Tag Archives: Caldwell County NC

NC-based Sycamore Bones Just Keeps Creating

Trio bringing their own brand of music to annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase

By Michael M. Barrick

Note: This is another installment in a series about the 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase – ‘Handmade & Heartfelt.’ A list of previous articles is below. The Showcase is scheduled for Sat., March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

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Sycamore Bones on stage. From left, Abigail Taylor, Cory Kinal and Andrew Massey.

LENOIR, N.C. – A few years ago, Andrew Massey was desperate. He wanted someone to play music with. His wife, Anna, was encouraging him to find more outlets to play the music he was beginning to write and sing. Finding a partner, though, isn’t easy. Especially when one is new to the community; breaking into a tight-knit musical scene isn’t always easy.

So, he put an ad on Craig’s List. Cory Kinal saw it, reached out to Andrew, and they’ve been playing together since. In short, even though Massey jokes the arrangement is “no strings attached,” he acknowledged, “We started jamming together and I went and bought an upright bass in South Carolina so we could start an acoustic band.”

That they did. Through a series of discussions, they settled on the name Sycamore Bones. In order to focus on those acoustic roots, the band recently added Abigail Taylor.

Massey, a vocalist who plays bass, is straightforward in his description of the band’s focus. “I would describe us as an Americana band, which is just a fancy way of saying that we take our style from a lot of different types of American roots music – Country, Blues, Bluegrass, Rock & Roll. We even like to believe there is a little bit of Punk rock in there somewhere.”

Kinal’s description is a bit more nuanced. “It’s hard to say what kind of music we play, we combine so many genres that its easiest to just call it ‘Americana,’ but I feel like that’s such a broad term. We play folk, Alt-country, bluegrassy, foot-stompin’ old-time. We play a little of everything everyone would like – or we hope they do.”

Kinal plays guitar, sings lead and, in his words, “sings sweet, sweet harmonies to the beautiful voices of my fellow bones.”

Kinal added that the band truly is hard to define. “It’s hard to describe the music of a band who plays a song about a newlywed couple promising each other everything in life then dying in a train crash, and then follows that with an uplifting song about not letting life’s worries and problems get you down.” He explained, “It’s like we’re working in unison to even each other out; it’s nice to sing some harmony on a song of happiness, when you’ve just sung a song of hard times and sorrow.”

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Cory Kinal (left) and Andrew Massey are the founding members of Sycamore Bones.

The purpose of the band’s music is clear, insisted Kinal, even if it is complex. “I hope our music exemplifies life, maybe not at its greatest, but at its deepest.” That’s why he said he doesn’t have a favorite song from their repertoire. “It changes daily or maybe weekly. I love seeing someone in the audience really get into a song. It gives me even more of a connection with the lyrics I’m singing.” He added, though,  “I’d say right this very minute my favorite song is ‘Saint Sophia.’ On the outside it’s about Saint Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Charity who met horrific fates, but really I use their story to portray different aspects of my life, my own thoughts of faith, hope, love and charity.”

Taylor has been friends with Massey and Kinal for a few years now. She shared, “Andrew and Cory are a great mixture. Cory’s this poetic northerner and Andrew’s a heart-on-his-sleeve southerner. You’ve got kind of a gothic Country/Americana from Cory’s side and a wailing rockabilly from Andrew’s side.” She added, “I tie the two sides together with bluesy harmonies, and the occasional tambourine.”

Massey added, “We all love so many different types of music so to narrow down influences is a little hard. I know John Prine and Bob Dylan would be the first two guys I would mention. A few of my personal influences are also bands like Wilco, or the Clash and guys like Tom Waits.” He continued, “When I was 18 or 19 Bob Dylan blew my mind! This is probably the reason I picked up acoustic guitar and started writing songs. Something about those first few albums he had was like going to church for me. The simplicity and the faults in his voice, the way he used words really all connected with me.”

