Tag Archives: Strictly Clean & Decent

‘A Good Roots Man’

J.J. Hipps working to stay true to the blues

Note: This article is the fifth in a series about the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on Sat., March 9. Read the first four here.– MMB lenoirvoice@gmail.com

LENOIR, N.C. – The 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase set for this Saturday promises a wide range of American Roots music. The title for this year’s Showcase – “From the Hollows to the Honky-Tonks,” – reinforces that notion. And for the “Honky-Tonk” set, blues musician Jacob (J.J.) Hipps will do his best to provide that honky-tonk sound and feel, even as he remains true to the roots of the blues.

Founders and hosts of the Showcase, Strictly Clean and Decent, is a local band made up of Kay Crouch, Patrick Crouch, and Ron Shuffler.

Patrick Crouch, in explaining why he was pleased to have Hipps play this year, said simply, “He’s a good roots man.” A performer that says very little during his sets, his music does his talking, though he did agree to an interview recently to talk about playing in the Showcase and the direction he is hoping to take his music.

Shared Hipps, “Any musician takes a lot from what they love. For me, blues music is a tradition, so I don’t stray from it. It’s stealing small bits from other musicians, make it your own, but pay homage to them.”

Hipps performs as a three-piece trio featuring Hipps on guitar and vocals, Mark “Bump” Bumgarner on bass, and Ben Pannenbacker on drums. Crouch said, “All you have to do is close your eyes when you hear this music and you will be transported to a different place. It’s a place where the elevation is lower, and the water is higher. It’s a place where they don’t complain about the heat, they call it sultry. Yes indeed, Jacob Johnson Hipps plays the blues.”

His musical influences include the likely suspects, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix and others. However, his dad’s favorite band is Led Zeppelin. “My dad being a musician, he was into classic rock. Once I discovered their early music was blues, I locked into them. They played with raw emotion and were not conventional.”

Yet, he added, “My number one guy is Freddie King. I feel like he had it all – guitar playing, vocals, charisma and stage presence.”

Hipps credits his father with not only exposing him to music but encouraging him to take it up. “I started playing when I was 16. At the time, I had a group of friends. We did everything together.” Still, his dad wanted him to expand his horizons. “Dad taught me to play the drums, but I didn’t like it. So, dad bought me a guitar next.”

It was then that he discovered Led Zeppelin. “I’d try and impress dad with Led Zeppelin songs.” He added, “After a year, I took it seriously. I wanted to be as good as Jimmy Page.” He soon began practicing eight hours a day over a three-year period. He shared, “For me, guitar playing has always been soothing for me. It is therapeutic and helps deal with anxiety and depression.”

About the time he was 20, his dad started pushing him more, said Hipps. Soon, he was playing gigs. His dad played drums for about seven years with him.

Now, though, he is ready to move beyond covering the songs of others to writing his own. “I’ve always come up with things I’ve enjoyed. But you can go only so far playing cover music. I want to get out from behind that shield and be vulnerable. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but it’s time.”

The Showcase couldn’t be a better time. Hipps admits that he is working to brand himself through marketing. Ultimately though, he said, “I’ve got to write and play original material.” That, he said, is the best marketing.

“I’m very excited about playing in the Showcase. It’s an opportunity to get in front of local folks and others that haven’t heard me yet.” While he plays regularly at numerous locations an hour or two from Lenoir, he is excited about playing where the space is designed specifically for listening. “It’s a cool place.” While playing in honky-tonks pays the bills, they’re not the best place to be heard. Still, said Hipps, “The most important thing it to play out. So, I’m pleased to have those opportunities.”

Yet, he hopes there is more to come. He wants to record an album soon. “That’s the top of my list. It’s the only way I’m going to keep growing.”

Learn More

Patrons of the show may choose to include dinner at 5:30 for an additional $15.  Reservations must be placed in advance. Entrees include a choice of roast pork or NC trout.

Tickets for the showcase are $11 and student and child tickets are available.  To purchase tickets, call the box office at 726-2407 or visit the website of the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

© Michael Mathers Barrick, 2019. A note to readers: I am aware of formatting design errors in the posts being sent to your email. I’m working to resolve the problem.

