Aug. 22, 2014. Just as the High Country Beer Fest has, in the past eight years, refined and improved its educational tasting experience, festival organizers have made a strong commitment to bring some of the best, and most influential, national musicians to the annual event. This year’s lineup builds on the 2013 festival in its focus on American roots music.
Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition will join the Cary Hudson and Grayson Capps duo in a way that celebrates the unique music of the American south. Country, rock and roll, blues, gospel and honkey tonk sounds characterize the music that these musicians explore. Jimbo, Cary and Grayson are, in fact, recognized nationally as being among a handful of artists who have made lasting contributions to roots music in the United States.
Mississippi native Cary Hudson (who mesmerized last year’s audience with a set that reached deeply into country blues and early rock and roll) founded the band Blue Mountain in 1991. Blue Mountain, with such bands as Son Volt, The Old 97s, The Jayhaws, Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo forged a style of music that came to be known as alt-country. In fact, the award-winning magazine No Depression – whose tagline reads “The Roots Music Authority Since 1995 – presented Blue Mountain as its second cover feature. In the years since the group disbanded, Hudson has remained busy developing a deeply intense sound as a solo guitarist, and singer-songwriter. Since 2005, he has released five solo albums.
Upon moving recently from Mississippi to New Orleans, Hudson began a musical collaboration with Grayson Capps and the two perform as a duo regularly around the U.S., but especially, they hold down a regular gig at New Orleans’ famed music venue, The Chickie Wah Wah. Grayson Capps, from Opelika, Ala., is an intriguing songwriter, guitarist and singer. Capps studied theater at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he has become a central figure in that city’s rich music community.
In the mid-2000s, two of Capps’ bands (The House Levelers and Stavin’ Chain) had great success and caught the attention of Spin Magazine and the USA Today. Grayson Capps works in a deeply evocative and tough-hewn style that paints such vivid images as: storm darkened highways, burned out Chevy Novas and $35 hotel rooms. In spite of these dark themes, Capps infuses his songs and characters with an element of hope and gentle compassion. Hearing Grayson Capps trade licks and stories with Cary Hudson will be a treat for those lucky enough to attend the festival.
Closing out the music lineup of the seventh annual High Country Beer Fest will be Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition. In describing Mathus, the legendary musician and producer Jim Dickinson, commented that he possessed the “Singing voice of Huck Finn.” He went on to proclaim boldly that “If you don’t like this, there is seriously something wrong with you.”
Music critics have hearalded Mathus’ recent album, “Dark Night of the Soul” with similar impassioned words. Americana and roots music writers are in agreement that, “Dark Night of the Soul” will be among the top albums in the genre at years end.
Jimbo Mathus has deep roots in North Carolina. After leaving his beloved home state of Mississippi in the early 1990s, Mathus landed in Chapel Hill where he formed the band Squirrel Nut Zippers, a group that dug deep into the roots of American jazz and jump music. The influence of the band continues to reverberate in this genre. The band’s 1997 release, “Hot” achieved platinum status, and the group appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.
Mathus returned to Mississippi in the early 2000s and began exploring the music roots of the Deep South, which in truth represents the roots of American popular music. Blues, jazz, country, and rock and roll, are all styles that emerged from the South, and Jimbo Mathus is pivotal in keeping the gumbo of southern traditional music alive today.
Local southern indie rockers The Worthless Son in Laws, kick the music off at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, at the High Country Fairgrounds. Tickets for the event are available online at hcbeerfest.com and in Boone at Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants and Benchmark Provisions.