During November and December 2019, the Music Library of East Carolina University will be featuring displays and exhibits that showcase legendary N.C. rock and roll bands and musicians. In advance of the exhibition, E.C.U. Interim Head Music Librarian Eleanor Cook created a playlist showcasing her favorite North Carolina rock and roll bands. Take a listen and read Eleanor’s listening notes below!
The songs chosen for this playlist represent a selection of my favorite North Carolina bands and vocalists. There are gaps since not all the songs I would have liked to include are available on Spotify. While some of the selections are from way back, others are more recent. These bands came out of the Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh and Charlotte music scenes from the 1960s through the 2000s. All these musicians were instrumental in putting N.C. rock ’n’ roll on the national map.
Arrogance was one of the most influential rock bands in North Carolina, EVER. Founded at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late 60s, the original band was comprised of Robert Kirkland, Don Dixon, Mike Greer, and Jimmy Glasgow. They went on to add and/or change out several drummers and brought in guitarist Rod Abernethy, formerly of the band Glass Moon. Dixon and Kirkland’s vocals and Marty Stout’s keyboards are a signature part of their sound. Though the group broke up in the early 1980s, over the years they have come back together to do reunion concerts now and then, playing to packed venues of devoted fans.
“Black Death” was the first song Arrogance recorded and is considered a classic by their fans. “Nights of Dreams” features Mike Greer’s incredible guitar work; this early cut is worth a listen. This particular tune is on a compilation album called Knight of Dreams which includes some pretty raw stuff, but you can’t find a lot of it anywhere else.
Additional Arrogance tunes selected for this playlist include “Open Window,” as it was always a huge hit with their fans. Interestingly, it is a song that they do not play any longer when they reunite due to the inevitable changes in their vocal ranges. The last time “Open Window” was performed in public was at a New Year’s Eve show at the Cat’s Cradle in 2011, where they called on several of their grown sons and daughters to hit the high notes. It brought down the house!
The other Arrogance selection here, “Why Do You Love Me?” showcases the keyboard talents of Marty Stout, as well as the versatility of percussionist Scott Davison. Earlier drummers Steve Hebert and Ogie Shaw are not available on cuts found on Spotify. All Arrogance albums can be had on CD if you look hard enough.
Next in this playlist, I include the most well-known selection, “Heartbreaker,” from the band Nantucket. Initially formed in Jacksonville, N.C., Nantucket was inducted into the N.C. Music Hall of Fame in 2012. They were a staple of the N.C. rock scene for many years.
Several key selections are included from the Charlotte band The Spongetones. Heavily influenced by The Beatles and British invasion power pop, The Spongetones were originally thought of as a “tribute” band, but over time composed and performed their original music. Selections here include “She Goes Out With Everybody” and “My Girl Maryanne.” The Spongetones were a regular act at both PB Scott’s and the Doubledoor Inn and still perform, on occasion, around the state. They are particularly popular in Charlotte but have fans as far away as Japan.
Spinning off of both Arrogance and The Spongetones are selections from Glass Moon and Don Dixon and the Jump Rabbits. Glass Moon’s “Cold Kid” features Dave Adams and Rod Abernethy (a.k.a Rod Dash), who, as previously mentioned, played with Arrogance. The Jump Rabbits came together in the late 2000s with Don Dixon, Jamie Hoover (of The Spongetones), and Charlotte percussionist, Jim Brock. Jump Rabbits showcased tunes from a variety of artists, including songs by N.C. artists Don Dixon, Jamie Hoover (“Skinny”), Bland Simpson (“The Night that Otis Died”), Peter Holsapple (“Amplifier”), Matt Barrett (“Six Pack”), and Parthenon Huxley (“Sputnik”). All these songs along with other great covers and originals are available on the album The Nu-Look.
I also included a song by Parthenon Huxley (“Buddha Buddha”) on the playlist. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill and his music is wonderful!
Peter Holsapple and his band The dBs, were formed in NYC but the founding members, Holsapple and Chris Stamey, are most definitely N.C. musicians. I include their first hit “Amplifier” as they perform it, as well as the great cover by Don Dixon and the Jump Rabbits. I love both versions! Also included are two more of their most popular songs, “Neverland“ and "Black and White.”
Two more of my favorite bands from N.C. included are The Connells (“Eyes on the Ground”) and Dillion Fence, (“Something for You”) both great groups from the Triangle music scene. Both still play on occasion.
Lastly, I provide a nod to Mitch Easter’s band Let’s Active (“Every Word Means No”). Mitch Easter was inducted into the N.C. Music Hall of Fame last month.
The threads of connection between artists are numerous and complex in the North Carolina music scene. Most of these musicians know each other and have worked together in various ways. There are others I do not have room to mention here that are also part of this landscape. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful rock ’n’ roll giants in our state!
About the Author
Eleanor Cook is interim head of the Music Library at East Carolina University and a devoted fan of North Carolina music. Many thanks to these great musicians who paved the way for other independent artists in our great state.
