As 2019 draws to a close, we are reflecting on some of the biggest moments of Come Hear North Carolina this year. Over the last 12 months, we published dozens of video's profiling musicians venues and one-of-a-kind concert series in North Carolina. We’ve compiled the 10 most popular videos of the year below!
Musician Phonte Coleman and filmmaker Holland Randolph Gallagher, creator of the Durham, N.C. based web series Hype, produced two documentary shorts about the Little Brother for Come Hear North Carolina. Started in a college dorm room by a group of North Carolina Central students in 2001, Little Brother defined the sound of Durham hip-hop for years to come, constructing a style altogether distinct from everything to the north and south. This level of innovation turned heads with some of hip-hop’s biggest names, and the members of Little Brother (9th Wonder, Big Pooh and Phonte) have gone on to work with superstars like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre and Questlove, who appears in the documentary shorts. Through the use of extensive interviews with the group and never before seen archival footage, short films chronicle key moment in Little Brother’s past and present: the creation of their first album and their surprise reunion show at Art of Cool in 2018. Phonte and Holland have worked together before, on Hype and they reflect on their collaboration and Come Hear North Carolina in this clip.
For her In The Water session Greensboro, North Carolina's Rhiannon Giddens took the Come Hear North Carolina team across the state to Wilmington - to share the too-often-forgotten history of the Wilmington insurrection of 1898. The tragic events of that year saw a white supremacist mob take over the city of Wilmington, burn and destroy African American-owned businesses and take an untold number of African American lives. Before the insurrection, Wilmington was considered to be one of the South's great examples of a city coming together in Reconstruction.
Nina Simone was an integral part of the 2019 Year of North Carolina Music. Our campaign coincided with a national effort to restore the iconic musician and Civil Rights leader's childhood home in Tryon, N.C. In this moving In the Water performance - supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation - Vanessa Ferguson, a performer from Greensboro, N.C. who gained national fame and fans as a finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” in season 12, performs Nina Simone's work in the legend's childhood home which was designated a National Treasure in the summer of 2019.
"Music I would say is very central in our lives just because there so many talented people that it’s undeniable," said Charly. "I've had a love affair with music and wanting to entertain since I was a toddler. It's always been something that makes me feel alive." Charly interweaves stories about significant her musical roots, Robeson County, and indigenous music and cultural pioneers throughout her 60-minute set, which features support by a talented group of musicians from her home community.
The Harris Brothers are are steeped in the cultural traditions of their home region in the western Piedmont and foothills of Caldwell County. They started playing music through the influence of family members and neighbors, who tutored them in country, bluegrass, swing and blues music that you find in and around Lenoir, which was once a furniture making center in North Carolina. The kicked off the Music at the Mansion series, hosted by First Lady Kristin Cooper.
Durham, North Carolina's the Mountain Goats wanted to record their In The Water session in John Coltrane's hometown of Hamlet, N.C. The session was filmed at the beautiful Hamlet Depot, the only Victorian Queen Anne-style train station in the state.
The Mountain Goats premiered a brand new song in their In The Water concert, and to the surprise of anyone familiar with the band - their cult following of devoted fans loved the new song.
In 2018 Little Brother shocked the hip hop community with a surprise reunion at the Art of Cool music festival in Durham, N.C. Their unannounced reunion came together in a matter of hours, and marked the first time the group had performed together in over a decade. Through candid interviews with the founding members of Little Brother, this short film explores the story behind the band's estrangement and subsequent reunion show. It is the second of two short films about the group directed by Holland Randolph Gallagher, creator of the web series Hype, and produced in collaboration with Little Brother for Come Hear North Carolina.
Started in a college dorm room by a group of North Carolina Central students in 2001, the Justus League collective and offshoot trio Little Brother defined the sound of Durham hip-hop for years to come, constructing a style altogether distinct from everything to the north and south. This level of innovation turned heads with some of hip-hop’s biggest names, and the members of Little Brother (9th Wonder, Big Pooh and Phonte) have gone on to work with superstars like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre and Questlove, who appears in the documentary. Through the use of extensive interviews with the group and never before seen archival footage, The Listening chronicles a key moment in Little Brother’s past and present: the creation of their first album. It is the first of two short films about the group directed by Holland Randolph Gallagher, creator of the web series Hype, and produced in collaboration with Little Brother for Come Hear North Carolina.
