Folk Music

Gray playing his guitar in front of a mic.
Anita Rao / WUNC

Barry Gray’s debut release is the culmination of a family man’s slow-burning reflections.

Newton posed in a red beret and blue blouse on the balcony of The Carolina Theatre.
Beth Mann / Durham Magazine

As a kid Rebecca Newton loved performing for her family. Around the piano, she discovered her skill for harmonizing and found that showcasing her musical talents was a way to keep the peace in a tumultuous and sometimes violent household.

Press photo of Carrboro-based band Dissimilar South.
Hayes Potter

The Carrboro-based band Dissimilar South is focused on transitions right now. Their recent debut EP, “Treehouse,” tracks the bittersweet flavors of change as a relationship ends. It contrasts the desire for nostalgia with dreams of the future. All of the band members have recently graduated from college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they met and began the band.

Le'Andra McPhatten is a musician and the director of Le'Andra's Music Studio in Durham.
Denise Allen / Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council

North Carolina’s strong cultural traditions in music, crafts, dance and food have been evolving for generations. Millennials are now taking the helm and putting their own spin on various folk and traditional art forms.

Ms. Connie B was a dream come true for her father. He was a gospel singer who loved to harmonize. Unable to rely on local performers, he prayed to father children who could sing so that he could have his own singing group.

Austin McCombie and Sarah Osborne McCombie storytelling with strings and songs about North Carolina.
Courtesy of Kendall Atwater

Chatham County was once best known for its rabbits. The wild animals were so plentiful in the region at the turn of the 20th century that thousands were shipped out as cash crops each year. This piece of forgotten North Carolina history is just one story of many that inspires the new folk duo Sarah McCombie and Austin McCombie. 

Graham Nash is best known as a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer, songwriter and musician. A co-founder of the British pop group The Hollies, Nash went on to form a little group called Crosby, Stills & Nash. Both groups would get him inducted into the Hall of Fame, but his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and later, Young, became the voice of a generation. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1969 with huge success in the U.S. and their legacy would include songs that remain part of American culture.

Abigail Dowd
Todd Turner/Courtesy of Abigail Dowd

Singer-songwriter Abigail Dowd’s latest album reflects her years-long process of coming home. In 2009 the folk artist moved to Florence, Italy and then to Maine in search of herself. She swore she would never come back.

photo of Ben Phan holding a guitar
Ben Phan

Ben Phan remembers living in a van with his ex-girlfriend, bumming around the country and searching for a place to clean up his act and reinvent himself.

Natalie Rhea / Courtesy of Tish Hinojosa

Tish Hinojosa grew up with her feet in two worlds. Her parents are Mexican immigrants who raised her and 12 siblings in San Antonio, Texas. 

Courtesy of Emily Stewart and Matty Sheets

Magpie Thief is a stripped down folk-duo featuring Greensboro-based singer-songwriters Emily Stewart and Matty Sheets. For Stewart and Sheets, the heat of summer inspires some of their most creative work. They escape the sun and cozy up indoors in cool living rooms. As this summer approaches, Stewart and Sheets are hoping to veer away from their raw and eclectic folk sound and experiment with other genres, including the blues.

Isabel Taylor with guitar
Courtesy of Isabel Taylor

Isabel Taylor wanted to perform on stage for a long time. So long, in fact, that it became one of those dreams that lingered until it felt more and more distant. So she finally set a deadline: by 40 she would take the stage at an open mic.

photo of the band playing onstage
Courtesy of Farewell Friend

Under the umbrella of “alternative country,” you will find the music of Farewell Friend. Guitarist and vocalist Tom Troyer, guitarist Mark Byerly, and upright bass player Evan Campfield perform live at the Triad Stage’s Upstage Cabaret in Greensboro.

black and white photo of jackson and best singing together
Courtesy of A Different Thread

Alicia Best and Robert Jackson met busking on the streets of Ireland. Jackson mistook Best’s ukulele for a fiddle, but what happened next was the spark that created their musical collaboration. The two sang a little ditty called “Yellow Taxi” and quickly knew they were destined to collaborate.

photo of Alexa Rose
Courtesy of Alexa Rose

Alexa Rose was singing before she could talk, but she did not sing or even listen to country music until she was a teenager. She starred in a country-inspired musical theater production, which opened her up to the sounds of the Carter family, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash.

photo courtesy of Young Yonder

The members of the band Young Yonder all have day jobs – in fact several of them met while helping customers at the Apple store. They make music work by packing in practices and tightly coordinating schedules. 

