The Bands of MusicFest
The Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove
specializes in a brand of music the late Doc Watson described as “traditional-plus,” meaning
old-time and bluegrass, plus whatever he and his friends felt like playing.
The 2014 MusicFest lineup has been designed to meet Watson’s standards, featuring 24 acts, with more to come.
Chatham County Line
Chatham County Line is an American bluegrass musical group. Formed in Raleigh in 1999 from members of the band, Stillhouse, the band has released seven albums, including six on the influential Yep Roc label (who they were linked with by the notable producer Chris Stamey), and has become popular in Europe, as well as its native United States. Their most recent tour took in numerous European destinations, including the prestigious Lowlands rock festival in the Netherlands. Chatham County Line made its Canadian debut in July 2009 at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, performing beside The Del McCoury Band and The Punch Brothers.
The 23 String Band
The 23 String Band plays fun, fuel-injected, original Americana that dangerously weaves across the lanes of modern acoustic music — windows down, accelerator to the floor, on a joyride into the unknown with one eye on the vintage sounds in the rearview mirror. It’s a bluegrass attack fueled by high-octane, rock ’n’ roll energy and triple-distilled old-timey roots.
Sons of Bluegrass
Heralded as one of the best upcoming bluegrass bands in the country, the award-winning Sons of Bluegrass are setting the standard for a new generation of bluegrass professionals. Comprised entirely of high-caliber bluegrass majors from the one-of-a-kind, four-year B.A. in Bluegrass Music program at East Tennessee State University, Sons of Bluegrass work with award-winning guitarist and songwriter Tim Stafford as their personal mentor and were recognized as the 2012 Championship Bluegrass band by the State of North Carolina, among many other honors.
Snyder Family Band
The Snyder Family Band features the talents of siblings Zeb and Samantha Snyder from Lexington. Backed by their father, Bud, on upright bass, this band has delighted and surprised audiences at venues including throughout the Southeast, including MerleFest in Wilkesboro and Music City Roots in Nashville, Tenn., among many others. Mother Laine occasionally joins in with harmony vocals, and 6-year-old Owen also makes special appearances singing or playing guitar.
Carolina Crossing is a bluegrass band from the mountains of North Carolina, established in early 2010 and committed to keeping bluegrass music alive with a wide selection of standards and original material, from hard-driving arrangements to soft ballads. The band features Gary Trivette on upright bass and vocals, Curtis Main on banjo and vocals, Corey Pittman on lead guitar, fiddle and vocals, Blake Vance on mandolin and Tyler Thompson on rhythm guitar and vocals.
Upright & Breathin’
It all started at a secret downtown Boone location, the legendary jam room in Ben Smith’s basement. Smith knew a mandolin player, Jeff Moretz, and they invited John Sheffield over to play some fiddle tunes. Sheffield invited Brian Kreher, and from the first night they all played together, they knew something special was happening. Since those early days of basement jams and back porches, Upright & Breathin’ continues to develop and evolve, featuring Moretz, Kreher, Kim France, Chris Capozzoli and the band’s newest addition from Ashe County, bassist Ryan McClure.
The New River Boys
From their humble beginnings in 2009, The New River Boys, created and established in Boone, developed a reputation for their engaging performances and ever-increasing, energetic fan base. Boasting well-blended harmonies and their infectious personalities, the band features Andrew Jacobs on guitar and vocals, Aaron Simpson on mandolin and vocals and Everett Hardin on cello and vocals.
He Said…She Said…
Appalachian folk originals with a bluegrass flavor, Kim and Pete McWhirter’s songs come from life’s experiences and tell stories of love, loss and inspiration. Their music has been featured on WNCW’s “Local Color” and “This Ole Porch,” and they have performed at MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove for the past four years. They have just released their first album, “The Dream” which is available at their live performances and online retailers.
Composed of champion fiddler Robin Warren and guitarist Brian Clancey, Spirit Fiddle performs a wide variety of energetic music. Their repertoire ranges from bouncy Southern and Texas swing tunes to sweet waltzes, old popular songs, bluegrass numbers, French Canadian and Celtic jigs and reels and Parisian musette.