I’ve … been lucky enough to be surrounded by a huge amount of people that appreciate live music and support it every chance they can.” – Cory Kinal

Kinal explained why the moniker “Heartfelt” fits the music of Sycamore Bones as well as does the description, “Handmade.” He shared, “Everything, every style, every song is played with pure emotion. My influences are from punk to bluegrass and every branch of music connected to both of them. I’m proud to be surrounded by talented musicians and have been my entire life. But it’s not just the musicians that have been the greatest influences on why I play the music I do. I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by a huge amount of people that appreciate live music and support it every chance they can. Without my family and my friends, I wouldn’t have had the courage or talent to start a band that plays mostly original music.”

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Strictly Clean and Decent (Kay Crouch, Patrick Crouch, and Ron Shuffler, r) are hosting their 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase

Still, the enjoyment of writing and playing original music is essential for Sycamore Bones. As Kinal shared, “I want to experience a relationship with every song we play and every audience that listens. There’s a certain feeling you get when you play an original song and you see people really connecting to it. I want people to have fun, to listen to the lyrics, the music, and really get as much joy out of our performance as we do.”

Taylor’s influences were somewhat different. “I grew up on Rhythm & Blues and Jazz; I didn’t start listening or playing the kind of music we’re playing until I went to college in Western North Carolina, where it’s everywhere! My singing style is still heavily influenced by R&B and Jazz singers. But I like to think it adds something just a little different to the guys’ sound.”

Each of the band members expressed confidence in Caldwell County’s future because of the Showcase, and spoke also of the privilege of performing in it.

Massey said, “I just want to thank anyone in the community who creates music, art, or owns a small business. It’s these people that make us who we are as a community and create a culture that we can take pride in. Keep creating!”

Taylor noted, “The showcase is a yearly staple of Caldwell County. So it’s just exciting to be a part of that tradition, and to also be a part of an event that people of all ages come to experience. We hope it remains a yearly tradition and that it continues to grow.”

Kinal continued, “We were all super excited to be asked to play the Showcase. I remember Massey saying that we’ve kind of ‘made it’ in Caldwell when Patrick and Kay ask you to play alongside the county’s best musicians. It means everything to us that they would like our music and performance enough to ask us to be part of their lineup.” He added, “Caldwell County’s story is so similar to my rust belt upbringing, so close to where I grew up that it has the same feeling for me as a town 500 miles away that influences many of my lyrics.”

Massey said the Showcase is critical to the community because, “Music keeps life worth living. It’s exciting when a whole community gets together to support that cause.” Taylor simply added, “I second what Andrew said.”

Massey concluded, “I think the goal for all of us is that people connect with lyrics of the songs. We all want people to feel what we sing and the words we write. I think that may be the most gratifying part of performing.” 

© The Lenoir Voice, 2017. 

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Previous 2017 Showcase Articles

Handmade & Heartfelt: Theme of 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase inspired by area musicians

Jimmie Griffith Exemplifies Showcase Theme: Music is handmade in Caldwell County and is heartfelt from his native Brazil

Nancy Posey Bringing Her Humor and Wit to Showcase: Calls her role as emcee a mere ‘footnote’ to the Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase

Strictly Strings Carrying on the Old-Time Tradition: Boone-based group brings energy, excellence and creativity to Showcase

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Showcase Information and Performers

The 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase will be on Sat., March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center. Purchase tickets here from the Civic Center.

 This year’s concert will include eight groups or individuals. The total of musicians performing will be around two dozen, in addition to JAM members.

Strictly Clean and Decent with Kay and Patrick Crouch and Ron Shuffler.

Caldwell Junior Appalachian Musicians performing traditional string music.

Ridgeline: A bluegrass band featuring Jim Matheson on guitar, Mike Nelson on banjo, Tim Greene on mandolin and guitar, April Flanders on fiddle, Larry Wright on bass, and Jimmy Houston on guitar.

MaisCeu featuring multi-instrumentalist Jimmie Griffith performing Brazilian music.

Max Waters playing Southern gospel, jazz, and blues piano.

Strictly Strings performing old time and contemporary string band music.  The band is Kathleen Burnett on fiddle and guitar, Anissa Burnett on bass and fiddle, Willow Dillon on banjo, fiddle, bass, and cello, Caleb Coatney on mandolin, banjo, and guitar, and Cecil Gurganus on guitar, fiddle, and bass.

