New Album Alert: “Believer” by Low Low Chariot

After three years of playing together, Roanoke-based country band, The Low Low Chariot are about to release their much anticipated full LP, titled “Believer”, an album that lead singer, JD Sutphin, said has been years in the making. Sutphin, who was previously in rock band Madrone, said the switch to playing country music was an easy transition. “I found a stash of my grandpa’s songs that he had never recorded. I learned the songs, and it completely changed my life”. Sutphin’s grandfather was a touring country musician and it seems he may be a follower of those footsteps, a believer in those beliefs.

That’s the power of music. At certain points in life, a certain genre of music may define your tastes, but as life changes and evolves, so does the music we grow to love. And it seems like the evolution from rock to country has been a valuable deviation for the former rocker. “Chariot has been all about writing songs, less about business, and we’ve had more success in three months than I had in three years with Madrone.” The process of songwriting also changed. “Writing rock songs was always about cathartically getting over something. Country can be happy. Country can tell a story.” Sutphin, like country-great Dwight Yoakam, wrote most of the album while driving in the car; “I’d start with a vocal idea, sing the guitar melody, and go back later and try to figure out what I wanted to say”.

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Go Fest 2017: Combines Adventure with Local Music Goodness

This weekend more than 30,000 athletes, adventure seekers, music lovers, and craft beer enthusiasts will converge in Roanoke’s River’s Edge Park for the 7th Annual Anthem Go Outside Festival, which kicks off Friday night and runs through Sunday, Oct. 13 – 15, highlighting the best of our region’s outdoor recreational activities.

This year, the festival organizers, the Roanoke Regional Partnership and Roanoke City Parks and Rec, continue the partnership with Across the Way Productions, to bring in top-quality musical acts. This year’s lineup promises to showcase some of our best regional acts, and is bringing the guitar phenom Marcus King to the stage Saturday night.

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Nick Andrew Staver: Live On the Dock

While he may receive his mail in Shippensburg, PA, Nick Andrew Staver has made a home on the road for much of the last five years, bringing his bluesy steel guitar and heartfelt lyrics to venues large and small throughout the country. Currently promoting his fifth independent release, YOPE (2017), Staver visits our region for a stint “On the Dock” at Vinton’s Twin Creeks Brewing Company. We caught up with him to learn a bit more about the itinerant singer songwriter in the lead up to his Saturday show.

We all want the same things. It’s just a matter of how we get there. I use music. And I use it as a tool to communicate to people around me.”

“My sound is centered around blues music but it’s much more than just blues. The core is blues, but you hear drops of jazz, R&B, rock n’ roll, folk, and country. Playing that music live is the most thrilling, fun, free thing I’ve ever done in my life. There is something special that happens on stage, and every night that “something” differs from the night before. Words can’t describe that feeling when a musician finds their “zone”, and the search and discovery of that “zone” in itself is priceless. Music is like a confession for me, it lifts a weight off my shoulders and makes life melt away for a few minutes during a song.”

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Concert Review: Third Eye Blind, A Sight for Sore Eyes

Twenty years ago, San Francisco based rock band, Third Eye Blind, released their self-titled debut album. This summer, they’ve been touring around the nation, celebrating the success of that album. As someone who grew up with that album on repeat in my first car, these songs are like the soundtrack of my high school years. With the catchy, fun songs like “Semi-Charmed Life” and introspective rock ballads such as “God of Wine”, 3EB spanned the emotional roller coaster that is adolescence.

The band’s latest stop was Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke, thanks to the Budweiser Summer Concert Series. Seventy degrees and clear, it was a perfect night for an outdoor show, and Third Eye Blind was blasting the past right out of every person in attendance. The crowd was as diverse as ever: early 20’s girls in flannel, middle aged folks, parents with kids. They all had one thing in common; an excited anticipation to see one of the 90’s most anthemic bands.