Advertisements

‘Keeping it Positive’ Through Music

A quarter century of learning from Kay and Patrick Crouch

Note: This article is the fourth in a series about the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on Sat., March 9. Read the first three here.– MMB lenoirvoice@gmail.com

LENOIR, N.C. – I first interviewed Patrick Crouch when he was teaching music at Granite Falls Middle School in southern Caldwell County.

It was 1995, perhaps 1996.

It was just the first of countless encounters with Patrick – and Kay, his bride and guide. Along with Ron Shuffler, they constitute Strictly Clean and Decent, hosts of the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase.

While they hadn’t yet started the Showcase the first time I met Patrick, it was clear that the seeds were already planted. That first interview – conducted in the library and band building – revealed a musician devoted to teaching and preserving the traditional music with which he grew up.

The interview, done for a local newspaper that I worked for then, was suggested by Patrick’s principal. I understood that the true stories about the schools in Caldwell County were not to be found at school board meetings; rather, they were – and are – to be found in the classrooms. So, I relished the opportunity.

Indeed, Patrick was such an easy fellow to interview, that the feature story made its way into my first book, “The Hillbilly Highway.” The chapter, titled, “An ‘Aural’ Tradition,” precedes a story about a then-student of his, Will Knight. Now, nearly a quarter century later, they’ll be taking the stage together Saturday night.

That’s what Kay and Patrick do. They teach; while Patrick was teaching at Granite Falls, Kay was running the music program at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute for several years. They encourage, recognizing the best that each student or musician has to offer, but also expecting nothing less than their best. To accomplish the latter, they lead by example.

I am not a musician, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate music. I enjoy it for several reasons, but primarily because it is the universal language of people. It elevates humanity. It is the spark that ignites the spirit of peace. Still, I acknowledged to Patrick that he was dealing with a non-musician. As I’ve come to know about both Patrick and Kay, they can relate to any person wanting to know about music. So that day – that first interview – began an ongoing quarter century of learning about music, in particularly the people who make and preserve it in Caldwell County.

And Patrick, I knew, was one of them during that first interview. He said, “Not only do we have a natural beauty, we have a cultural beauty that is very rare here.” He added, “I prefer to work on the basics. It’s a great position for me to be in to preserve musical traditions.” Indeed, the caption in the book under Patrick’s photo states, “Middle School teacher and bluegrass musician Patrick Crouch where he is happiest: teaching others and preserving traditions.”

Since then, nothing has changed. He and Kay continue to honor that vocation, as best exemplified by the Showcase. Yet, it’s but just a small part of what they do.

In the most recent interview of Patrick and Kay, Patrick shared, about this year’s Showcase, “It’s a real joy for me to be able to play with two former students. It just doesn’t get any better than that.” In addition to Knight, Reath Jackson, who is playing with Hannah Grace, is also a former student. Interestingly, Patrick foreshadowed this enjoyment in that first interview. He said then, “The children … are highly motivated and have good attitudes. That’s a school teacher’s dream really. You can’t beat that. It’s as good as it gets.”

Patrick also pointed to the importance of family support. “I was very fortunate to grow up in a musical family. My kin people on my father’s and mother’s side were musicians. My dad is a guitar player. My parents supported all of my endeavors.” He added, “We’ve always had good community support here.”

Kay added, “One thing I’m just so pleased with is having Caldwell County recognized by the Blue Ridge Music Trails. Knowing that our county is seen as a destination for music lovers is wonderful.” That designation was earned around 2004, noted Kay.

Yet, even though more than 200 musicians with connections to Caldwell County have played in the Showcase during its first 20 years, Kay admits, “One of the things about this year, even though it’s the twenty-first year, it feels validated. The musicians on the stage feel validated. It instills a sense of pride in the county.”

Others might say the same about Kay and Patrick. Back during that first interview, Patrick shared, “I’m very fortunate to have met and married a woman who loves the mountains and natural beauty as I do.” Equally important it would seem – at least for hundreds of musicians, scores of students and thousands of listeners – is that both are talented teachers and determined preservationists of traditional music and Caldwell County’s rich and ongoing contribution to it.

It’s not hard to understand. As I finished my most recent visit with Patrick, we were discussing the role of music in our community. He said simply, “We just keep it positive, Michael. Let’s just keep it positive.”

That’s wise advice. And, why, in my view, musicians and other artists offer the best hope for our future. See for yourself. Watch as your friends and neighbors take the stage and validate not only the Showcase and themselves, but also what they stand for – “Keeping it positive.”

