Down Hill Strugglers, John Cohen and ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton perform in Boone

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Mar. 20 | Modified: Mar. 27
Down Hill Strugglers, John Cohen and ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton perform in Boone

The Down Hill Strugglers, featuring Walker Shepard, Jackson Lynch and Eli Smith, will perform at the Jones House in downtown Boone March 26.

Photo by G. Wiley

The sound of Appalachian string music reverberates and fuels inspirations far beyond the hollers of the Blue Ridge, as evidenced by the musicians who come here to showcase their craft.

While Doc Watson helped make northwest North Carolina famous for the soothing strumming and heartfelt ballads of mountain musicians, artists across the nation have also taken heed to this special slice of folklore culture.

To continue to promote Boone’s special place in Americana music, the Jones House Cultural and Community Center, in conjunction with Dr. CeCe Conway, professor of English at Appalachian State University, is continuing its promotion of the upcoming Black and Global Banjo Roots concert series.

The Jones House concert will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26.

Eli Smith of The Down Hill Strugglers is one of those folk musicians who found his calling for mountain music in an urban setting that is far more accustomed to Broadway show tunes and hip-hop music.

Smith and the Strugglers will also be playing at ASU’s Belk Hall on Tuesday, March 25.
The Strugglers will join Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton and John Cohen at the Jones House concert the next day.

“We are excited to continue a collaboration with CeCe Conway and the Black & Global Banjo Roots concerts,” concert organizer Mark Freed said. “John Cohen is a roots music legend, and The Down Hill Strugglers and Jerron Paxton are some of the leaders of a new generation piloting the journey of American folk music. To have them all here on the same night makes this concert the hottest folk music billing in the country on Wednesday.”

The concert is part of a continuing indoor house concert-style series at the Jones House that has included performances by Bruce Molsky, Alice Gerrard, Bruce Greene and other notable old-time and folk musicians.

“The concerts are held in our Mazie Jones Gallery of the Jones House, and it provides a really nice listening room for acoustic music,” Freed said.

Fans of old-time music will find an established lineup pick their way through an evening of acoustic entertainment.

“We really take it back to the roots of old-time music, which are so deep in Western North Carolina,” Smith said. “It’s just a fabulous place with a wealth of music and folk art culture. We are coming down from New York and want to give back to people interested in the music of the community.”

The Strugglers have played the series two year prior, and Smith first came in contact with its organizers in 2005.

“The Jones House is a great place to play, and it’s a beautiful old house,” Smith said. “I love Boone, and I’ve been there a bunch. I knew about Boone because I was a fan of Doc Watson, and I’ve been to MerleFest, also.”

Smith currently resides in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and Freed said the Strugglers are helping lead the current folk music craze in New York City.

“It was rural music that spoke to me in an elemental and strongest of ways,” Smith said. “That was the kind of music I was drawn to.”

The band recently released its second album, along with a song featured on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ latest film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Paxton will also bring a unique style of playing to complement the night’s star studded bill.

“Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton has one of the greatest repertoires of traditional and early American popular music since Uncle Dave Macon,” Freed said. “He can play piano like Fats Waller, guitar like Willie Walker and banjo like Wade Ward — and those are just the ‘Ws.’”

The concert will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Advanced reservations are recommended. Tickets cost $20. For reservations or more information, contact Mark Freed at ( or (828) 262-4576.

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