth skill workshops.

Performance highlights on Friday, May 10 include Trevor Hall, a singer-songwriter who performs a mix of roots, folk and reggae; Dirtwire, electronic music phenoms based in California with a new release, Road Goes All Night; and The East Pointers, a Canadian contemporary folk music group who won the Juno Award for Traditional Roots Album of the Year for their album Secret Victory at the Juno Awards of 2017.  

Headliners on Saturday, May 11 are India.Arie, a gifted singer and songwriter who has sold over 10 million albums worldwide and who has won four Grammy Awards from her 21 nominations, including Best R&B Album; Larkin Poe, an American roots rock band from Atlanta, Ga. fronted by sisters Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell, and often touted as "the little sisters of the Allman Brothers;” and Black Violin, a hip hop duo from Florida comprising two classically trained string instrumentalists, who go by the stage names Kev Marcus and Wil B. Marcus plays the violin and Wil B. plays the viola.

The festival closes out on Sunday, May 12 with Shovels & Rope, a husband and wife duo (Trent and Cary Ann Hearst) from Charleston, S.C. that blends traditional folk, rock and roll and country rock; The War and Treaty, another husband and wife (Michael and Tanya Trotter) team that thrill with their joyous, gospel-style harmonizing with superb country-soul arrangements and powerful statements of devotion.

An intimate solo acoustic performance by India.Arie, “Songversations” is also scheduled on Sunday.

Tickets are still available! To find out more visit http://www.theleaf.org/.


Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance is this weekend!

Shakori always delivers a weekend full of great music. The Come Hear NC team was lucky enough to catch G Yamazawa there last fall, and you know the home-town crowd turned up for his classic North Carolina anthem "North Cack"!

Check out a video of the performance below and head to www.shakorihillsgrassroots.org/ for all the information on this spring's festival!

As spring turns to summer Western North Carolina rings with the sounds of old-time and bluegrass bands, ballad and shaped-note singings, dances, and the traditions of the Cherokee. Yes, it’s festival season in the mountains! 

Pack your bags, load the car, and travel down the road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina to enjoy one of the many festivals planned this season.

Some best bets for late April through June include:


April 25-28, www.MerleFest.com, Wilkesboro, N.C.

MerleFest is a celebration of ‘traditional plus’ music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock, and many other styles. MerleFest is an annual homecoming for many musicians and music fans.

Fiddler’s Grove Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival 

May 24 - 26, www.fiddlersgrove.com, Union Grove, N.C.

Fiddler’s Grove has enjoyed a long tradition of preserving old-time and bluegrass music and passing the legacy on to future generations. On-site camping and a laid-back family atmosphere allow guests to immerse themselves in the music and tradition of this festival which has been going strong since 1970.

23rd Annual Swain County Heritage Festival 

May 24 - 25, www.facebook.com/Swain-County-Heritage-Festival, Bryson City, N.C.

The Swain County Heritage Festival on Memorial Day weekend features gospel music Friday night, and bluegrass music Saturday. You can enjoy mountain-style clogging, craft booths, food, beverage, ice cream, an old-time log-sawing contest, sack races for the kids, and more.

Cherokee Voices Festival

June 9, www.visitcherokeenc.com, Cherokee, N.C. 

The voices of an 11,000-year-old culture invite you to come out and play. Cherokee culture speaks in its most thrilling ways through dance, music, storytelling, arts and crafts, and food. 

Bluff Mountain Festival 

June 15, www.madisoncountyarts.com, Marshall, N.C.

Bluff Mountain Festival hosts an all-day event with a non-stop stage full of the finest traditional musicians and dancers. Artist vendor booths feature a wide variety of art and craft and provide a one-of-a-kind shopping opportunity. 

Annual Heritage Day and Wood Kiln Opening 

June 29, www.traditionspottery.com, Lenoir, N.C.

Live music all day with The Dollar Brothers, Glenn Bolick, and Friends, and more. Storytelling with Fred Frawley and Orville Hicks. The wood kiln will be filled with face jugs, Rebekah pitchers, hand formed animals, teapots, vases, pitchers, and more. Arrive early for the best selection! The day includes an interactive quilting party and a Gee Haw Whimmie Diddle Contest.

Pottery being retrieved from a kiln at the Annual Heritage Day and Wood Kiln

From the valleys to the highest peak, you’re never far from the music of the mountains and the foothills. Visit www.BlueRidgeMusicNC.com for a full calendar of traditional music events throughout Western North Carolina. Or pick up a free copy of the 2019 Down the Road Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Guide at a visitor center in the region. 

About the Blue Ridge Music Trails

The Blue Ridge Music Trails is a project of the North Carolina Arts Council and a division of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Areas to preserve and promote traditional music in Western North Carolina.

About the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is the regional steward of living Appalachian traditions in North Carolina that honor our elders and invite new generations to explore music, craft, foodways, the outdoors, and the native wisdom that all have their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. 

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, serves as an annual homecoming for musicians and music fans. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson.

MerleFest returns to Wilkesboro this year from April 25 to April 28! For ticket information, line-up, and schedule visit www.MerleFest.org.

Dreamville Festival will be the first event of its kind for the region as it looks to provide a thoughtfully-curated, multi-stage music event from J. Cole, who himself was raised in nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina. The festival offers an opportunity for J. Cole to give back to his home state that has helped shape the artist he has become with a one-of-a-kind celebration of local culture, food and art that also features a curated selection of music performers blending together some of today’s biggest national acts with exciting up-and-comers.The festivals itself aims to provide a unique opportunity for locals and traveling visitors alike to gather and enjoy a music celebration in one of Raleigh’s most beautiful and historic locations, Dorothea Dix Park – Raleigh’s largest city park with over 300 acres of public greenspace.