© Michael Mathers Barrick, 2019.

American Roots Music the Focus of ‘From the Hollows to the Honky-Tonks’

Influences, interests and ages of musicians vary; dedication to the craft does not

Note: This article is the third in a series about the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on Sat., March 9. Read the first two here. – MMB lenoirvoice@gmail.com

LENOIR, N.C. – The 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase – “From the Hollows to the Honky-Tonks,” – will cover the spectrum of Americana music, with the influences, interests and ages of the musicians varying tremendously. What is most significant, however, is what they share in common – an exceptional dedication to the art and craft of writing, playing and singing music.

Founders and hosts of the Showcase, Strictly Clean and Decent, is a local band made up of Kay Crouch, Patrick Crouch, and Ron Shuffler. The Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase has included over 200 local performers throughout its history. Patrick shared, “The goal of the showcase is to promote local live music and increase awareness of live music as an important cultural resource.”

Strictly Clean and Decent will welcome to the stage Blackberry Jam, Will Knight, Home Brewed, Opal Moon, J.J. Hipps, Andy and Gary Trivette, and Hannah Grace. “They will be performing American roots music that is sure to get your toes tapping and your heartstrings stretching,” added Crouch, who provided the following information about the musicians.

Blackberry Jam is a six-piece band sponsored by the Caldwell Arts Council’s Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program. The band, Blackberry JAM, was formed out of the need to provide a performance outlet for talented members of the Caldwell JAM program. Ranging in age from 11 to 18 years, band members are:  brothers Dawson and Lincoln Clark; brother and sister Dalton and Averi Sigmon; Kymdyn Clement; and, Gideon White. Crouch shared, “The band has quickly gained experience performing at a variety of events, festivals, and venues over the past two years. While rooted in the rich musical traditions of our area, the musicians are open to many musical influences. We know you will enjoy Blackberry JAM-The future of tradition.”

Will Knight will be performing on the show as a special guest of Strictly Clean and Decent. Will’s grandparents played country music and his earliest childhood memories are of evenings spent listening to his grandfather playing bass and singing lead while his grandmother played guitar and sang harmony. Will studied piano at an early age and continued his studies with Ron Sinclair at St. Luke’s Methodist Church, Patrick Crouch at Granite Falls Middle School, Arden Carson at South Caldwell High, Rick Cline at Lenoir-Rhyne Percussion, and East Tennessee State University. He studied guitar with Reggie Harris and Andy Page. Will studied dobro with Jaret Carter and is obsessed with the 5-string banjo thanks to Bela Fleck. He worked for six months in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland and has performed in Scotland, England, Wales, and Brazil. We welcome Will back to his hometown stage.

Home Brewed is trio featuring Laura Brewer on bass and vocals, Matt Brewer on guitar and vocals, and Wade Parker on banjo. Matt and Laura began performing in local venues about seven years ago and recently added Wade Parker to the group. Home Brewed performs for private events, 1841 Café, Lenoir Moose Lodge, Fyreside Bottles and Brews, and Granite Falls Brewery. They play a wide variety of music. While they are not a traditional bluegrass band, they put the banjo to rock-n-roll creating a unique sound. Home Brewed plays anything from Led Zeppelin to Patsy Cline, to the Rolling Stones and even Blue Oyster Cult!

Opal Moon is a local musician who plays guitar and sings straight from the heart. She does amazing versions of cover songs and she often performs original music on local songwriter nights. She is steeped in blues, soul, and rock traditions. Opal performs acoustic and electric music. You may hear her performing solo, as a duo with Anthony Pescatore, or with her band Opal Moon and the Dark Sides. She is appearing as a special guest of Strictly Clean and Decent.

J. J. Hipps plays the blues. J.J. performs as a three-piece power trio featuring J.J. on guitar and vocals, the legendary Mark “Bump” Bumgarner on bass, and Ben Pannenbacker on drums. Crouch said, “All you have to do is close your eyes when you hear this music and you will be transported to a different place. It’s a place where the elevation is lower, and the water is higher. It’s a place where they don’t complain about the heat, they call it sultry. But that ain’t all. Through the miracle of modern technology and a Stratocaster guitar, J.J. has not only carries the torch for Delta blues; he takes us to Memphis, Chicago, Muscle Shoals, and Detroit. Yes indeed, Jacob Johnson Hipps plays the blues.”

