OXFORD AMERICAN’S 2018 NORTH CAROLINA MUSIC ISSUE CELEBRATION: A STATEWIDE SINGING CIRCLE – Tickets – Booth Playhouse – Charlotte, NC – November 29th, 2018

OXFORD AMERICAN'S 2018 NORTH CAROLINA MUSIC ISSUE CELEBRATION: A STATEWIDE SINGING CIRCLE

OXFORD AMERICAN MAGAZINE, YEP ROC RECORPS, and MAXXMUSIC PRESENT

OXFORD AMERICAN'S 2018 NORTH CAROLINA MUSIC ISSUE CELEBRATION: A STATEWIDE SINGING CIRCLE

TIFT MERRITT, CHÓCALA, PHIL COOK, DAVID CHILDERS, LINA MARIA FERREIRA CABEZA-VANEGAS, BENJI HUGHES, BILL NOONAN, THOMAS RHYANT

Thu 11/29

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Booth Playhouse

OXFORD AMERICAN'S 2018 NORTH CAROLINA MUSIC ISSUE CELEBRATION: A STATEWIDE SINGING CIRCLE
OXFORD AMERICAN'S 2018 NORTH CAROLINA MUSIC ISSUE CELEBRATION: A STATEWIDE SINGING CIRCLE
Oxford American magazine, Yep Roc Records, and Maxx Music are proud to present the Oxford American's 2018 North Carolina Music Issue Celebration on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at Booth Playhouse in Charlotte, NC. Featuring a diverse group of beloved North Carolina musicians co-curated by Raleigh-based songwriter Tift Merritt, this special "Statewide Singing Circle" will showcase intimate collaborations between artists that call North Carolina home coming together for a unique once-in-a-lifetime show. Tickets are sold via CarolinaTix.org, and go on sale Friday, October 5 at noon EST.

Featured guests at the Charlotte concert will include co-curator Tift Merritt, along with Chócala, Phil Cook, David Childers, writer Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Benji Hughes, Bill Noonan, Thomas Rhyant, and other surprise guests.

The event is made possible with the support of co-presenting sponsors North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and North Carolina Humanities Council. Additional major partners include North Carolina Arts Council, Visit North Carolina, ArtsGreensboro, Bob Nocek Presents, Maxx Music, Isis Music Hall, Pinhook, Letters Bookshop, Free Range Brewing, and Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café.
TIFT MERRITT
TIFT MERRITT
As 2015 began, I had somehow been on the road for the fastest, longest two years of my life. I had kicked the tires hard touring in support of my album Traveling Alone. I had recorded and toured with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein. My friend Andrew Bird asked me to be in his old time band the Hands of Glory, so I pretended I was a member of the Carter family on guitar, and I watched him like a hawk to make sure he felt fully free; singing harmony with Andrew is not unlike flying. Suddenly, I was turning 40, getting divorced, and scared out of my mind. So I decided to take a year off the road to see what would happen to me if I just stopped touring… On a friend’s ranch in Marfa, Texas, in the middle of the high plains without a car headlight in sight, I did just that, and when I did, I started to do what I always do: the humble work of marking life by writing.

On the ranch, I wrote about the long straight roads in west Texas: the ones that make sense, that make you feel like what is behind you is indeed behind you and that good things are up ahead. ‘Wait For Me’ is a wish that life would run like that. Watching the ranch hands keep their daily routine, I wrote about keeping my own head down, pressing on, and the way that love persists and pushes forward no matter what happens, ‘Love Soldiers On.’ I watched birds learning to fly and bathe in the driveway dust at dusk in the front yard and wrote ‘Icarus’ about what they taught me. In my California cabin, I wrote every morning and hiked every afternoon, up the mountains to the East and along the rocky coast, farther than I had ever hiked, one exhausted foot after the other. ‘Heartache is an Uphill Climb’ began in the red mud on one particularly impossible incline. Once, having hiked farther than I realized, dark fell on me. The white lilies in a meadow began to glow like evening dresses as the moon rose in the changing light. ‘Proclamation Bones’ is a tribute to that unexpected beauty, to nature’s secret nightlife. On return to NYC with Raymond Carver’s All of Us: The Collected Poems in hand, his poem ‘My Boat’ leapt up like lightning; it wanted to be sung. In a hungover moment of joy coming out of a subway, ‘Something Came Over Me’ seeded itself. And the heavy sadness of memory washing over me as I looked out at the East River became ‘Eastern Light’.

Look, everyone knows that album bios are usually full of crap. How about this: This album weathered no doubt, Marlon Brando’s ghost played bass and a fire-breathing dragon co-wrote the songs! Let’s be clear about something – What made my time off special was that I had a regular writing routine. I was private. I followed my heart and my craft. The story of being a writer is the story of being devoted over a long time. What I hate most about bios is that they trade the small virtue of the writing life for pretending that artists and albums spring forth fully formed, trimming the tale to fit the spotlight. I’m more comfortable being real about things. I took my life and synthesized it through my writing with an intensity that no one but the birds saw but that hopefully you can feel. And life continued. Let the real story here be that there is love and beauty in the mess of dedication.