“The Art of Cool Festival was born and bred in Durham. It really is a true reflection of the progressive, creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the culture of this city. It’s the reason we work hard to keep AOCFEST right here at home.”
Lesleigh Mausi, M.Ed.
Vice President, The Art of Cool Festival
The sixth annual Art of Cool Festival returns to downtown Durham on Friday Sept. 27, Saturday Sept. 28, and Sunday Sept. 29. Durham Bulls Athletic Park will host the headlining acts, and venues around Durham will open their doors to hip-hop and R&B lovers for a memorable weekend of music and dancing. Come Hear NC is a proud sponsor of this year's festival.
North Carolina artists are represented across the entire line-up, and we created this playlist to get you ready for their performances. Check out Art of Cool’s website for the full schedule and listen to the playlist below.
PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass returns on Friday, Sept. 27 and Saturday, Sept. 28, marking seven years celebrating bluegrass in downtown Raleigh. Come Hear NC is sponsoring performances at Red Hat Amphitheater and this year admission to the mainstage is free.
North Carolina artists dominate this year’s schedule, so we made a playlist to acquaint you with some of the home state acts playing across eight stages at the one-of-a-kind urban bluegrass festival.
Find the full schedule of events on the World of Bluegrass website.
One of the coolest things about music streaming services is how they offer “Best Of” playlists that show the most-streamed songs from artists in their catalog. In celebration of the Nina Simone weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art, today we are sharing Nina Simone's Best Of playlist on Spotify which highlights the most current in-demand songs from her discography.
Hear these classic songs performed by Nina Simone's daughter Lisa Simone at the upcoming Nina Simone weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art
In celebration of National Poetry Month, North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green made a playlist of some of her favorite songs. Find her liner notes - and a link to the Spotify playlist below!
"Salt" by Lizz Wright - This song's earthiness and the lyrics are a daily mantra reminding me that I am the curator of my life.
"Wade in the Water" sung by Lois DeLoatch- This classic song transports me back to my earliest roots in Southern Black churches. The strength of those wooden pews held the sorrows, fears, hopes, prayers, and testimonies of elders. I am reminded when Lois sings in her southern cadence how deeply affected I am by these timeless hymnals.
"Herman's Mambo" by Lou Donaldson - This tune carries the rhythms of Cuba so eloquently, inviting me to dance.
"Four Women" by Nina Simone - This is one of the first songs I ever choreographed to dance. The song was very instructive to my teenage-self wrestling with all the challenges of self-identifies that occupied space in the psyche.
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack is a song I whispered into my baby Imani's ears. The song was as hauntingly beautiful as my first born... the life that I was chosen to birth. Hearing it continues to flood my heart.
"Resilient" by Rising Appalachia - A song for our hopes, prayers, and activism. It reminds us to stay vibrantly resilient in our bodies, spirits, and minds as we face the woes of our humanity. This song is prayer, grace, and benediction for me.
"A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane - This song has been my constant companion for years guiding me creatively through long self-imposed writing marathons.
"Collard Greens and Cornbread" by Fantasia Barrino - A sweet nod and homage to unconditional love, iconic southern food, and all the stories that belong to food that feeds the soul and the heart.
"So In Love" by Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott - My serious jam. Saturday morning house cleaning music. This song provides an invigorating energy as I dance through my chores. It makes me smile about love!
"It's Only a Paper Moon" by Nneena Freelon - It Stretches me into "art making mode." The lyrics for me are all about the poetry of all things.
"Spanish Harlem" by Ben E. King - This was my favorite song to practice the Cha Cha Cha to as a kid. It remains one of my favorite songs sung by the King himself.
"A Lover's Question," "Little Bitty Pretty One," and "Lover Please" by Clyde McPhatter - These were favorite songs played in our home. l have tender memories of dancing around our living room to Little Bitty Pretty Oneand sitting listening in the kitchen to these tunes over lazy Saturday breakfasts. My parents often went to see Clyde McPhatter performing his shows whenever he returned to Durham.
When I was first asked to come up with a playlist of North Carolina women artists, I was concerned that I would not have enough to choose from. Silly me.
With a little help from my friends, I had more artists than I knew what to do with, so I had to set my parameters:
My playlist is all over the place, ranging from 1969 to today, and is not intended to be complete! I have included a few Merge Records artists: H.C. McEntire, also a member of Mount Moriah; the Angels of Epistemology, whose music was some of the earliest we released on Merge; the aforementioned Ashley Stove; and Wye Oak, whose shimmering Jenn Wasner has another project called Flock of Dimes.
North Carolina is or has been home to an incredibly talented and diverse bunch of artists who identify as female.
Happy Women’s History Month.