Andy Trivette is a multi-instrumentalist who has lived in Caldwell County for sixteen years and is a welcome addition to the local music scene. Andy was born in Watauga County the youngest of 11 children, 2 boys and 9 girls, into a very musical family. Andy’s dad played in several bluegrass bands Andy learned to play whatever instruments were laying around; mainly guitar, bass, dobro, and mandolin. Andy has played in several bands over the years most recently he has been playing solo gigs at family venues. Andy will be bringing his telecaster and his brother Gary Trivette will be playing bass as special guests of Strictly Clean and Decent. We are looking forward to hearing these boys “twang it up.”

Hannah Grace is well known in our area. She has amazing stage presence and authentic vocals. The essence of her music cannot be learned, it must be lived. Hannah grew up in our local music scene as part of musical family. Her roots are evident in her sound. She will be performing her brand of country music assisted by David Shumate on guitar, Paul Shumate on drums, Reath Jackson on guitar and vocals, and Randy Matheson on bass.

Nancy Posey will again serve as emcee. Crouch remarked, “Nancy is a high-powered poet, picker, prophet, and preacher who supports live art near and far. We are pleased to have her back!”

Learn More

Patrons of the show may choose to include dinner at 5:30 for an additional $15.  Reservations must be placed in advance. Entrees include a choice of roast pork or NC trout.

Tickets for the showcase are $11 and student and child tickets are available.  To purchase tickets, call the box office at 726-2407 or visit the website of the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

© Michael Mathers Barrick, 2019. Photos of Ron Shuffler and Nancy Posey courtesy photos.

Ambassadors of Traditional Music

Strictly Clean and Decent travels the world in search of songs and singers while staying strongly rooted in Western North Carolina

Note: This submission is the second article in a series about the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on Sat., March 9. – MMB lenoirvoice@gmail.com

LENOIR, N.C. – Since 1998, the Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase has allowed more than 200 musicians with Caldwell County roots to demonstrate their talents. The 21st Showcase is scheduled for March 9 with this year’s musicians playing tunes that are “From the Hollows to the Honky Tonks” of Caldwell County.

The founders and hosts for the event are Strictly Clean and Decent, an acoustic trio which features Patrick Crouch, Ron Shuffler, and Kay Crouch whose blend of brilliant vocal harmonies tops a solid instrumental foundation. They are dedicated to performing a variety of musical styles in an acoustic setting. Their eclectic repertoire includes modern folk songs by American, Canadian, and Irish songwriters, the fiery breakdowns and songs of family and home found in both traditional and contemporary bluegrass settings, and centuries-old Celtic airs and dance tunes. All of this is peppered with a healthy dose of popular jazz standards, swing and western swing music, and a few classic country tunes thrown in to provide a program certain to be enjoyed by all.

Ron Shuffler plays the upright bass with Strictly Clean and Decent. Ron is a veteran of the early Top 40 and beach music scene but also is well known in country and bluegrass circles. His solid bass playing and impeccable harmony vocals are without equal. Ron was raised in a musical family and his eldest brother, George, virtually created the cross-picking style of guitar playing while working with The Stanley Brothers, a first-generation bluegrass band, in the 1950s and 60s.

Kay Crouch performs on the guitar, flute, piano, and tin whistle with Strictly Clean and Decent.  Kay has a widely varied musical background that includes symphonic and solo percussion work and musical theatre as well as county and bluegrass music. Her interpretive vocals have been an asset to the trio since she joined in 1991.

Patrick Crouch handles the mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddle, and guitar for the trio. Patrick has been performing acoustic music since 1977 when he founded New River Reign, a staple at Blowing Rock’s P.B. Scott’s Music Hall.  He turned to country music with Long Time Gone and, with Ron Shuffler and Reggie Harris, created Strictly Clean and Decent in 1989. Patrick’s intense, often pyrotechnic but always tasteful, instrumental skills are the highlight of every Strictly Clean and Decent show.

Area reviewers have been unanimous in their acclaim for the trio. The Hickory News claims that “what really sets this trio apart is the bluegrass/swing/pop/country influence of three musicians whose talents take them to virtually every style of music ever conceived!” The Morganton News-Herald states that “the music is quite lively and, while there are many intense selections, the band maintains a jovial rapport with the audience.” Of the trio, Focus says their “on-stage patter is refreshingly self-effacing and laid-back, and the band comes off as extremely likable… Don’t miss this band, because they are a truly unique listening experience.”