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Catching Up with Virginia Native Keller Williams at FloydFest

This article also appeared in the September edition of THIS! Magazine

 

By the time you read this, FloydFest 2017 will be long over. The grounds that held a crowd of nearly 13,000 will be emptied. The assorted mix of creative souls who converged on the land will be displaying their talents for new audiences. Other than the permanent wooden stage installations and few other signature FloydFest icons, the tranquil beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the innumerable memories are all that will remain from the five-day musical carnival.

For those five days in late July, the FloydFest grounds housed more than 100 musical acts, acrobats, stilt walkers, jewelry makers, concert painters and eclectic performers, and personalities of all types. The music was spread over the festival’s nine music stages and featured a diverse amalgam of genres. One of those artists, Virginia native Keller Williams, exemplifies the musical diversity that FloydFest embodies.

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Mitchell Cole Ferguson on the Value of Diving in Head First

“Music has had such an impact on my life and has shaped who I am today. The thought of not playing music has never really entered my mind. I’ve definitely had struggles trying to manage work, relationships, and music. I’ve left jobs and I’ve lost plenty of relationships, but music has always been there for me.”

Mitchell Ferguson is a man deeply committed to his craft of songwriting and musicianship. As the pedal steel guitar player in the Americana / Country band, Faded Travelers, he is helping make the music that he can’t find in modern country music these days. In the lead up to the band’s performance this Saturday at the Harvester, we were able to find out a bit more about Ferguson and his backstory, and where he plans to grow from here.

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Mipso @ The Jefferson Center: Show Review and Photos

Thursday night at the very classy Jefferson Center, N.C. based band, Mipso, put on a show that was both mellow and flat-footin’, finger-pickin’ good.   If you happened to miss it, here’s what listening to Mipso live is like: sitting outside when it’s seventy-two degrees and sunny, having a good, hard laugh with an old friend, and getting a smile from a stranger. It just makes you feel happy.

And that’s not to say that Mipso songs are all butterflies and rainbows because they’re certainly not. Their setlist contained quite a few songs that captured the angsty, mid-to-late 20’s period that we all have to suffer through.   What I’m talking about is a sonic happiness.

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Melissa Mesko: A Musical Gypsy

“Musicians do what we do because we simply can’t NOT do it.  We are compelled.  We need it.  When you love what you do, you’ll put in the extra effort.”

Guitarist, vocalist, and percussionist, Melissa Mesko, has fed that compulsion for quite a while now. She has gathered an eclectic range of styles and genres in her travels, which she now shares with Roanokers through her main bands, Melissa and the Growlers, and The Meskos, as well as performing in numerous side projects.

We caught up with her last month to find out what got her started and what keeps her creating.

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An Intimate Conversation with Mipso’s Libby Rodenbough

When I read that Mipso was playing the Jefferson Center, my heart skipped a little beat and I said an audible “hell yeah” to myself, and have anxiously awaited the show ever since. I am probably one who gets too excited about live music, but this one my friends, is MY top ticket for 2017. I’ve seen a LOT of great shows this year, and as super pumped as I am for Dawes, Willie Nelson, Third Eye Blind, and Amos Lee to come to town, but it’s Mipso that I’m looking forward to the most.

It may be because I have never seen them live; It may be because they just released a new album (WHICH IS FANTASTIC); It may be because the tickets are going for $15 (what a bargain); Or it’s simply that Mipso has been a constant on my playlist for quite some time now. Regardless of the reason, this North Carolina-based indie Americana quartet and its growing setlist of accessible songs are a real treat for the ears.

Their 2013 release, “Dark Holler Pop”, is one of those albums I listen to from start to finish and don’t skip a single song. “Coming Down the Mountain,” which was released in April of this year, is just as good, sparkling with gems like “Hallelujah”, “Hurt so Good,” and “Cry Like Somebody”.

I was able to chat with Mipso’s fiddle player, Libby Rodenbough, about the new album, songwriting styles, and their recent serious car accident. Read more and purchase Mipso tickets before they sell out!

