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Local Duo ‘Sound Traveler’ Bring Their Family Blend of Instrumentation Back to the High Country

By Greg Hince

July 31, 2012. Sound Traveler, known locally as Avery County based artists Bob and Patty Tatum, will be performing their special brand of classic rock, pop, folk, and country at MK’s Southern Cooking (formerly Glidewells) in Blowing Rock and Zuzda in Banner Elk this weekend.

The performance at MK’s Southern Cooking will take place on the patio from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, and the performance at Zuzda will last from 5:30-8:30 PM Friday.

Prior to forming Sound Traveler in 2010, the Tatum’s worked together for several years with the well-known Appalachian acoustic trio Bob & Ellie with Patty. Sound Traveler features acoustic vocal and instrumental renditions of popular classics from a diverse set of genres. Instrumentation includes guitar, trumpet, bass, mandolin, harmonica, concertina, and percussion.

The duo’s first CD of original music was released on June 19, 2011. The group is available to perform for private and public events. More information is available at www.facebook.com/soundtravelerband.

Bob Tatum, originally of Savannah, Georgia, played in several local groups including Shalom, Sunset, and Echoes & Shadows before moving to western North Carolina in the 80s. As a part of other musical projects he has performed at local institutions like Jonesborough Days’ 4th of July Celebration, the Acoustic Coffeehouse, Valle Country Fair, the Wooly Worm Festival, the Music Fest in Sugar Grove, Banner Elk Winery, Carolina BBQ, and numerous other venues in and around East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Bob plays lead guitar, mandolin, and harmonica while adding lead and harmony vocals with fellow multi-instrumentalist Patty.

The Tatum’s moved to Cape Canaveral in 2010, to focus on building Sound Traveler into a successful musical venture, but still spend summers in the High Country and consider a remote part of land in Avery County home. When in NC, the Tatum’s are usually located a short walk from the Appalachian Drive and a short drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The musicians will spend most days this summer playing shows in Western NC, including 23 in August alone, and will tour the Southeast beginning in October. They currently have events scheduled through January of next year.

In addition, they will contribute an original song, “Joseph’s Prayer,” to this year’s Christmas in the Mountains Volume VI CD, to be released in October. It marks the fourth time one of their original songs has been included on the project. Proceeds from the CD go to help the Hunger & Health Coalition provide food and pharmacy assistance to the High Country of Western North Carolina. Last year’s CD raised $28,000.

Bob Tatum taught at Avery Middle School for roughly 30 years, and credits the area and its population for exposing him to bluegrass music, and many of the people he considers friends.

“I’ve taught thousands of middle-grades students the basics of science and English literature and grammar, I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else in the world,” Tatum said of Avery County. “It’s where I’ve fathered three children, where I met Doc Watson and many other famous and semi-famous musicians; people there call me by my first name, and I certainly call Avery home.”

Sound Traveler’s music is an eclectic-acoustic blend that is difficult to categorize, but their ballads and up-tempo pieces touch on a wide variety of subjects such as “lighthouses and limousines, love and loss, and even a Smoky Hollow found in these beautiful highlands.” Bob’s distinctive finger picking guitar stylings and harmonica accents blend with Patty’s trumpet, bass, concertina, and percussion contributions. Shared leads and harmony vocals accentuate the complete package and suggest that the Tatum’s have spent considerable time honing their musical compatibility.

Prior to starting the project, Patty toured with the international group Up With People and played trumpet in a Japanese jazz band before finding her way to Western North Carolina and consequently Bob.

Sound Traveler released their first, self-titled album in June 2011. The CD contains 12 original previously unreleased songs composed by Bob and performed entirely by Bob and Patty Tatum. The CD packaging includes photography by Anna Melton and Naomi Tatum, local artists, and is available for purchase on iTunes. For an up to date list of upcoming events and performances visit www.soundtravelerband.com.