Sycamore Bones with Cory Kinal, Andrew Massey, and Abigail Taylor performing original music.

Darren Bryant and Justin Clyde Williams performing country music.

Nancy Posey will be emcee.

 Editor’s note: Abigail Taylor is also co-owner of The Lenoir Voice.

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Jimmie Griffith Exemplifies Showcase Theme

Music is handmade in Caldwell County and is heartfelt from his native Brazil

By Michael M. Barrick

Note: This is an installment in a series of feature stories on the performers scheduled for the 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase. Check back for additional stories through Sat., March 11 when the Showcase will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center. The article introducing this year’s Showcase can be read here.

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Jimmie Griffith. Courtesy Photo.

LENOIR, N.C. – Jimmie Griffith is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter living in Caldwell County. But as a Brazilian native whose vocals are in Portuguese and instrumentation heavily influenced by Bossa Nova, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and other American jazz musicians, Griffith acknowledged that he’s not your typical performer one might expect to see in the Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase.

Nevertheless, this year he will not only be performing; he also will be exemplifying the theme of this year’s Showcase – “Handmade and Heartfelt.” That is because Griffith’s music is made right here in Caldwell County; he has called this part of North Carolina home for nearly two decades. But his music is also heartfelt, heavily influenced by his upbringing in Brazil, where he lived the first 19 years of his life.

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Griffith, who performs as MaisCeu, acknowledged, “I definitely fit into this year’s theme. I take it to heart, so I hope it will transfer to the audience.” He continued. “I grew up in a very rural area in Brazil in the mountains. North Carolina is a second home for me. Being in the mountains here helps me with my compositions. They’re written here. The root of inspiration is a crossover between my love for the mountains of Brazil and North Carolina.” Acknowledging that he sings in a language not very common in Caldwell County, he laughed but noted that his music “ … is very much about this place as well.”

In fact, he said audience feedback from the Showcase is something he seeks. “Since my music is not traditional, I just want people to come with an open mind. You don’t have to understand what someone is singing or the style of music to appreciate it. I welcome feedback. It adds to what I do. It keeps me going even though I’m not playing music common to the region.”

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Jimmie Griffith performing. Courtesy Photo

Griffith explained how that came to be. “My father is from North Carolina. He joined the Peace Corps after university and lived in South America. He met my mom. I was born and raised in Brazil.” He continued, “Dad loved music. My dad obviously had a passion for the music. He would play albums. So my music has some inspiration that came from the late 50s and 60s Bossa Nova crowd.” Bossa Nova, which places more emphasis on melody and less on percussion helps explain why Griffith says he is “most inspired by words and lyrics.”

Yet, his multi-instrumentation is essential to his creations. “My bread and butter is the guitar,” he shared. “I have other instruments I play on stage. I play flute, shaker, bells, percussion instruments, triangle. It just depends upon the song. Mainly guitar and vocals are present in all songs. I work to keep folks engaged with variety.”

Griffith concluded, “When I saw the lineup for the Showcase, I was excited about the quality of musicians. To be side by side with those folks is flattering.”

© The Lenoir Voice, 2017.

Showcase Date & Ticket Information

The 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase will be on Sat., March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center. Purchase tickets here from the Civic Center. 

Performers

This year’s concert will include eight groups or individuals, including Strictly Clean and Decent. The total of musicians performing will be around two dozen, in addition to members of the Caldwell Junior Appalachian Musicians performing traditional string music.

Strictly Clean and Decent, a 26-year partnership of Kay and Patrick Crouch and Ron Shuffler

Ridgeline: A bluegrass band featuring Jim Matheson on guitar, Mike Nelson on banjo, Tim Greene on mandolin and guitar, April Flanders on fiddle, Larry Wright on bass, and Jimmy Houston on guitar.

MaisCeu featuring multi-instrumentalist Jimmie Griffith performing Brazilian music.

