Radio Free Roanoke

Radio Free Roanoke to bring hyper-local broadcasting to Roanoke

Radio Free Roanoke, a grassroots, non-profit organization, is raising funds to ‘take back the airwaves’ with the launch of a Low Power FM (LPFM) community radio station. The new station will serve the Roanoke community through programming that will empower local voices and highlight regional music.

In recent years, Low Power FM stations have proliferated around the country after the advent of the Local Community Radio Act, a new class of low-power FM licenses.

I sat down with Bob Capper, license holder for 95.7FM WROE, along with his chair of programming, Heather Rose, to discuss what they envision for the 100-watt “Radio Free Roanoke” station that plans to start broadcasting from the historic Grandin neighborhood within the next three months. While the 100-watt signal pales in comparison to the 50,000 watts that many big commercial stations possess, the station will have an online feed that anyone can stream 24/7.

“We want to be a robust hub connecting isolated groups in Roanoke,” Capper shared. “We want to create some “glue” to bring this community together.”

John McBroom

John McBroom: Playing from the Heart

From Community High School music teacher, to FloydFest production manager, to local band member, John McBroom’s footprints are everywhere in the Southwest Virginia music scene. A self-professed father and family man, McBroom started dabbling in music as a kid, an early hobby that would become a defining passion of his life.

“All my brothers and sisters were older than me and I had their record collections. I would listen to the Beatles and knew I wanted to do that. Music pays huge dividends to my soul. I consider myself a very spiritual person, and music is the closest thing to my religion. Philosophically, I land somewhere between Buddhist and Native American. The only thing I have found that is real in this world is our connections and our relationships with others. In the grand scheme of things, we are all just small specs of dusts, swirling around others. Music and teaching, is what gets me up every day, it has shown me a purpose in this life. It’s my way of giving my soul back.”

Morgan Wade

Story Behind the Song: “Let Me Rest” by Morgan Wade

Living in Roanoke, we’re all #blessed to be surrounded by a myriad of incredible musical talent.  From bluegrass to metal, to Americana to reggae, there’s a little something for just about everyone.  One such talent comes from a young lady from Floyd, VA.  Her name is Morgan Wade and I’ve been following her for a few years now.    I remember listening to her music for the first time and thinking that she’s got that “something” that all writers, singers, and artists hope for:  She sounds exactly like who she is.  There’s no misrepresentation; her songs are the truest form of her pure self.  I like that honesty in a songwriter.  Being brave enough to put oneself out there is half the battle of writing relatable songs.

Josh Smelser

Artist Spotlight: Josh Smelser

“There’s nothing better than feeling the electricity shoot through the room when playing a live show. The most inspiring moments come when a band works with the crowd to create energy. That doesn’t necessarily equal “loud and fast” either. One of my favorite moments playing, happened recently with Place Called Home at Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd. Right in the middle of our set, we went out in front of the stage and performed an original ballad fully unplugged. No amplifiers, no mics, just us, a few acoustic instruments and the crowd. When that last chord rang out, just before the applause came, the room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop, but the energy in that moment was deafening. I’ll never forget it.”

“Community is a big deal to me, and I firmly believe that music can bring people together in a way that not much else can.  The ability to play music is a God-given gift that allows us to connect with each other (both in the audience and on stage), on a deeply spiritual level. I always try to put myself in situations where I am the least talented musician in the room. The best way to grow is to be surrounded by musicians that are better than you. The minute you become comfortable, is the minute you stop growing.”


The Wood Brothers

Sibling Sounds: An Interview with Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers kicked off their winter tour last Thursday in Philadelphia, followed by a sold-out show in New York. The brothers, Oliver and Chris, grew up making music together, influenced heavily by their father (a molecular biologist by day), who had a penchant for folk music, and a mother who is a skilled poet. Yet, their early music careers took them down separate paths, Oliver a blues guitar man, and Chris a standup bass player in the renowned jazz ensemble Medeski, Martin & Wood.

It wasn’t until in 2004 that the two kindred talents began to recognize the harmony that existed in their sounds and The Wood Brothers was formed. Eventually, they added a third member, drummer and percussionist Jano Rix, and the trio have since become central players in the roots rock scene, performing regularly for large crowds across the country.

This Sunday, the tour which includes opening act The T Sisters, stops in Rocky Mount at The Harvester Performance Center. This show also serves as a fundraiser with all proceeds benefiting the Free Clinic of Franklin County, which provides medical care to those in need. Blue Ridge Rocks had the opportunity to speak with the elder brother, Oliver, about the band, their brotherly love, and the recent release of “Live in the Barn,” recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY, home of the legendary Midnight Rambles.

Ashley Lucas

Artist Spotlight: Ashley Lucas

We’re doing something new with this week’s Artist Spotlight. This is the first time we’ve featured a local songwriter. Ashley Lucas is a talented writer, winning honorable mention in international songwriting competitions, and active in the Southwest Virginia Songwriting Association. We reached out to find out a bit more about Ashley and her craft.

“I came from a musical family. My grandpa was in a bluegrass band and played banjo, guitar, bass, and mandolin, and my mom is a wonderful singer. There was always music playing in my house growing up and I was exposed to many different styles from an early age. I knew I wanted to write music, and I knew I needed to learn an instrument to do it. I took guitar lessons briefly at Kelley’s Music here in town, when I was 14, and started writing songs as soon as I learned three chords. For me, the guitar lessons were just a vehicle to the songs.”

Corey Hunley

Starr Hill Brings More Music to the Star City

In case you were hiding under a rock and didn’t hear the news, Starr Hill Brewery announced yesterday that it is opening a Pilot Brewery & Side Stage in Roanoke. Slated to open in September of this year at The Bridges in Roanoke’s Riverside District, the brewery will be Starr Hill’s first satellite taproom and will include a five-barrel brewing system that will produce limited release craft beers. Multiple weekly musical performances that highlight local and regional artists will be a central element of the brewery’s draw.

A passion for craft beer and live music have always been at the heart of Starr Hill, as the brewery started in a shared space with Starr Hill Music Club in Charlottesville in 1999.  Although that venue closed in 2007 and the brewery’s headquarters now reside outside of Charlottesville, in Crozet, the pairing of great beer and tunes are still central to the company’s mission. Yesterday’s announcement reinforced that connection as attendee’s quaffed free beer and enjoyed lives tunes provided by local artist Corey Hunley.