Since 1989, Strictly Clean and Decent has performed in Ireland eight times. They have appeared five times on the Cobh International Folk Music and Dance Festival, the Bluegrass and Olde Tyme Music Festival in Cork, and twice at the Irish Bluegrass Music Association’s festival in Athy as well as at venues throughout the country.  However, the trio performs primarily in North Carolina in places as varied as the Biltmore House, Duke Gardens, the NC Museum of Natural History, the NC Arboretum in Asheville, at the Sanford Pottery Festival, and for Winterfest in Blowing Rock. They are regular presenters on the Mountainhome Music Concert series in Boone.  Additionally, they have opened for noted performers such as Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, J.D. Crowe, Vassar Clements, Tim O’Brien, Tony Rice, Lee Greenwood, John Cowan, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Clower.

Strictly Clean and Decent received an Emerging Artist Grant from the Caldwell Arts Council to produce a recording entitled Boomer Breakdown.  Of this project, Bluegrass Unlimited says the group is “precise and well-rehearsed, with a full sound for a trio.”  The trio’s third CD, Crazy Quilt, was released in March of 2003.

Strictly Clean and Decent released their fourth CD, How High the Moon, in 2007.

Since 1998, Strictly Clean and Decent has become active in recording and presenting the great number of traditional musicians in Caldwell County with a long-range goal of recording one hundred musicians in ten years.  To date, with the help of Grassroots Arts Project grants, 128 musicians have been recorded, with backing by the trio, on ten CDs: It Must Be Something in the Water (2001), I Do Re Mi (2002), and Caldwell Roots and Branches (2003), Playin’ Hooky (2004), and Good Ole Boys Like Me (2005), The Lights of Home (2006), Rear View Mirror (2007), A Story to Tell (2008), Winter Star (2009), Fresh Tracks (2010).

Kay, Ron, and Patrick performed Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity with Foothills Performing Arts in December 2014.

Kay, Patrick, and Tom Kuhn toured Germany in July 2015 in conjunction with the Western Piedmont Sister Cities cultural exchange. They performed eighteen concerts in six different Germany cities including Berlin, Munich, Altenburg, Achern, Wernigerode, and Stegen.

Kay and Patrick toured Ireland in October 2015 performing concerts in the towns of Dingle, Cobh, and Cork City. This was Strictly Clean and Decent’s eleventh tour of Ireland.

Strictly Clean and Decent has performed for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Wide Open Street Festival in 2016,2017, and 2018 in conjunction with PineCone-Piedmont Council of Traditional Music.

Strictly Clean and Decent is included in the Touring Artist Directory and The Blue Ridge Music Trails produced by the North Carolina Arts Council.Strictly Clean and Decent may be reached by e-mail at bookings@strictlycleananddecent.com or at (828) 729-0853.

‘From the Hollows to the Honky-Tonks’

The 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase to offer a wide range of musical styles 

Note: This is an article in our new series, “In Tune With.” Through this series, we will feature musicians from Caldwell County and beyond. It is only appropriate that we start the series with the 21st Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase, coming up on March 9. Additional articles about the Showcase will follow over the next week. – MMB

By Michael Mathers Barrick lenoirvoice@gmail.com

LENOIR, N.C. – As it enters its third decade, the annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase continues to expand its definition of “traditional” while remaining true to its roots begun 21 years ago.

That’s evident in the title of this year’s Showcase, “From the Hollows to the Honky-Tonks.” And it’s also because the event’s founders and hosts, Kay and Patrick Crouch of Strictly Clean and Decent, are as excited about the Showcase as ever.

It will be presented on Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center. Designed to highlight the achievements of local musicians who keep the community’s rich history of traditional music alive, the series has presented more than 200 musicians since 1998. 

Strictly Clean and Decent, a local band whose members include Patrick, Kay, and Ron Shuffler, will host the event as it has each year. According to Patrick, the goal of the showcase is “to increase awareness of live music as an important cultural resource.”

Patrick explained the genesis of this year’s show. He said that as they selected performers for this year’s show, “It just came about that way. The first set is acoustic, the second set electric. Logically, that is what has happened to traditional music.” He explained that the folks that were playing old-timey music in the hollows and back porches of the county’s rolling landscape naturally merged their acoustic playing with electrical instruments and would eventually find themselves playing in bars – honky-tonks.

