Note: Authored by David Menconi, this piece has been produced in partnership with Raleigh Arts. Menconi's next book, "Oh, Didn't They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music," was published in the fall of 2023 by University of North Carolina Press. His podcast, Carolina Calling, explores the history of the Tar Heel State through music.



PineCone, Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, has another acoustic music Down Home Concert Series this year, and it’s off to an excellent start. The 2024 edition opened on Jan. 12 with Dan Tyminski, the voice behind the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack hit “Man of Constant Sorrow,” drawing a sold-out crowd to the 600-seat A.J. Fletcher Opera Theatre within downtown Raleigh’s Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts.

“Things are going great,” says PineCone executive director David Brower. “We’re trying to bring people out for a different kind of experience, more comfortable than sitting in a field or standing on a beer-soaked concrete floor. Here you can have your Chablis in a cushy chair."

The Down Home Concert Series has another seven shows scheduled, all of them happening Friday nights at Fletcher Opera Theatre. The rest of the season breaks down as follows (tickets for all events are on sale at pinecone.org).

 

Jan. 26: Celebrate Earl Scruggs’ 100th with Tony Trischka’s “EarlJam”

Cleveland County native Earl Scruggs would have turned 100 years old this past Jan. 6. And even though it’s been a dozen years since his passing, Scruggs’ musical legacy continues to cast a long shadow in what would have been his centennial year—especially with this show, centered on “Earl Jam,” an Earl Scruggs tribute album by the modern-day banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka.

“The world would not have bluegrass as we know it without Earl Scruggs, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better interpreter than Tony,” says Brower. “He just turned 75 and he’s been a straight-up student of Earl Scruggs for most of his life. He’s a great interpreter and super smart musician, and he has a crackerjack band of younger musicians.”

 

Feb. 23: Appalachian Road Show

From the mountain bluegrass country of Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southern Virginia, Appalachian Road Show has emerged as a leading contemporary act that keeps the old style alive while carrying it forward. This will be the group’s first appearance in Raleigh since playing last September’s International Bluegrass Musician Association (IBMA) Awards Show, where they were nominated for entertainer of the year.

“This one is really a show, like a theater piece,” says Brower. “Good tunes, superb musicians. They’ve put together a show full of stories from their personal lives, Appalachia, folktales and rich narratives about the music itself, all of it woven together nicely.”

Appalachian Road Show

 

March 1: Balsam Range

Speaking of awards and mountain-dwelling bluegrass ensembles, Balsam Range is a perennial favorite. The Haywood County group has won a slew of IBMA awards over the years, including entertainer, vocal group, song and album of the year—all twice.

“That one’s headed toward a sellout and I will be shocked if we don’t fill every seat,” says Brower. “Balsam Range is by far one of the most popular bands that PineCone presents, the complete package. Buddy Melton is one of my all-time favorite bluegrass singers, melts me every time.”

 

March 15: Dom Flemons & Schultz’s Dream

Originally commissioned by PineCone for the 2022 World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, Schultz’s Dream is an ongoing project by Carolina Chocolate Drops alumnus Dom Flemons. The show traces the fascinating—yet largely unknown—legacy of Black fiddler/guitarist Arnold Schultz, who was a major influence on “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe during the music’s early formative years.

“Bill Monroe loved to tell Arnold Schultz stories about how their friendship influenced his music,” says Brower. “We commissioned Dom to put together a string-band and he went next-level with an all-Black band reminiscent of what Arnold Schultz would have sounded like. There are only two known photos of Schultz and no recordings, not even a tune list. But there are all kinds of legends and folktales.”

 

April 5: Bella White, Anna Egge

Bella White hails from Calgary, Canada, yet has a voice that’s a perfect fit for old-time and country music of the American Southeast. After just two albums, she's already poised for stardom at the ripe old age of 22.

“Bella White will blow up soon,” says Brower. “Everybody I spoke to who saw her at last year’s MerleFest was blown away, and she has a song on the new ‘Hunger Games’ soundtrack that is doing crazy streaming numbers.”

 

May 3: Red Clay Ramblers 50th anniversary

It would be more accurate to call this the “50-ish anniversary” of the legendary Chapel Hill string-band, which formed back in 1972. But like a lot of things, that anniversary year was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. So this is a somewhat belated celebration.

“They’ve not gotten out much post-Covid, but the Ramblers have been a mainstay in acoustic music of North Carolina for five decades now,” says Brower. “They’re basically retired at this point, but we coaxed them out to do this.”

 

July 13: Alice Gerrard 90th Birthday Celebration

Milestone-event shows like this typically present a “This Is Your Life”-style retrospective of a beloved artist’s storied career. Going back to her days as half of the pioneering female folk/bluegrass duo Hazel & Alice, longtime Durham resident Alice Gerrard has had a career as storied as anyone in the folk world.

But because Gerrard is also a beloved elder who has mentored countless young players over the years, this show will be as much about the present as the past. The setlist should have most of the material from Gerrard’s excellent 2023 album “Sun to Sun.”

“This will be Alice with all the hotshot young musicians she’s been playing with of late, on her new stuff,” says Brower. “It’s basically the band on ‘Sun to Sun,’ which is great. Alice reluctantly agreed to let us celebrate her 90th birthday. There won’t be a bouncy house, but maybe cupcakes in her honor.”

 

PineCone puts on a number of other events throughout the year, too—workshops, jam sessions and more. Keep up with what's happening at pinecone.org.

 

More concerts in Raleigh, N.C., in 2024

The 2024 schedules for some of Raleigh's biggest music venues have started to roll out. These are some of the best of the rest of this year's already-announced concert lineup!

 

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