“Dorothea Dix park is excited to host the inaugural Dreamville Fest,” says Kate Pearce, Senior Planner for Dorothea Dix Park for the City of Raleigh. “This is not only an opportunity to celebrate music and community but also a way to start to understand how Dix Park May evolve into a great music destination in the state of North Carolina.”

Dreamville Festival’s ultimate goal is to not only have a positive and substantial economic and cultural impact on the city itself and the surrounding region, but also to become one of the most anticipated annual events in the city – one that is a perfect complement to the existing event landscape and cultural fabric of the City of Raleigh.


Some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters will be visiting Raleigh for Dreamville Festival’s inaugural year, including SZA, 21 Savage, and Big Sean, but there will be quite a few North Carolina natives alongside them on the line-up.

Dreamville Festival's Lineup

J. Cole

International hip-hop superstar is a friendly face around Raleigh. When he’s not selling out stadiums and dropping platinum albums, you can find him playing pick-up basketball at a local gym or shooting an off-the-cuff music video. His work with the Dreamville Foundation emphasizes his desire to uplift his community, with the mission statement: “To reveal to the urban youth, their limitless potential, through positive life- altering experiences.”


A Snow Hill, NC native, Rapsody has established herself as a major player in today’s hip-hop scene. Signed to fellow North Carolinian 9th Wonder’s label, Jamla Records, her slew of solo releases, collaborations, and features look more like a veteran’s rap-sheet than an up-and-coming phenom’s. She served as the lone feature on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Grammy Award winning album To Pimp a Butterfly and her most recent solo release, Laila’s Wisdom, was nominated for a Grammy in 2017 alongside Lamar, Jay-Z, Tyler the Creator, and Migos. 


Hailing from Charlotte, NC, Lute was signed to J. Cole’s label, Dreamville Records, in 2015. His debut album, West1996 pt. 2, was recorded entirely in North Carolina and tells the story of his life leading up to his signing with Dreamville. 


Mez grew up in Southeast Raleigh and has established himself as one of hip-hop’s premiere producers, rappers, and songwriters. Alongside his 5 solo releases, Mez has collaborated with the likes of J. Cole, Kanye West, and most famously, Dr. Dre – with his work on Dre’s 2015 release, Compton, propelling him to star-status.

By Catherine Swain, Director of Marketing for the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

North Carolina had a strong presence at the 2019 Folk Alliance International conference which took place February 13-17, 2019, in Montreal, Canada. The annual conference aims to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion. It is the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry, and the many North Carolina musicians, promoters, and presenters present demonstrated just how deep our roots run in the folk community.

Held in the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, artist showcases took place on the first five floors of the building.  Attendees literally meander from converted hotel room to room for private showcases while larger showcases are held in the evenings in the hotel ballrooms. The layout is conducive to intimate performances and the opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the acts. The hotel is already part of music culture history in its own right. John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a bed-in at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, where they penned and recorded the iconic pacifist song “Give Peace a Chance.” This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic moment and during the conference, everyone was invited to livestream a performance of the song during their own bed-in.

Upon arrival on Thursday, the first act I caught was ‘Stray Local’ from Wilmington. It was kismet walking in to that room, where their first words were, “We’re from North Carolina!” Music to my ears indeed, and I treasure that my first experience was one of discovering new talent from North Carolina.

Between seeing music, I visited many of the industry booths which included reps from publications like No Depression and American Songwriter, powerhouse organizations like Americana Music Association, the International Bluegrass Music Association, Kerrville Folk Festival, The Blues Foundation, Folk Camp, Woody Guthrie Center, and a myriad of different music makers, service organizations and places promoting their nation’s music, including Canada, Norway and Wales.  It was good to see so many North Carolina supporters, who just beamed over hearing about the Come Hear NC campaign.

Come Hear NC, MerleFest and YepRoc co-sponsored a showcase featuring North Carolina notables Jim Lauderdale and Mipso. Their fantastic sets highlighted the diversity and depth of our state’s talent.  North Carolina got so many shout-outs from the stage and from friends of the state who were so excited to see Come Hear North Carolina reps at Folk Alliance International. It felt like a homecoming even though it was the first time we had ever been. It’s like they were saving a space at the table for us the whole time.

Livingston Taylor, James’ little brother, packed his showcase on Saturday night, and I was reminded what a sweet voice runs through that family.  He has been touring and performing for over 50 years and ‘Carolina Day’ was playing through the loudspeakers as I walked down the hallway towards his showcase.  

After his set, I headed over to Si Kahn’s 75th birthday celebration, featuring Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, who played one of my favorites ‘Truck Drivin’ Woman.’  It was such a nice tribute to Si, an activist, author and songwriter living in Charlotte, who has led many grassroots campaigns to support our state. 

Rising Appalachia had a 1 a.m. showcase on Saturday night that closed out the festival for me. I enjoyed so many North Carolina moments and felt like so much of our people and the places they are from unfolded in unexpected ways throughout the festival. I felt so much pride for North Carolina and gratitude to be part of the story currently unfolding.

There is so much love for North Carolina. Even the hotel concierge had a boyfriend in Charlotte and was planning on transferring there with her company.

Venez ententre North Carolina.  Come Hear North Carolina.


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