It's fair to say that Chapel Hill's Mandolin Orange are darlings of the folk music scene. The duo played a beautiful set at the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh that helped usher in a partnership between Come Hear North Carolina and the Americana Music Association (AMA). Their performance featured intimate storytelling and a guest appearance by John Teer of Chatham County Line.
On Thursday, October 10, 2019 baritone Sidney Outlaw from Brevard, N.C. and pianist Warren Jones, who was raised in High Point, N.C. closed out the 2019 Music at the Mansion season with a bang. The golden-hued ballroom of the Executive Mansion served as the perfect backdrop for their musical offerings, and Sidney Outlaw’s powerful baritone had no trouble filling the space.
The pair, who met years ago at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, C.A., treated their captive audience to a genre-spanning evening, opening with a particularly grandiose version the instantly recognizable “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville opera before addressing the attendees with their intentions for the upcoming performance. Warren Jones announced there would be a change of pace in the form of a song cycle by Harry Burleigh. Burleigh was an African American composer from the early 1900s who was forced to publish his music out of Italy because American publishing houses wouldn’t allow black composers at that time. The song cycle’s lyrics came from turn-of-the-century English poet Laurence Hope, a pseudonym for Adela Florence Nicholson, taken on because she could not get her poems published as a woman. Later in the evening, they presented a series of spirituals - a genre that Harry Burleigh helped introduce to the classical world - drawing a line between highly trained musicians and composers and the field songs sung by African American slaves.
Art and music education was another underlying thread of the evening. Sidney recognized his vocal coach from his time at UNC Greensboro in the crowd, thanking her for introducing him to the world of art songs before treating the crowd to one of her favorites - an aria from Die tote Stadt. In an interview right before the set, when asked “Which North Carolina musician would you like to have a meal with,” Warren Jones answered with a lump in his throat that he would love the chance to talk to his piano teacher from his youth, a soft-spoken but strict woman who instilled the love of music and the importance of hard work in a young Warren that has stuck with him to this day.
Passion. Acceptance. Bravado. Expertise. These are only a few of the words you could use to describe these two artists and their season-closing performance.
In 2012, Mipso performed at the @Cat's Cradle for the first time ever. That night the Cradle took a chance on the fledgling college group, now one of North Carolina's foremost folk bands, and it was a pivotal moment in the Chapel Hill-based band's story. The venue was hallowed ground for the group, who understood exactly how important the Cat's Cradle is for North Carolina's music scene.
In a Come Hear NC holiday special, Mipso takes us into the heart of the Cat's Cradle and shares their memories about the historic venue and an acoustic performance of "Christmas Must Be Tonight," a song written and released by The Band in 1977.
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 favorite moments from every Music at the Mansion, a special concert series celebrating North Carolina’s vibrant and diverse musical traditions hosted by First Lady Kristin Cooper at the N.C. Executive Mansion, below.
The Harris Brothers
Near the end of an expansive inaugural Music at the Mansion performance, Reggie and Ryan Harris chatted with renowned sculptor Thomas Sayre from the stage, remarking on his sculpture in their hometown of Lenoir. Earlier in the set, Sayre called out a request for “Sultans of Swing.” He clearly knew something that most of the crowd didn’t, as the duo abided and broke into a smooth cover of the famous Dire Straits tune. While Mark Knopfler and his band hail from the United Kingdom, the way Reggie Harris translated the guitar parts from a Stratocaster to his Wayne Henderson flat-top acoustic makes you wonder if maybe Knopfler listened to a little Doc Watson in his early years. Find the moment at the 44:35 minute mark.
After apologizing for “looking really tacky” for using the tuner on her phone, Emily Frantz reflected on the pride she and her bandmate Andrew Marlin felt for performing in the Executive Mansion and being members of North Carolina’s music lineage. She then noted that being North Carolinians meant they had some opportunities to write protest songs, and that they were prepared to perform a few in the building that has historically housed decision- makers involved in controversial public policies. Abandoning the instrument that lent to their namesake, Frantz on fiddle and Marlin on guitar performed “Hey Adam,” a song that re-imagines Adam in the Garden of Eden keeping secret that he is a gay man. This song was written in response to 2012’s Amendment 1 that saw the Constitution of North Carolina prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. The amendment was overruled in federal court after then-Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to defend it. To perform that song in the house he now occupies was intentional, powerful, and indicative of how many North Carolina musicians feel a sense of civic duty to use their art and platforms to raise awareness about social justice issues across the state. Find the moment at the 13 minute mark.