Newcomer singer-songwriter Savannah Smith, originally from Tupelo, brings North Mississippi soul to whatever stage she graces. Her original songs and their heartfelt melodies evoke emotions usually associated with more seasoned writers. Be on the lookout for her new project, recorded at the prestigious Echo Mountain studios in Asheville.
ETSU Country Pride Band
Comprised of talented young musicians from ETSU’s world renowned Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program, these folks deliver a truly timeless country sound. Their love of traditional music has brought them from points all over the country into east Tennessee to study the roots of the music they love and to take their already impressive musical skills to new heights. Covering classic country artists, from Kitty Wells to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams to Johnny Cash, a little dash of Elvis and a few modern gems, ETSU Country Pride stays true to the roots of country music.
Whitetop Mountain Band
The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop, Va., is an area rich in the old-time music tradition, and this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region’s style of old-time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style. At the same time, Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining, containing everything from fiddle and banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky-tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old-timey ballads, originals and four-part mountain gospel songs.
Andy Ferrell and Oncoming Train
It would make perfect sense for an artist from this region to create a modern equivalent to a sound Doc Watson once called “traditional plus.” Oddly enough, it took a lengthy journey “On the Road” far from home — an extended soul searching stay in New Zealand, to be exact — for Ferrell to decide to defy conventional expectations and pursue his musical dreams. After attending Florida State and later enrolling in the renowned music program at East Tennessee State, he quit school altogether, formed his trio, Oncoming Train, and began recording and performing. He still enjoys performing alone on occasion, but likes the extra dimensions and dance-ability that the trio brings to his songs.
The Buck Stops Here
The Buck Stops Here is a band that likes a challenge, starting with old-time music and combining it with a contemporary edge, solid musicianship and spot-on vocals. The band is influenced by such acts as The Duhks, Dirk Powell, The Carter Family and the Horseflies to name a few. With beautiful four-part harmony, funky bass and original songs and tunes, these four girls (and their token buck) will win you over with their intimacy and reverence for the music they play.
The Cockman Family
Since launching their performing career in February 1988, The Cockman Family has developed the classic family harmonies and youthful flair that is The Cockman Family trademark. Their unique bluegrass gospel style, original songs and original arrangements of the old gospel songs have been immensely popular with their audiences. This group’s family ties are strong and the warmth of that is conveyed in their performances.
Mike Preslar is a resident of rural Avery County, who regularly plays venues around the High Country. Composing original songs drawn from life’s experiences and covering traditional folk, blues, gospel and Irish ballads, Preslar enjoys songs that tell a story and paint a picture.
Polly Lorien grew up singing in a quiet coulee in Montana, and then spent her college years learning to blow glass in Boston. During the cold North Carolina winter of 2004, she started pickin’ on a friend’s guitar and quickly got hooked. In 2012, she released a full album of original tunes (“Lorien & Early”), accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Bob Early. Lorien’s custom blend of blues, folk and jazz is known as “Hickster Jive,” and her songs urge listeners to live life to the fullest.
Trevor McKenzie is a fiddler, singer and song “compositioneer.” He always has his ear to the ground for local histories and songs that capture life, communities and personalities from both within the Appalachian region and places off (but usually within the “Slaw Zone”). McKenzie will be playing solo at MusicFest, but he can often be heard picking with the Elkville String Band or guesting as a sideman for various other regional acts.
Singer-songwriter Alexa Rose hails from the mountains of Virginia, bringing with her a blend of folk roots and soulful Americana. Her debut album, “North,” was released in 2013 on the Catawba Records label. She has been featured on WVTF Public Radio’s “Back to the Blue Ridge” program and is currently working on her second album.
Jeb Wooley is an acoustic duo from western North Carolina and East Tennessee, performing Americana standards and old-time classics.
General Watson & the Demonbow Ramblers
Hailing from Boone, General Watson & the Demonbow Ramblers bring the full spectrum of Appalachian music to you, from Doc Watson to Sun Ra.
Sweet Treats is an Appalachian Americana duo, composed of singer-songwriters Ashley Heath and Kevin Reese. Hailing from Asheville, the two play a combination of mountain and roots-based music, mixed with other broad influences picked up along their musical journey.