Max Waters playing Southern gospel, jazz, and blues piano.

Strictly Strings performing old time and contemporary string band music.  The band is Kathleen Burnett on fiddle and guitar, Anissa Burnett on bass and fiddle, Willow Dillon on banjo, fiddle, bass, and cello, Caleb Coatney on mandolin, banjo, and guitar, and Cecil Gurganus on guitar, fiddle, and bass.

Caldwell Junior Appalachian Musicians performing traditional string music

Sycamore Bones with Cory Kinal, Andrew Massey, and Abigail Taylor performing original music.

Darren Bryant and Justin Clyde Williams performing country music.

Nancy Posey will be the emcee for the evening.

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Take a Hike!

Mother Nature nurtures our souls with wonderment and beauty

By Michael M. Barrick

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MORTIMER, N.C.Wilson Creek is officially a National and Scenic Wild River. That federal designation, which took effect in the summer of 2000 is critical, as the purpose of the law according to The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems website, is “ … to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational value in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.” The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Wilson Creek earned its designation only because of hard work and cooperation among county and federal elected officials and staff.

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The “creek” which is certainly as much like a river as the stream it feeds into – the Johns River – deserves the designation. Scenic and wild it is, as it tumbles thousands of feet in elevation over 23 miles down the Blue Ridge Escarpment through the Pisgah Forest in northwestern Caldwell County. Through the millennia, it has carved out steep and imposing gorges as well as quiet ponds for fishing or tubing as it nears it confluence with the Johns River.

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Harper Creek, a major tributary of Wilson Creek near Edgemont, N.C.

Its headwaters begin on Calloway Peak, the highest point of rugged Grandfather Mountain at 5,946 feet. More importantly to me is that a favorite spot on it is just 18 miles from my front door. Indeed, on my last visit last week – as I sat on a rocky perch overlooking the waters below and canyon to the north – a couple of determined kayakers were navigating its boulders and rapids.

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Perhaps it is because of how and where I was raised, but my soul demands nourishment from Mother Earth. Its wonderment and beauty is soothing. Add the challenges of a strenuous hike and the focus it requires, and you can understand the origin of the expression, “Take a hike!” It was probably a wife growing weary of her husband, “White Hair Curmudgeon,” grumbling and mumbling.

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I have been visiting here now more than 40 years. Formerly used by the Cherokee as a hunting ground, it was eventually logged by the first European settlers. It was once one of the most vibrant communities in the county, but two devastating floods – in 1916 and 1940 – made worse by the muddy slopes stripped of timber, stopped industry and settlement in Mortimer, though more than a few hardy souls live here and in nearby Edgemont.

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In the summer, it has its share of tourists. On a winter weekday, though, there’s a good chance you’ll see far more critters than people. Especially while the leaves are off the trees, it is where I go to “listen” for whatever I might need to hear; to interact with nature – hawks, whitewater, giant cliffs, rocks, steep paths and more – that are just not available in suburbia.

To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, when I place myself in wooded latitudes, it does wonders for my attitude. So, go take a hike!

© Michael M. Barrick, 2017

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Read more about the National Wild and Scenic River Act

‘Back in Those Days’

World War II veteran Robert “Bob” Morgan captivates audience at Caldwell Heritage Museum’s ‘Coffee with the Curator’

By Michael M. Barrick

LENOIR, N.C. – Speaking conversationally with remarkable recall, captivating memories and fascinating details, Caldwell County resident Robert “Bob” Morgan enthralled the audience of about three dozen at the monthly “Coffee with the Curator” event at the Caldwell Heritage Museum.

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Mr. Robert “Bob” Tate personifies the best of Appalachian storytelling. Photo courtesy of Bill Tate

Mr. Morgan, 91, relaxed in an easy chair as if sitting in his living room. Gesturing with his hands, eyes sparkling, he preceded many of his stories saying, “Back in those days…” He punctuated his storytelling with numerous pauses followed by, “Now, that’s a story in itself.” And off he would go, telling the story that had interrupted his thought, wrap it up, and then return to the previous recollection. Read the entire article here.