After a standing ovation and calls for one more song, the Charlotte-based group agreed, but with an exception – the crowd had to remain on their feet and dance. This was a simple request, and First Lady Kristin Cooper led the effort, occupying the center aisle and dancing with her guests and friends, new and old. In what might be the most “you had to be there” moment from the year of performances at the Executive Mansion, the video is obscured by the bobbing heads and moving hips of attendees, but the rhythms provided by Chócala are there, and really, that’s all you need. Catch the dancing at the 35:50 mark.
Charly Lowry & Friends
Picking a favorite moment from this Music at the Mansion performance is a near impossible task, but the part that keeps standing out was not the music but the attendees. Charly Lowry invited many of her fellow Lumbee tribespeople, recognizing and bantering with them from the stage. At the end of her stunning performance, Governor Roy Cooper arrived back at his home after a day on the road and took the time to meet, talk with, and take photos with the guests who, as Charly Lowry’s bandmate Alexis Raeana pointed out earlier in the day, were recent descendants of Native Americans who were likely not even allowed to visit the N.C. Executive Mansion in their lifetimes.
The day of Jim Lauderdale’s Music at the Mansion performance, the music world was shaken by the news of the passing of Robert Hunter. Most folks know Robert Hunter as the esteemed lyricist and muse for the Grateful Dead, but Jim Lauderdale knew him as a friend. Choking back tears, he recalled the time they spent together, the hundreds of songs they wrote, and told the audience what a “fierce, gentle, kind, and brilliant” man he was before celebrating his life with one of their many co-written tunes, “Trashcan Tomcat.” Catch the tribute at the 28 minute mark.
Sidney Outlaw ft. Warren Jones
For the final Music at the Mansion of the year, we went back to basics. No amplifiers. No drums. No frills. Only the Executive Mansion’s Steinway grand piano and an end table with a cup of tea filled the performance area before acclaimed baritone Sidney Outlaw and his accompanist Warren Jones took their places. About 30 seconds into their performance, you knew this was all you really needed. Opening the night with a rousing rendition of “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s opera buffa The Barber of Seville, Sidney Outlaw used every bit of space allowed to him, gliding from stage left to stage right, leaning casually on the open Steinway, and even breaking out the stereotypical “one arm in the air” opera pose during the crescendos of the piece. Most people in the audience probably recognized this piece from their younger years watching Looney Tunes, and his dynamic interpretation of this classic was the perfect way to rope us into what was one of the most jaw-dropping performances of the year.
In an interview prior to his recent Music at the Mansion performance, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale spoke about what contributes to North Carolina's special music alchemy. Here's what he had to say:
"When I travel through North Carolina, especially when I drive through Iredell County where I was born and have lived, I turn off the radio and news and I just try to soak in the atmosphere. When they say those phrases like, 'There must be something in the water,' I think that there is something in the different regions of North Carolina that spur creativity and make your imagination go some place." - Jim Lauderdale
Watch his full Music at the Mansion perrformance in the video below!
On September 24, 2019, Jim Lauderdale played a set at the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh for the Music at the Mansion series, an ongoing program of Come Hear North Carolina hosted by Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper. He was accompanied by the Asheville, N.C. based band Fireside Collective and Zebulon Bowles .
Jim Lauderdale is a prolific songwriter and Grammy Award-winning musician whose career spans decades. Born in Troutman, North Carolina, Lauderdale was raised in a musical family. His mother was a chorus and piano teacher and music director at the church where his father preached. Growing up, Lauderdale had a voracious appetite for all types of music – from the sacred to secular, and to date his musical output and collaborations are a testament to an ongoing passion for and comfort in making many kinds of music. He’s collaborated with the likes of Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, and Robert Hunter, the late lyricist for the Grateful Dead. It has been said that arrival of the genre dubbed “Americana” marked a music-industry embrace of the type of music Lauderdale’s made throughout his life.
Lauderdale prepared a stripped-down bluegrass set for his Music at the Mansion, which you can enjoy below.
Last week we premiered Rhiannon Giddens' In The Water session. She opens the set with an a capella performance of "Pretty Saro," a traditional ballad taught to her by N.C. Heritage Award recipient Sheila Kay Adams. The ballad chronicles the tale of an immigrant to the United States longing for the lover they left behind in their home country.
"I think that song in particular is a very important one to sing now," says Rhiannon. "There've been so many different waves of immigrants here. They all have the same fears and sorrows and reasonings for leaving where they left. Nobody leaves their homeland with a song on their lips. It's always thinking about what they're leaving behind."
Watch Rhiannon sing "Pretty Saro" in the video below.