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.

The Harvester: Rocky Mount’s Musical Engine of Progress

The artificial fog swirled around the stage and into the assembled crowd, as Matt Hankins, assistant town manager and CEO of the Harvester Performance Center took the podium to deliver his welcome address. Within his opening remarks, was the salient point, “The Harvester sold some $1.2 million in ticket sales in 2016, and we are pleased to say we’ve turned a small profit.” But the true value of the Harvester to the town of Rocky Mount and our region cannot be measured in just dollars and cents.  The Harvester is a transformative heartbeat, steadily pumping creative possibilities and joy into the town.

Hankins took to the task of outlining the economic impact that the performance center has had on the town of Rocky Mount. Those numbers included the restaurant meals sold, tax revenues from meal sales, and the estimate that some $2.25 are spent in local businesses for every dollar spent at the Harvester. Then, Hankins reviewed the numerous awards Rocky Mount has won in the last few years, most recently the 2016 Community Economic Development Award (CEDA). Towards the end of his address, Hankins recognized the other businesses that make the town thrive, and ended his comments noting that the town would like to attract both a microbrewery and distillery, to further the reputation as a place to stay for a visit, not just come for a show.

Lazy Man Dub Band

Lazy Man Dub Band: Unity Through Reggae

Rastafarian reggae superstar Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley would soon be celebrating his 72nd birthday had he not died from a rare form of malignant melanoma at the young age of 36. Born on February 6, 1945, Jamaican-born Marley is recognized as one of the most influential musicians of all-time, responsible for delivering reggae music and messages of love, religion, and positivity as forces for change against social repression in the world. Roanoke band Lazy Man Dub Band continues to spread Marley’s messages of “One Love,” and plays to help unite the community through music. On February 4, the band will be hosting one of its annual reggae celebrations at Martin’s Downtown in celebration of “The Legend’s” birthday.

Formed in 2007 by Jamaican native Wayne Shorter, who was leading an open-mic night at The Village Grill, the seven-piece band is filled with self-described experimentalists, players unafraid to mix traditional reggae sounds with funk and rock elements, to bring an ever-evolving sound to audiences.  A solid horn section anchors them, laying down a steady bed that allows for impressive guitar and keyboard digressions like on “Full Control Live.” They can then slide into a more traditional vocals-driven tune like “Turn Your Lights Down Low” or one of their Marley covers. Then, just when you think you have them figured out, they’ll hit you with one of their funky originals.