And life did continue. In Fall, my friend MC Taylor asked me to be a part of his new Hiss Golden Messenger album. About the same time, to my delight and surprise, I realized my boyfriend and I were expecting a child. I performed with HGM just as I began to show; MC and his band talked on and on about how North Carolina was a place you could actually raise a child AND be a musician. My roots and my friends pulled. In an airport, I bumped into my friend Sam Beam. He said I could send him my songs, and when I did and he said, “I can tell you’ve been working hard on your writing,” I was filled with the gratefulness which comes from being heard. I couldn’t believe he wanted in on the record making party, along with my favorite musicians, for four days because that was what I could afford. One long night before leaving for the studio, I stared at the ceiling of my NYC apartment. The leaves, the streetlights, and the sirens drew a shadow vine. I cried for dreams that were gone, and I gathered myself for those to come. I recorded in Los Angeles six months pregnant and then set off for home to figure out what a onesie was. I showed up back in my hometown knocked about a little by the world thinking maybe my life was a country song, but maybe it was a really good country song.

What strikes me most when I am writing these days is the changing nature of things. Sometimes sex matters deeply, sometimes family eclipses all; sometimes aloneness is hell, sometimes it is a refuge. Sometimes hometowns are constricting; sometimes they are a sight for sore eyes. We do our damnedest. For all the times we are watered down and compromise, we can become rigid and impossible just as easily. We right ourselves as best we can and carry on. It is a loose thread that holds us best together in this life. Not too tight, not too planned, enough give to stand what tangles us but ties us nonetheless. Ties us to each other in some unseen pattern, to our actions, to the songs that come out of us, to the seasons that pass through us. We press on, love persists, and we must trust the unknowable pattern we are making. My little daughter is sleeping beside me now, and what I hope for her is what I will tell you now. May these threads be joyful; not heavy chains, but light like wings, like starlight, like laughter. Empty your pockets of stones, that light-hearted you may go (for you must go), with the stitch of the world, into the stitch of the world.
CHÓCALA
CHÓCALA
Chócala is a sonic amalgamation of Latin rhythms, rock, and jazz with a touch of tropical psychedelia resulting in an experimental yet approachable sound with an infectious groove. The band is fronted by keyboardist Liza Ortiz who’s powerful lyrics about self-assessment and affirmation are earnest, heartfelt, and entirely in Spanish. Michael Anderson (saxophone), Davey Blackburn (percussion), and Claudio Ortiz (bass) playfully harmonize and explore polyrhythmic soundscapes, offering up novel yet familiar experiences with each song.
PHIL COOK
PHIL COOK
“We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”-Tennessee Williams

Transforming pain and injustice into love and compassion is a rendering that has been universal to poets and prophets for centuries. In present times, choosing to amplify community and positivity through art can seem like a radical act. With the arrival of People Are My Drug, Phil Cook is taking the spark from lights left on by musical heroes and offering a torch for listeners as they navigate their own dark corners. Where 2015’s Southland Mission illuminated for listeners what Phil Cook hears in his head,this latest record lays bare the way that music makes him feel. Side A alone, culminating with the shiver-inducing “Another Mother’s Son,”has the capacity to light a fire in even the coldest of hearts.

Having only recently stepped to the center of the stage as a solo artist, Cook now takes a moment,citing the power of community as his thesis statement. Each track asserts that he alone is no greater than the sum of the people who have brought him to this moment. Instead of standing on the shoulders of his heroes, Cook is humbly kneeling at their feet.Since Southland Mission, Cook has performed with childhood heroes including Mavis Staples, Bruce Hornsby, John Prine, Amy Ray and The Blind Boys of Alabama.Cook notes, “I see life on a timeline that includes multi-generations. As someone who has sought mentors my whole life, I am honoring the people who shaped who I am, not only musically, but spiritually, emotionally and personally.” He brings that forward in every note on People Are My Drug.

Cook has firmly planted his roots in his adopted hometown of Durham, NC for the last decade, while simultaneously maintaining a musical presence in the upper-Midwest where he was raised.Cook and his band recorded and mixed in both Wisconsin and North Carolina, finishing the record in ten days.The result is a spiritual tour de force, delivered from the gut with open arms.Enlisting Brad Cook as producer was a given, as the two Cooks have spent their entire lives working alongside one another.They've long developed an honest working relationship based on the love of family and community,as well as staying true to oneself artistically.