Lifelong musicians and teachers, Kay and Patrick are also lifelong learners, which is also reflected in this year’s showcase. “The other thing I like about this show is when we called it traditional, I never really thought of it.” By that, he explained that he knew that music is traditional because of its deep roots but hadn’t considered what instruments make it traditional. “It seems it’s the fiddle and banjo,” he said. He noted also that those influences are from two continents. “The fiddle comes from Europe, the banjo from Africa.” He added, “To me, traditional music encompasses all varieties of American music. Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Jazz and Rock & Roll are all American traditional music tied together.”

Kay expanded on Patrick’s insight, saying, “It’s not that every group in the last 20 years has had a fiddle and banjo, but they are traditional musicians in the sense that they’ve been taught in the oral tradition.” She continued, “Many didn’t go to school to study music. They have picked it up from their families, neighbors and other musicians in the community. It’s not for the money.”

The two completed the thought essentially with the same words – “It’s for the enjoyment, for the gathering of friends.”

This year’s enjoyment will be provided by the following gathering of musicians. (Note: Additional articles about the musicians will follow over the next week).

Blackberry Jam is a six-piece band sponsored by the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program of the Caldwell Arts Council. The band was formed out of the need to provide a performance outlet for advanced students.  It is described as “the future of tradition.” Ranging in age from 11 to 18 years, band members include brothers Dawson and Lincoln Clark, brother and sister Dalton and Averi Sigmon, Kymdyn Clement, and Gideon White.  Blackberry Jam has been featured at many local festivals as well as at the International Bluegrass Music Association conference in Raleigh.

Will Knight studied in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program at East Tennessee State University.  He also attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland and has performed in Scotland, England, and Wales, as well as in Brazil.  Will Knight will perform as a special guest of Strictly Clean and Decent. 

Home Brewed is a trio featuring Laura Brewer on bass, Matt Brewer on guitar, and Wade Parker on banjo.  Its unique sound is best described as countrified rock with a hint of bluegrass as its set list ranges from Patsy Cline to Blue Oyster Cult.

Opal Moon is steeped in blues, soul, and rock traditions.  She regularly performs on local songwriter nights.  Opal Moon will perform as a special guest of Strictly Clean and Decent. 

JJ Hipps is an electric blues band featuring J.J. Hipps on guitar, Mark “Bump” Bumgarner on bass, and Ben Pannenbacker on drums.  Their music covers the entire spectrum of the blues, including styles from the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Chicago, Muscle Shoals, and Detroit.

Andy Trivette is a multi-instrumentalist who has lived in Caldwell County for sixteen years and is a welcome addition to the local music scene.  He will be joined by his brother Gary Trivette on bass and they will be backed by Strictly Clean and Decent.

Hannah Grace grew up as part of a musical family.  She has created a unique sound that appeals to a wide range of audiences.  She will be performing her brand of country music assisted by David Shumate on guitar, Paul Shumate on drums, Reath Jackson on guitar and vocals, and Randy Matheson on bass.

Nancy Posey returns from Nashville to act as emcee for the showcase.  A poet, blogger, and songwriter, she is a great supporter live music and musicians. A retired English teacher, Patrick says she’s the perfect emcee. “Nancy has immersed herself in the music scene.” He shared that she’s gone to the Swannanoa Gathering and other national and international gatherings of musicians. Patrick continued, “She said, ‘I want to learn to play the mandolin.’ And she did.” He added, in an email, “Nancy is a high powered poet, picker, prophet, and preacher who supports live art near and far.”

Patrons of the show may choose to include dinner at 5:30 for an additional $15.  Reservations must be placed in advance. Entrees include a choice of roast pork or NC trout.

Tickets for the showcase are $11 and student and child tickets are available.  To purchase tickets, call the box office at 726-2407 or visit www.broyhillcenter.com

© Michael Mathers Barrick, 2019.  Photos of Strictly Clean and Decent and Nancy Posey are courtesy photos.




Still Something in the Water

20th Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase a tribute to its roots

By Michael M. Barrick

LENOIR, N.C. – More than 20 years ago, at a Christmas party at the home of Kay and Patrick Crouch, a typically spontaneous jam session broke out – not unlike the ones that have occurred in homes and on porches in Caldwell County for generations. Present that night was David Briggs, who was then the executive director of the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center.