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Creekfest: There at the Inception

Beer and music have become a bit of a hot trend in the Roanoke Valley. Now, a local brewery is starting an inaugural festival that highlights both. This Saturday will see the launch of the first annual Creekfest, a celebration of music, beer, and community, in downtown Vinton.

The brainchild of Andy Bishop, cofounder of Twin Creeks Brewing, the day promises to be a family-friendly event, featuring three live bands, five food trucks, vendors, and of course, Twin Creeks signature brews. Bishop has partnered with the Town of Vinton to commandeer the Farmer’s Market area and main stage, to transform the place into a regular block party permitting guests to wander among vendor stalls of local merchants, all while the melodies of regional music acts Mason Creek, Josh Marlowe, and Faded Travelers drift over the crowds.

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Story Behind the Song – Appalachian Soul

Per the gentle persuasion of a friend, I was recently introduced to new Roanoke band, Appalachian Soul. Having a penchant for soul and R&B music, it wasn’t a hard sell for me to fall immediately in love with the groove and moving lyrics. Appalachian Soul is a new project for veteran Roanoke songwriters, Phil Norman and Will Farmer. The two have been performing together for years as part of an acoustic, “not-quite bluegrass” band, Blue Moonshine. Wanting to expand their sound, they added Mike Parker on bass and Breyon Fraction on drums. They’re set to record an EP this fall, and if word of mouth keeps their music traveling, it will be a happy highway playlist for all of us.

Their song “On Your Own Now,” which was written by Farmer and Norman this past winter, actually helped inspired the sound for the band. That’s the power of a song: it can totally define a musician’s moves. And it surely lives up to the hype. When I first heard “On Your Own Now,” I couldn’t stop tapping my foot and dancing in my chair, and by the end of the song I was singing along with the chorus. It was stuck in my head for days, and I was totally fine with that. You can see Appalachian Soul live on September 17th at Fork in the Alley, and then on October 12th at the Five Points Music Sanctuary. In the meantime, listen to “On Your Own Now,” and read Appalachian Soul’s story behind the song:

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FloydFest: Freedom to Find Your Tribe 

Since its humble beginnings in 2002, FloydFest has made steady progress to become one of the must attend events of the summer. Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the festival continues to only get better with deeper line-ups and family-friendly activities that aim to achieve Across-the-Way Productions’ mission to “be the best music experience of our time.”

FloydFest has become the go-to “happy place” for thousands of loyal fans who have developed their own tribes within the five-day long event. Whether there strictly for the music, or some combination of healing arts and outdoor activities which range from mountain biking, trail running, river floating, and hiking, festival-goers are sure to find kindred spirits who will deepen the experience and create lasting friendships.

FloydFest

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Enjoyable Noises: Helping the Town Create New Sounds

There’s something sacred about a music shop to a musician. A good music shop can feel like going home; it can feel like a place you can be yourself, a place where your interests are common interests. In Roanoke, we’re lucky to have a couple of really great music shops, and 2017 saw the opening of a brand new one: Enjoyable Noises.

Located at 631 Campbell Ave. in downtown Roanoke, Enjoyable Noises is in a prime location for meeting one’s musical needs. Owner, Aaron Parker, a Berklee College of Music graduate, opened the shop in January 2017, after 15 years of working part-time at the recently closed Ridenhour Music in Salem. I visited Enjoyable Noises to speak with Aaron and his lovely wife, Jessica, to find out more about the store, and to do some shopping for myself!

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Deschutes Brewery Street Pub Event

This Saturday, Deschutes Brewery brings the Street Pub one-day celebration back to downtown Roanoke. With family-friendly entertainment, music, food, and tastings of all its excellent brews, the day promises to be an even bigger success than last year’s inaugural event.

