Tag Archives: Traditional Music

‘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.


Strictly Strings Carrying on the Old-Time Tradition

Boone, N.C. -based group brings energy, excellence and creativity to 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.


Strictly Strings as seen on the cover of their album, ‘High on a Mountain.’ Photo by Martin Church.

BOONE, N.C. – Though Watauga County is home for Strictly Strings, the group clearly has a natural home in the 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase. The five-member band has connections to Caldwell County through the Boone campus of Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. That is not all though. The group’s enthusiasm for traditional music clearly marks their music as heartfelt.

Indeed, the group’s enthusiasm for – and mastery of – traditional music is apparent in its newly released album, “High on a Mountain.” The title track can be heard on the band’s website. It includes 16 songs, most of which are covers of traditional Appalachian music, but also includes some original work as well. In another connection to Caldwell County, the album was recorded and engineered by Patrick Crouch in Lenoir at Ticknock Studio.

Strictly Strings is Kathleen Burnett on fiddle and vocal, Anissa Burnett on bass, fiddle and vocal, Willow Dillon on fiddle, cello, banjo, and vocal, and Caleb Coatney on mandolin, guitar and banjo. As the senior member of the group, Cecil Gurganus holds down the rhythm guitar and vocals.


Strictly Srings. Photo by Martin Church.

Gurganus, who moved to Watauga County in 1976, began to teach fiddle classes in the Boone Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) Program about a decade ago. He shared, “Strictly Strings band came out of our many years together in the classes, as well as their interest in all the other instruments.” He added that the members are determined to create “diversity for themselves.” He explained, “While we started out as an old-time fiddlers and string band – hence, ‘Strictly Strings’ – these young musicians are consistently seeking out a variety of musical tastes, including great vocals.” That explains the assertion on the group’s website, “Strictly Strings is no longer strictly strings.”

Also according to its website, “The group … has blossomed into an exciting multi-faceted band, enjoying the genres of old time, bluegrass, Irish, and swing, all topped off with fresh harmony vocals.”


Strictly Strings on stage. Photo by Lonnie Webster.

Gurganus shared how he came to appreciate the music of the region after moving to Watauga County from South Carolina to help teach a class on traditional instrument building with Stanley Hicks. He said, “I played music in the Blowing Rock bar scene to make some cash. I was learning to play the fiddle, thinking bluegrass.” But, he continued, “What I found in the mountains of Watauga was a rich heritage of old-time music, fiddling, banjo picking (clawhammer style), ballads and dancing. I met many traditional musicians who had never been recorded, the exception being Doc Watson, of course.”

Gurganus continued, “The depth of the non-commercial old-time fiddling struck a chord with me, and I took the old-time path, away from the more commercial radio music called bluegrass. And, actually, there is a great deal of crossover between the genres. One person described the difference as ‘bluegrass showcases the individual musician, old-time music showcases the tunes.’”

He added, “I was a part of the Laurel Creek String Band, which played around Boone for old-time dances, weddings, ASU events, parties, and just for our own pleasure. So my influences were the older generation local musicians I met or listened to such as Doc Watson, Fred Price, Clint Howard, Ora Watson, Glenn Bolick, Stanley Hicks, and those I met in the numerous fiddlers’ conventions around the region.”

Through Strictly Strings, Gurganus is passing along that heritage. He shared, “I hope we can showcase the talents of these young musicians, and to honor them as the next generation carrying on traditional music in any genre. We are honored for Patrick Crouch to have asked us to be a part of this amazing and diverse group of musicians in the Showcase.”


Strictly Strings. Photo by Martin Church.

Following are brief biographies of each of the band members (to read the entire biographies, visit the group’s website).

Cecil Gurganus – Guitar, Vocals: Cecil has been a part of the old time music community in Watauga County since 1976, playing fiddle in the Laurel Creek String Band. He has been an instructor in the Watauga Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) Program at the Jones House in Boone since its inception in 2006. As fiddle instructor and mentor for the young members of Strictly Strings for more than five years, Cecil has seen these JAM students come full circle, as they have become a working, performing band, including beautiful vocals, and now teaching him tunes!

Kathleen Burnett – Fiddle, Vocals: Kathleen was born and raised in the mountains of Boone. She began playing the fiddle and singing at the age of 5, and has grown up performing in several local bluegrass and old-time bands. At age seven, Kathleen began instructional classes in the Boone JAM program, which has been an integral part of her musical growth, as well as performing with her sisters in The Burnett Sisters. Kathleen plays the fiddle and guitar, and is the lead singer for Strictly Strings. Currently, she is enrolled in Caldwell Community College, and plans to pursue a B.A. in Old time/Bluegrass/Country music at East Tennessee State University.

Anissa Burnett – Bass, Fiddle, Vocals: Dedicated to learning and performing traditional old-time music, Anissa has also developed an interest in jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, gospel, and other genres of music rooted in the south and Appalachians. She has absorbed much of her music while growing up in Boone, being involved with the JAM program as well as attending many local festivals and gatherings.

Willow Dillon – Banjo, Fiddle, Vocals: Willow spent the years of her early childhood in Hawai’i, where she was introduced to the world of music through ukulele and keyboard lessons. She soon developed a strong passion for music when she moved back to the mainland and enrolled classical violin lessons at her local school. After her first session, her teacher decided to teach her old-time style fiddle instead. When Willow was introduced to the old-time fiddle style she knew that that was the style she wanted to play. When her family moved to Boone, she found the JAM program and started learning traditional Appalachian fiddle from all of the instructors there. … Willow picked up the banjo a few years after learning fiddle and has mostly taught herself to play banjo with the help of a few friends and teachers along the way. After playing banjo for almost a year, she grew an endless passion for the clawhammer style.

Caleb Coatney – Mandolin, Banjo, Guitar: Caleb has played music since he was five, when he started learning piano. Soon after, he began participating in the JAM program at the Jones House in Boone. There, he started on mandolin, but quickly added guitar and clawhammer banjo. Currently, he helps as a teaching assistant in these community classes for children and adults. Caleb has grown up playing traditional old-time, bluegrass, and Irish tunes, but he also plays rock music. During the summer, Caleb enjoys competing at fiddler’s conventions, where he’s placed high in several mandolin and banjo competitions.

© 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


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.