Recalling that moment recently, Patrick revealed, “He turned to me and said, ‘Patty, why do we not have this on stage?’”

Showcase SC&D

Strictly Clean and Decent (Kay Crouch, Patrick Crouch, and Ron Shuffler, r) are hosting their 20th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase

That simple question led to the first annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase at the Civic Center. The show was titled “It Must Be Something in the Water,” a tip to the long, seemingly unending population of musicians living among the hills and hollows of Caldwell County. Now, the 20th Annual Caldwell County Traditional Musicians Showcase is scheduled for March 10, featuring a few of the musicians from that first Showcase and others since, several new performers, and Briggs making an appearance.

“The Showcase was David’s idea,” shared Patrick. “This is a tribute to the original show. This is a tribute to the longevity of the series. I’ll be delighted to have David on stage. Also, Donna Minton, who has helped so much from the beginning.”

Patrick and Kay are teamed up with Ron Shuffler as Strictly Clean and Decent; they will serve as the host band as they have each year since 1998. Also, Roger Hicks and Lyndy Johnson, who performed in the 2001 Showcase, will have a set. “Roger Hicks and Lyndy Johnson are finger-style guitarists who are listed in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area roster of traditional musicians,” said Patrick.

Patrick also noted that the artwork from the original Showcase was designed by David Courtner, and also expressed deep gratitude to Jeff Bentley, the current executive director of the Civic Center. Bentley, Patrick pointed out, has been there for every show, having been promoted from sound technician to executive director since Briggs left. “We are on solid ground due to the fact that he works hard to promote the show.”

It (the Showcase) has created a greater awareness of music and the folk arts. Folks have embraced that. It’s not only an American music we embrace. It’s Southern music. It’s Southern Appalachian music.” – Patrick Crouch

Despite having familiar faces this year, Patrick said that the fresh faces are just as exciting to him. “It makes me step back and take a reflective look. We have 12 people who have never been in the Showcase. Over 20 years we’ve had more than 200 musicians, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. We have an unlimited supply of talent. That’s beautiful.”

Patrick sang high praises for Conrad Boudreau who is recognized in the Unifour area as a mandolin teacher of young musicians. “He has come into our community with such energy and enthusiasm that he is influencing and encouraging other musicians.” Joining Boudreau will be Minton, whose popularity is evident by the number of times she has performed in the Showcase – in 1998, 2001, and 2007.

A previous performer, Charlie Carpenter (2005) will be joined by first-timer Todd McCloud. “They are known for their unique and powerful duet vocals,” said Patrick.

A couple typically associated with Lenoir’s furniture industry, Alex and Anne Bernhardt will play Cajun music on their first showcase appearance.

Red Rocking Chair, consisting of Jack Lawrence, Tom Kuhn, and Dale Meyer, who have been playing together 12 years, play Bluegrass music, but other genres as well.

Sarah Seymour and Nick Seymour, both of whom performed in 2010 as part of Sweetbriar Jam, will appear as members of Rooted, an acoustic band that plays Americana and roots music in an acoustic setting. Band members with Rooted making their first showcase appearance are Jimmy Atkins, Drew Gray, Seath Gray, and Morgan Smith.

Audience members will be also treated to the excellence of the Caldwell Junior Appalachian Musicians and the wit of Nancy Posey, taking her third turn as emcee.

Patrick notes that the Showcase is an important contribution to the rich arts tradition of Caldwell County. “It has created a greater awareness of music and the folk arts,” he said. “Folks have embraced that. It’s not only an American music we embrace. It’s Southern music. It’s Southern Appalachian music.

“It makes us a special place.”

The Showcase will be presented on Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 pm at the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Civic Center or by calling the box office at 828-726-2401.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018.

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.

Sycamore Bones vertical

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.”

sycamore-bones-1-bw

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.”

Showcase SC&D

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. 

The Lenoir voice on Facebook

On Twitter: @lenoirvoice

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

showcase-handmade-heartfelt-logo

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.

Handmade & Heartfelt

Theme of 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase inspired by area musicians

By Michael M. Barrick

(Note: This is the first in a series of articles. Check back for feature stories on the performers).

