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Swinging and Swaying

By Jeff Eason (

Article Published: Jun. 20, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 23, 2013
Swinging and Swaying

The Swayback Sisters, featuring (from left) Cary Fridley, Mary Ellen Davis and Laura Blackley, will perform this Saturday as part of the inaugural Siren Mountain Jam at the High Country Fairgrounds.

The Swayback Sisters, a trio comprised of musicians Laura Blackley, Cary Fridley and Mary Ellen Davis, has quickly become the heart of the Asheville music scene.

That’s partly because they are so active in it and partly because they’ve been part of so many other projects.

Blackley and Fridley were part of the long-running Laura Blackley Band, and Davis sang in the all-female band, Menage. Fridley also performed as part of the popular old-time band, The Freight Hoppers.

Blackley is also well known to music lovers in Western North Carolina as the producer and host of two weekly radio shows on WNCW-FM: “Local Color,” which spotlights bands and musicians from Western North Carolina, East Tennessee and the Upstate of South Carolina, and “Southern Sirens,” a tribute to the contributions of women to the world of music.

“The Swayback Sisters sound is different than when I was performing with the Laura Blackley Band,” Blackley said. “That band was more about rock ’n’ roll and blues. The Swayback sound is more of a traditional, rootsier sound, with an emphasis on close harmony vocals.

“It really helps to be in a band with other musicians who have matured and take a measured approach to the gigs we choose. We’re taking a baby-steps approach to the amount of time we spend on the road. It’s not a full-time thing.”

According to Blackley, the Swaybacks’ setlist is half original songs written by all three band members and half cover versions of traditional songs and ballads originally performed by the likes of Memphis Minnie and Sippie Wallace.

All three members of the Swayback Sisters are multi-instrumentalists, and it is not unusual to see them trade instruments in between songs.

The Swayback Sisters will perform Saturday, June 22, as part of the inaugural Siren Mountain Jam at the High Country Fairgrounds in Boone. Their show will begin on the main stage at noon.

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