FORTYONCEGOLD

2017 was a big year for both rising stars and foundational artists with roots in the North Carolina music scene. Pop-electronic group Sylvan Esso, hip-hop artist Rapsody, and other North Carolina-based artists garnered Grammy nominations, and the state’s music was elevated once again to the national stage.

An image of Kamara Thomas
Courtesy of The Artist

Durham-based musician Kamara Thomas knew she wanted to be an artist at a young age. But she grew up in a Christian fundamentalist household that frowned upon artistic expression.

www.abigaildowd.com

After working in city politics, and running an art school, Abigail Dowd needed a change. She packed up her great-grandfather’s guitar and took off to Florence, Italy, to Ireland, and later to Maine, to spend some time reconnecting with herself and her music. The trip turned into an eight-year journey.

Image of folklorist Joseph Hall
Courtesy of Ted Olson, ETSU

More than 4,000 people surrendered their homes and land to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park covers more than 500,000 acres and straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Eric Kelley

Daniel and Lauren Goans have had a busy five years. They got married, formed the band “Lowland Hum,” and recorded three full-length albums and an EP.

Brandon Eggleston

In his new novel “Universal Harvester” (Farrar, Straus, Giraux/2017), writer and musician John Darnielle revisits an era about 20 years ago when video rentals were in high demand. The book features a young man named Jeremy Heldt who works at a video store in rural Iowa. Heldt discovers that somebody is splicing mysterious footage into some of the tapes.

The Collection

The Collection started out as a Greensboro-based group with 15 members rotating in as a part of the group’s line up. The collective has now become more of a band with seven concrete members. But the group still sticks to its indie folk roots in it’s upcoming album “Listen to the River.”

Mandolin Orange
Scott McCormick / Sacks & Co.

Mandolin Orange's new album, "Blindfaller," moves between a haunting warning about politics, allusions to lingering effects of historical wars in the South, and a honky-tonk ode to life on the road.

An image of The Bucket Brothers with host Frank Stasio
Charlie Shelton-Ormond / WUNC

Logan Valleroy and Casey Valleroy might be teenagers, but their musical prowess makes them seem like professional musicians. The brothers have been playing music since they were young.

Today, the pair play a myriad of instruments like the violin, keyboard, drums, saxophone and guitar, but started out as kids banging on pots and pans around the house. The Bucket Brothers new album is called "Our State."

Photo of Andy Eversole with his banjo in Tiananmen Square
Ben Singer

Musician Andy Eversole has always wanted to travel the world and make music, and last year an unfortunate incident gave him the push he needed to make a long-time dream a reality.

photo of Kathy Mattea
Arlin Geyer/Warren Wilson College

For the last 25 years, the Swannanoa Gathering has brought thousands of people from across the world to experience the old-time musical traditions of Appalachia.

The five-week program features workshops in traditional folk, guitar composition and Celtic music and includes instruction from Grammy award-winning musicians like Janis Ian and Tom Paxton.

Peter, Paul and Mary
Wehope / Wiki Creative Commons

Peter, Paul and Mary was one of the leading contemporary folk bands in the 1960s, mixing social activism with music.

The trio was best known for the 1963 single, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and covers like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Peter, Paul and Mary continued to tour until 2009 with the death of Mary Travers. Peter Yarrow continues to tour, spreading his messages of change. 

An image of Langhorne Slim & The Law
All Eyes Media

Langhorne Slim has come a long way since his last album three years ago. He left behind booze, drugs, Brooklyn and a longtime relationship on his way to recording his latest record The Spirit Moves with his band The Law.  

 

 

An image of young kids learning to play the harmonica
National Council for the Traditional Arts / NCTA

Musicians and dancers across the country are converging in Greensboro this weekend for the 75th annual National Folk Festival.  The festival begins Friday, September 11 and goes through Sunday, September 13. It is the first time the festival has come to the Tar Heel State.

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