LENOIR, N.C. – Kay and Patrick Crouch were relaxed – the kind of relaxed that is rooted in two decades of experience – as they discussed the upcoming 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase during a recent visit to their home.

This year, the concert, which is hosted annually by Strictly Clean and Decent – Kay and Patrick as well as Ron Shuffler – will be held on Sat., March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

showcase-handmade-heartfelt-logo

Design by Ron Wilson

Patrick explained the genesis of this year’s theme. “Some years I have the title in my brain and then get the musicians that fit. This year, however, I had this group of people who I love and admire as people and musicians that I’ve been wanting to get on the show.  So, it will feature various styles of music – some is original, and it all comes from the heart.”

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.

showcase-grand-finale

The grand finale from a previous Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase

In describing examples of musicians underscoring the theme of this year’s concert, Patrick pointed to two of the groups as examples. Speaking of Sycamore Bones, he said, “I’ve liked Andrew’s voice since I first heard it. It is authentic, as is his songwriting. Cory is also a great songwriter. Since he moved here he has been involved in music, coming to the showcases and other gatherings. They get the big picture. So, they are an example of ‘Handmade.’”

He continued, “Darren Bryant and Justin Clyde Williams play music that is sincere. They feel it. They are representative of where heartfelt came from.”

Everybody truly loves music. It is the universal language. The audience knows that. The biggest challenge is for the musicians to limit their selections.” – Patrick Crouch

Pointing out that 19 years of experience of preparing and hosting the showcase has made it easier for them, Patrick shared, “Now we have a tradition established. I already know what we’re going to do for the 20th.”

Patrick and Kay acknowledged that not every one of the more than 200 musicians that have appeared in the showcase as of this year are Caldwell County residents, but all have roots to the county. “It’s the traditional music that’s the connection,” offered Kay. She continued, “It’s good to connect with folks from outside Caldwell County. The real value is that these folks see what we’re so proud of.” As an example, Patrick pointed to Strictly Strings, a five-piece string band that plays bluegrass and traditional music. Three are students at the Watauga campus of Caldwell Community College. In a relatively short time, they have developed quite a following.

Music flows. It flows from the performer. It’s not something you think about. It’s what we do. The sign of an artist is playing whatever they want.” – Patrick Crouch

Patrick shared, “It is unfathomable to think that more than 200 musicians who live in or have ties to Caldwell County have performed. Our goal was 100. After 10 years, we had reached 128. When we started this, this was our stage that we wanted to share. It is incredible to think about how many musicians we have shared that stage with.” Smiling, and looking at Kay, he added, “It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have such a community of musicians here. It’s going to just keep growing.”

He continued, “Music flows. It flows from the performer. It’s not something you think about. It’s what we do. The sign of an artist is playing whatever they want.”

That’s exactly what happens at the Showcase. Patrick sends out a schedule to the musicians, tells them how much time they have and how many songs they can play, but does not tell them what to play. He explained why. “Everybody truly loves music. It is the universal language. The audience knows that. The biggest challenge is for the musicians to limit their selections.” He continued, “I don’t give a lot of direction. Early on, we met a lot. Now it’s better to just let things be as they may.”

Kay pointed to another one of the musicians as an example of music serving as the universal language. Speaking of Jimmie Griffith, who performs as MaisCeu, and plays Brazilian music and sings in Portuguese, she said, “What he does musically is unique. If you close your eyes you would think there is a band playing. He provides a beautiful cascade of sound.” Patrick added, “Jimmie and I like to jam together. Even though he sings in Portuguese, the patterns and rhythms in his music blend with mine.”

showcase-scd-2

Strictly Clean & Decent

Besides the quality of musicians that play at the Showcase, Patrick says another reason for its success is how the community of musicians support it. “Those who don’t play in it still come out. Some come during sound check just to see folks they haven’t seen in a while. And, of course, we’ve enjoyed the support of the people of Caldwell County from the beginning.”

Sitting in a room surrounded by CDs, musical memorabilia, instruments and a recording studio, Patrick sat up in his chair and shared, “I stick my chest out when I say I’m from Caldwell County and am talking about our music.”

Performers & Ticket Info

Strictly Clean and Decent

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.

To get tickets to this year’s Showcase, “Handmade & Heartfelt,” purchase tickets here from the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

© The Lenoir Voice, 2017.

On Facebook

On Twitter: @lenoirvoice