George Penn

Artist Snapshot: George Penn Jr

“Growing up as a little kid in the ‘70s, my first exposure to music was soul and funk. My father, George Penn Sr., was an R&B blues drummer here in the valley and some of my earliest memories are of him practicing with his band. Dad took me to see ‘The Godfather of Soul’ James Brown and The Jackson 5, and when I was twelve he gave me my first set of drums. I had a natural ear for rock music and fell in love with all the classics. To this day, my style is a fusion of rock and soul, sprinkled with a little jazz and reggae.”

“Music and drumming provide me continual inspiration. I’m in a state of total bliss when engaging with the audience. There seems to be a lot of confusion and division in society that’s rooted in paranoia. All of the strife and negativity breaks my heart some days. I believe that music can be the unifier, it has power. I just want to help spread peace and love through music.”

Spot on Kirk

The Spot on Kirk

If you happen upon The Spot on Kirk on any random afternoon, you won’t see much more than a long, narrow room with four walls, some brick, and a small, rectangular black stage. To grasp the beauty of this quaint space, you’ll need to be there when the magic happens.

Six to eight nights a month, The Spot on Kirk comes alive with special acts that visit Roanoke. The formula is simple: An intimate room with great sound where artists put their crafts on full display to an audience of no more than 130 people. Not all great music is suited for bars, and in this venue the fans follow along to every note played and sung.

The music is the catalyst for the magic. An acoustic act like Jim Lauderdale, who played the venue last month, is a fitting example. Lauderdale shared stories and songs from his long repertoire of music that includes 26 studio albums, plus collaborations and recordings with the likes of Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller and more. In between each song, he kept the audience engaged with quick wit and spirited conversation. At one point in his set, Lauderdale asked for fellow musicians in the room to raise their hands. A few popped up and Lauderdale called one of them, a lucky “Scott from Radford,” to the stage where they performed “The Day the Devil Changed,” a song off Lauderdale’s most recent album, “I’m a Song.” By the end of the three-hour show, the audience was still hanging on every note, and there was little doubt that Lauderdale was only slightly joking when he opened the show with the declaration, “We’re going to have more fun than the law will allow.”

George Clinton

Roanoke Gets Funky for a Good Cause

The Godfather of Funk will descend on Elmwood Park this Saturday for the second annual TAP Hope Fest, a music and Independence Day celebration. George Clinton and his band Parliament Funkadelic, or as some refer to them, the “Funk Mob” because of the sheer size, will take the stage at 7:30.

The 75 year-old Clinton, known for flamboyant and electrifying performances, is one of the most highly revered names in music still alive, and is credited with pioneering the R&B genre. While the band is touring in release of its latest album, “First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate” one can expect to hear a number of older hits and hopefully even pay a little “Groovallegiance.” After all, Clinton embodies that motto: We are all “One Nation Under a Groove.”


Floyd Fandango Showdown Throwdown in Review

A dense fog draped over the mountain countryside at the FloydFest site on Saturday morning. With the Floyd Fandango Showdown Throwdown on tap, a few worried that rain would play a role in the day’s events. But shortly after lunch the fog burned off and the day blossomed with cumulus clouds and sunshine, while children and adults of all stripes gathered for a micro FloydFest experience.

Robby Carden

Artist Spotlight: Robby Carden

“Music has always been a bonding experience. When I was 19, I had a close friend who was terminally ill and music served as an escape from the constant reminders of his health. We would play and noodle around to help elevate his mood. My experiences with him are what taught me to listen and react. Now, if I find myself in situations where I don’t know the material being played, I rely on the conversational playfulness of my fellow musicians.”

Blue Mule Roanoke

Blue Mule: Not Your Average Grass

Southwest Virginia’s rich musical heritage is steeped thick in traditional bluegrass and Americana Roots Rock music. Roanoke band Blue Mule embodies the traditional Appalachian genre, but incorporates its own unique flavor. A quintet of masterful stringmen, Blue Mule has fostered a progressive newgrass sound that has become a staple of the local music scene for well over a decade.

Tom Ohmsen (mandolin/vocals), John McBroom (bass/guitar/vocals), Tim Rhodes (banjo/vocals), Eli Williams (guitar/bass/vocals), plus recent addition Jerry Wood (fiddle/vocals), play a hybrid of intricately woven jazz, rock, blues, and country jams, all from a bluegrass platform.

“We’re a little bit of an oddity in traditional bluegrass circles,” said Ohmsen. “Back when I started in the 70s, if you weren’t playing straight bluegrass, you’d get run out of town, tarred and feathers. And usually it wasn’t the audience that objected. It was the old guard musicians who would listen to us and say, ‘That ain’t no grass.’

Concert Painter

Festival Faces

“I got my start working on Shakedown Street at Grateful Dead shows selling posters as a single mom. That was the creative catalyst for my artwork. I’m pretty blessed, I’ve been capturing musicians through art for fifteen years now. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, I figure even if just one of them likes my paintings then I’ve made a connection. That’s why I put all my mojo into my art. My ultimate goal is to be the first white woman selling rock & roll blues art at Jazzfest in New Orleans.”

Emily Guill

Artist Snapshot: Emily Guill

“My parents both have beautiful voices and I was surrounded by music throughout my childhood. A background in dance catapulted me into a world of music, particularly musical theater at an early age. I was in the second grade when I got the bug to sing on stage in HMS Pinafore. For years after, I was a regular in chorus and musicals, which led me to pursue a BA in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech.”

“Music took a backseat to graduate school and living expenses in New York City and Chicago. My love for music was revived when I was asked to sing in a dear friend’s wedding. At that wedding, I was approached by Alan Johnson to sing with his band. BOOM! From that moment on, I have been surrounded by musical gurus who have been amazing collaborators and talents. Glen Holmes, in particular, has been extremely integral to my development as a singer and in providing me exposure in the region’s musical community.”