Laura Ballance is the co-founder of Merge Records and Superchunk. Merge is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has been home to bands like Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields, Spoon, Waxahatchee, Lambchop, Versus, King Khan & the Shrines, and the Mountain Goats to name a few. Superchunk has released eleven studio albums, most recently the critically acclaimed What a Time to Be Alive. Laura plays bass guitar in Superchunk but no longer performs live with the band due to hearing problems arising from overexposure to sound at high volumes. This has given her more time to pursue other interests such as political activism, making art, sewing, exploring the racial history of North Carolina, and being a parent. She advises everyone to use earplugs at rock shows.
Nonetheless, I pulled it off as best I could and had to make some reeeeeally difficult Sophie's Choices along the way (apologies in order to my partner in crime Shana Tucker, the late Chuck Brown, and countless others). With that said, here's Fidelity: A North Carolina Love Playlist.
The Foreign Exchange - "Call It Home"
Me and my brother Nicolay wrote this song back in 2013 for our 4th album, Love In Flying Colors. Big shoutout to my girl Jeanne Jolly for singing backgrounds with me on this one. I've traveled the world a few times over, but NC will always be home.
James Taylor - "Sunshine Sunshine"
I was listening to James Taylor for years before I discovered his 1969 debut. "Sunshine Sunshine" floored me, and I kept it on repeat while touring with Little Brother in 2009. Great changes, a killer string arrangement, and James' voice is still just as pure today as it was 50 years ago.
Calvin Richardson - "Put My Money On You"
A smooth cut from an underrated cat who, in my opinion, doesn't get the credit he deserves. When people discuss great soul/gospel singers from NC, Calvin's name should definitely be a part of the conversation.
George Clinton - "New Spaceship"
Parliament/Funkadelic were the Marvel Cinematic Universe of 70's soul, and George Clinton was their Nick Fury. This joint from '96 is as funky and sexy as anything from Motor Booty Affair, complete with Charlie Wilson doing a spot-on Sly Stone impersonation.
Nicolay and The Hot At Nights - "The Current"
My main man Chris Boerner composed this beauty for his jazz trio The Hot At Nights, along with additional production and keyboards by Nicolay. Topped off with some nice woodwind and percussion work by Matt Douglas and Nick Baglio, "The Current" was one of the many times I sat back and thought to myself: "Man, I'm glad these guys are on MY team." Sheesh.
Anthony Hamilton - "I'm A Mess"
I judge the effectiveness of a love song by the number of bad decisions it fuels and drunken texts it informs. By that metric, "I'm A Mess" is a stone cold classic. My man Anthony was deep in his feelings and singing for the last lemon pepper flat.
Sunshine Anderson - "Force Of Nature (Blaze Roots Mix)"
"Heard It All Before" is her biggest hit, but this is the joint that really made me a fan. If a woman says "I love his dirty draws," she ain't goin nowhere.
Roberta Flack - "Oasis"
Even as a 4th grader getting ready for school while my mother played this in the next room, I found "we share our hearts beneath desert moons" to be a particularly gorgeous lyric. I had the honor of meeting Ms. Flack at the GRAMMY's in 2010, and rather than freaking her out with "OH MY GOD OASIS CHANGED MY LIFE!" I opted for a simple, "Thank you for the music." Her early 70's material gets all the love, but this Marcus Miller-produced jam from '88 deserves the same recognition.
BEN FOLDS FIVE - "JANE"
Back in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, one of my favorite hangouts was The Record Exchange (RIP) on Battleground Ave. On one visit, my man Mark was playing this one over the store speakers and I was sold immediately. I knew Ben Folds from "Brick," but his Rhodes playing on "Jane" had a certain soul to it that I hadn't heard from him before. This is easily one of my favorite songs in his catalog, and "it's your life/you can decorate it as you like" has become one of my guiding principles.
JOHN COLTRANE - "CENTRAL PARK WEST"
This song's location is a reference to NYC, but the slow, leisurely spirit of this one always felt like NC. "Central Park West" is the sound of walking with your lover on the first day of fall.
SYLVAN ESSO - "DIE YOUNG"
"I was gonna die young/now I gotta wait for you" is such a pitch perfect expression for what love does to you: Whenever it shows up, all your previous plans go out the window. This is a jam.
JODECI - "PUMP IT BACK"
My love for Jodeci knows no bounds. "Pump It Back" is a Negro spiritual that belongs in the hymnal right between "Amazing Grace" and "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." I'm not debating this.
GRAMMY-nominated Phonte (The Foreign Exchange, The Roots, Drake), and Rapper Big Pooh (Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre) and 9th Wonder (Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child), formed Little Brother on the campus of North Carolina Central University in 2001. The group was widely considered as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the millennium. They officially disbanded in 2010 but reunited for a surprise show at Durham’s Art of Cool in September 2018 delighted fans.
Get into a weekend groove with the first installment of our Spotify playlist series. Curated by N.C. Arts Council Executive Director Wayne Martin and Music Director Carly Jones, and Come Hear North Carolina Music curator Brendan Greaves, this playlist takes you on a brief chronological journey through North Carolina’s rich musical history.