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.”

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.

Henry Hancock

A Celebration of Henry Hancock

2016 was a year filled with staggering loss in the music world. We bid farewell to some of our generation’s most iconic stars. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Natalie Cole, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and the list goes on and on. The losses piled, one right after another, leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable sounds and influence. Closer to home, we lost the distinctive voice and banjo skills of Dr. Ralph Stanley. The founding father of modern bluegrass was born nearby in rural McClure, Virginia. Even closer, we lost Henry Hancock, a talented bassist and family man from Rocky Mount who played with rock-country band Surrender Dorothy.

Artist Snapshot: Paul Tressel

“There’s a feeling you get performing that can’t be described. It’s like an addictive substance. Even a bad performance, of which I’ve had my share, while sometimes disheartening, feels better than the best day at any job I’ve worked. If a single person is moved in even the slightest way by what my friends and I are trying to do on stage, I leave happy.”

Artist Spotlight: Matt Browning

“Life inspires my music. The words may not come out right, or at the right time, or come at all, but there is never a shortage of life to turn into songs.”

“I was a very shy person growing up, in many instances I still am. I haven’t always known the right thing to say, that is evident in my stage banter and radio interviews.  However, performing is different. I enjoy the experience of each performance.  I’ve had some that were wonderful, played only to the bartender, and others that were train wrecks, performed in front of 800 people. The magic is in the process.  It is one part, “this is what I’ve got, hope you like it,” and 99 parts, this is some sort of mathematical, emotional, black magic that some divine figure has graciously allowed me to be a part of.”

Artist Spotlight: Steele Whisnant

“The people I meet while playing music have always kept me motivated to continue to play; everyone from venue/bar owners, event promoters, to fellow musicians. Roanoke has such a vast amount of talented and driven people, many of whom are working together to continue to expand the culture of the area. I’m extremely happy and inspired to be a small part of that scene.”