The Deschutes Street Pub is a roving tour of good beer for good causes, which travels the country each summer putting on a day-long “block party” which generates funds for local nonprofits and introduces folks to the brewery. This year it will be hitting Cincinnati, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Roanoke will be its second stop.  Last year’s event raised more than $80,000 for local nonprofits. This year, proceeds will benefit the Roanoke Outside FoundationPathfinders for GreenwaysBradley Free Clinic & Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.

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The Perfect Pairing; Craft Beer and Live Tunes

To say Roanoke’s craft beer scene is on the rise is an understatement. With nary a brewery around just a few years ago, the burgeoning brew scene has become quite the topic of discussion over the past year. Roanoke (and the surrounding area) is currently home to a half dozen breweries, with another half dozen on the way, including west coast big-timers Deschutes and Ballast Point Brewing Company.

In addition to producing delicious frothy quaffs, breweries have also become excellent live music destinations. While each craft develops independently, the two seem to become exponentially more satisfying when paired together. Here’s a look at four breweries in the area with music in their heart.

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Mike Mitchell: Musician, Teacher, Family Man

“I find myself a man at peace, with a knowledge of self and of place which makes me the songwriter and musician I am today. Whether it is my own composition, or an old tune played on the Mitchell Family fiddle, or singing my heart out for the audience, my words and music come from the journey, singing of the destination.”

That quote, taken from the homepage of Mike Mitchell’s website, captures my experience meeting the man who started the Floyd Music School and who sparks the magic of musicianship in his students. I interviewed Mike at the “Mountains of Music on Main” festival in Christiansburg, just as the rain moved through and bought relief from the summer afternoon heat. With the sounds of fiddles and guitars warming up for the evening performances, we found a relatively quite corner to chat.

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Turnpike Troubadours Rock the Lime Kiln Theater

I’m hard pressed to name something I like more than outdoor concerts. Saturday night, after years of recommendations by friends, I experienced my first show at the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, VA. And what an experience it was. Oklahoma based band, the Turnpike Troubadours had the crowd (of about 700 people) dancing, singing, hootin’ and hollerin’, at this sold out show. I will say, in all honesty, that I haven’t enjoyed an outdoor show this much since I saw the Lumineers at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and there’s a few reasons why.

First, Lime Kiln is one of the prettiest music venues I’ve been to in Virginia. For me, it beats Wolf Trap, and that’s saying a lot. Wherever you’re sitting, you’re close to the action. I spent most of the show in the second row and the sound was perfect, but when I ventured to the back of the theater, the sound was just as good. I even went behind the stage and the band still sounded immaculate. The venue is called “the bowl” because it’s nestled between a collection of large rocks. Looking up, you’re covered by a canopy of trees and after the sun departed, fireflies danced like fairies. In addition to the beauty and sound quality of the theater, the food and beverage options were top notch. Devil’s Backbone Brewery is a sponsor of Lime Kiln and I think we can all agree…yum.

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Floyd Fandango Rings in the Summer!

What do you get when you combine 10+ hours of live music with craft beer tastings, a farm-to-table dinner, trail races, children’s activities, and wellness workshops, all in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains? It’s none other than the next generation cult classic: Floyd Fandango. Being billed as the “FloydFest Love Child,” Fandango…

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Randy Williams: The Story Behind the Song

One of the best things about attending Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association meetings is getting to hear the incredible songs that come from local musicians. Last month, SVSA member Randy Williams, brought a song to get critiqued by the group, and it’s so beautiful, and perfect for a special Father’s Day edition of Story Behind the Song.

Williams began writing songs as a teenager, but didn’t start focusing on songwriting until after his kids were grown. Crediting Angaleena Presley, Shawn Camp, Jason Isbell and Richard Thompson as some of his songwriting heroes, he writes to inspire others to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. His only real goal with songwriting is to be able to share an emotion or struggle that people can connect with. And with the song, “Look Up”, he truly accomplishes this goal. He recorded the song at Summit Sound with Jake Dempsey, who Williams said was crucial in bringing his songs to life.

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