Lurie trades cello for guitar at Jones House
It's bluesy. It's electric. It's an eclectic multi-genre mix of Americana that will vibrate from the strings, and the man picking isn't who you'd expect.
It's Ken Lurie, and he plays everything from blues to bluegrass. You may not recognize him without his cello now, but come Friday, the Appalachian State University cello professor is breaking through the Mozart and embracing his inner folk with an electric guitar.
"She can search the whole world over and never find another man like me," he sings, owning the guitar strings to the tune of "St. James Infirmary Blues."
It's a far cry from the classics he shares with his students, but it's not as much of a stretch for Lurie as you might think.
The professor, known for his meticulous cello ballads at faculty recitals, grew up listening to the likes of the Weavers.
"I did grow up hearing folk songs as just a little baby, so I grew up singing, and I think I started playing the badminton racket until they finally realized, 'Boy needs a guitar,'" he said.
Born and bred in the Northeast, his fingers found those guitar strings before he ever touched a cello, writing his first song at the age of 8 and growing up to play in bands in Boston in the late '60s, early '70s.
Until 1972, that is.
"The Beatles broke up. My band broke up. Hendrix died. My girlfriend left," and the good-natured Lurie took the year as an opportunity to try something different.
"I went into cello," he said. "And now, that's how I make my main living."
Music isn't just a hobby to Lurie. It's his way of life.
"I could think that there was anything else I could have wanted to do. There's nothing I would want to do as much as play music and, frankly, teach. I started teaching at a young age too," he said, and since 1987, he's been teaching at ASU.
"It almost felt like coming home again in a way, because [the Appalachian Region] is the home of so much of the music I grew up with. I knew the music of Doc Watson before I knew where North Carolina was."
And Lurie's a fan - both of the classical music his name has been attributed to and the folk music he plans to showcase Friday.
"I think it's Louis Armstrong who was asked whether jazz was folk music and he said, 'All music is folk music, have you ever heard a horse sing a song?' It's that universal quality, all music being folk music that I like ... but then again, at the same time too, I'm a big fan of all the classical music I get to teach and enjoy," he said.
But it's folk that jumpstarted the love of what's become his life: Music.
Friday, he's bringing back those roots at downtown Boone's Jones House Community Center with a show featuring his friends, people like local jazz phenom Todd Wright and Mountain Home Music's Joe Shannon, who utilized Lurie's cello in one of his own concerts.
"Turn about is fair play," Lurie laughed.
Expect a few surprise guests.
This week's Watauga Arts Council Concert on the Lawn, featuring Ken Lurie and Friends and the King Bees, also features catering by Char Restaurant. Plates are $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
This weeks' concert has been sponsored by an anonymous donor as "A Toast to Beryl." Season sponsors are Watauga Insurance Agency Inc., Mast General Store, Downtown Boone Development Association, Footsloggers and Panera Bread.
Concerts on the Lawn start at 5 p.m., and folks are encouraged to bring a chair.
Next week (July 23) features The Lazybirds and Melissa Reaves.