Old-time musician, journalist, and radio host, Paul Brown comes to Boone Saturday, May 19, to present a house concert featuring local old-time and roots musicians and bands, to be recorded for an episode of Across the Blue Ridge. The concert takes place at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone and will feature performances by Brown and his partner, Teri McMurray, in addition to Trevor McKenzie, The Sheets Family, Strictly Strings Trio, and Rick Ward. Portions of the performances will air on Across the Blue Ridge, locally on WFDD, in addition to other stations and on the Internet.
“We are very excited to have Paul back to the Jones House,” says Cultural Resources Coordinator, Mark Freed. “And we are equally excited to have the opportunity to share some of our great local musicians with the concert audience and the broader region and world through the radio program.”
Brown is a former 88.5 WFDD News Director, who founded the Across the Blue Ridge program in the 1980s. Across the Blue Ridge focuses on the southern Blue Ridge area, known through generations and still today as a hotbed of old-time, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and country music. It was broadcasted for more than a decade before Brown left to become an executive editor, producer, reporter, and world newscaster at National Public Radio in Washington, DC.
Now returned to the Blue Ridge region, Brown is utilizing his journalism and storytelling experience and skills to present more regional music. An accomplished and well-respected banjo picker, fiddle player, singer, and storyteller, Brown has a deep understanding of the traditions and relationships with hundreds of musicians across the region and country. In fact, Brown has spent a good amount of time in Boone and the surrounding High Country, and he is quite knowledgeable about local traditions and artists, including the other performers.
Trevor McKenzie grew up in Rural Retreat, Virginia, where he learned to play banjo, guitar, and fiddle. He moved to Boone to attend Appalachian State. Today, Trevor works in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection as a librarian specializing in regional and local collections and archiving. His passion for history and preservation combine with his musical skills and creativity, as he has become an on-demand old-time and bluegrass musician and an accomplished songwriter.
The Sheets Family Band includes husband-and-wife, Randy and Deborah Jean, along with their daughter, Kelly Snider. Randy grew up in Grayson County, Virginia surrounded by traditional music, which has filled their home since before Kelly was born. With close vocal harmonies, deep connections to regional songs, and a sound similar to an early Country music trio, The Sheets Family highlight the music of important regional artists like The Carter Family, The Blue Sky Boys, Ola Belle Reed, and Albert Hash.
Strictly Strings Trio features Caleb Coatney, Willow Dillon, and Cecil Gurganus, and includes three-fifths of the full Strictly Strings band. What began as an advanced fiddle class, with Gurganus as instructor, turned into the Strictly Strings band several years ago. Since then, this energetic old-time string band has been taking home blue ribbons and appearing on stages and festivals across the state. The group met in music lessons that take place at the Jones House as part of the Boone Junior Appalachian Musicians program. Today, they are the teachers and mentors to the next crop of musicians, and for good reason.
Rick Ward grew up in Watauga County, and he plays and sings the music of his family and the Beech Mountain and Beech Creek communities. Ward’s grandfather, Tab, was a big influence on his music, including a unique banjo style called “double-knock.” Ward also sings unaccompanied ballads in the vein of legendary local singer, Lee Monroe Presnell.
“Rick is one of the last remaining links in a long chain of mountain-style-fretless banjo players and ballad singers from Watauga County, who performs the music in public,” Freed says. “It is a special tradition to behold, especially in such an intimate performance environment.”
The concert will take place in the Mazie Jones Gallery of the Jones House, and it will be performed unamplified. The space seats a limit of 40 people, so advanced reservation is highly recommended, although open seats will be sold at the door. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and doors open at 7:00 p.m.
For reservations or more information, please visit www.joneshouse.org or call 828.268.6280.