His band, The Guitarheels, comprised of drummer JT Bates, bassist Michael Libramento and pianist James Wallace, forged a common language touring the world with Cook. Fueled by the power of that chemistry,Cook crafted each new song with reverence for each players’ artistic brilliance. He imagined vocalist Tamisha Waden (Foreign Exchange) soaring above “Steampowered Blues”and turned to collaborator Amelia Meath(Sylvan Esso)to co-write “Miles Away”, a plainly honest song about the complexity of emotional proximity. He heard BrevanHampden's distinct sanctified tambourine in his head the whole time he was writing for the sessions.The composition of the recordplays as a love letter to Phil’s greatest inspiration of all:People.

People Are My Drugis a radical album, in every sense of the word. In 2018 choosing community and positivity and music is radical. Cook’s smile is still as infectious and ernest as it’s ever been. However, hepresently appears charged with a newly-minted seriousness that is revealed to listeners in solidarity, that he too is fighting like hell to keep love alive.
DAVID CHILDERS
DAVID CHILDERS
Singer-songwriter David Childers is the proverbial study in contradictions. A resident of Mount Holly, North Carolina, he’s a former high-school football player with the aw-shucks demeanor of a good ol’ Southern boy. But he’s also a well-read poet and painter who cites Chaucer and Kerouac as influences, fell in love with folk as a teen, listens to jazz and opera, and fed his family by practicing law before turning in his license to concentrate on his creative passions.

The legal profession’s loss is certainly the music world’s gain. Childers’ new album, Run Skeleton Run, releasing May 5, 2017 on Ramseur Records, is filled with the kinds of songs that have made him a favorite of fans and fellow artists including neighbors the Avett Brothers. Scott Avett contributes to four tracks, and Avetts bassist Bob Crawford co-executive-produced the effort with label head Dolph Ramseur. (Crawford and Childers, both history buffs, have recorded and performed together in the Overmountain Men).

In fact, it was Crawford who kickstarted this album, Childers’ sixth solo effort, by suggesting he reunite with Don Dixon (R.E.M., the Smithereens), who’d produced Crawford’s favorite Childers album, Room 23 (done with his band the Modern Don Juans). Crawford also suggested tracking at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium Recordings.

“I’ve made records in my living room and been perfectly happy with it. But I think ol’ Bob wanted to give it one more shot,” Childers says. “It’s kind of like the Wild Bunch at the end of the movie, on their last train robbery.”

Not that he’s suggesting this is his “last train robbery.” Not with songs as rich as these. Sounding like literature and playing like little movies — several are under three minutes long — they’re populated by sailors, hermits, lovers and killers, facing off against fate, skeletons, good, evil, or simply the trials of everyday existence. Lust, virtue, guilt, innocence; alienation, desperation, sorrow, gratitude … he examines these conditions with such precision — combined with music that draws on folk, rock, rockabilly, country and Cajun influences — he doesn’t need lengthy exposition.

“You look at a song like ‘Pancho and Lefty’; it tells a story in four stanzas,” Childers notes. “An amazing story. That’s the way I approach songwriting. You don’t have to say so damned much. ‘The train went down, oh lord oh lord.’”

That line is from “Belmont Ford,” a mandolin-laden disaster song about the Great Flood of 1916. It’s based on a poem by Mary Struble Deery, a Chicago friend. The twang- and bluegrass-infused “Collar and Bell” (featuring drums/percussion by his son, Robert, and fiddle by Geoffrey White) had a similar origin; its lyrics are derived from ones written by Shannon Mayes, an Ohio school principal. Another Ohioan, Mark Freeman, shares credit for “Hermit,” a mid-tempo rocker of sorts with Dixon singing harmony, that Freeman started and Childers finished.

“I’m always looking for ideas,” he says. “I’ve never been able to get any serious writers to co-write with me. Here are these folks, just regular people, and they got something to say, and they’re sending me stuff, and I’m going ‘Well, if they’re gonna send it to me, I’m gonna try and do something with it.’”

Childers has always regarded his place in the musical pantheon as that of an outsider, though not deservedly so. As those involved with this album indicate, he’s well-regarded among tastemakers. Evidence includes playing the syndicated World Café and Mountain Stage radio shows (he’s done the latter twice), as well as Merlefest’s mainstage. He’s also toured in Europe, and hopes to again. But he credits the support of Crawford and Ramseur with helping him sustain his musical career — which began in college, though he didn’t start recording until the ’90s.

Childers’ father had given him a banjo when he was 14, but he still had his “jock mentality” back then and didn’t do much with it. That changed when he picked up a guitar at 18.

“My girlfriend had left me for one of my best friends and I was all shook up and needed an outlet besides drinking and fighting. As soon as I learned my first chords on a guitar, I knew I had a friend who would never betray me,” he recalls. He formed his first band, the acoustic trio Steeltree, in 1973, and released his first album, Godzilla! He Done Broke Out!, as David Childers & the Mount Holly Hellcats, in 1995. His first solo album, Time Machine, came in 1998. He spent several years playing rock, folk and honky-tonk with the David Childers Band, then the Modern Don Juans, whose fans included the Avett boys. He calls his current band the Serpents, but says he’s given up trying to label each incarnation.

His last album, 2014’s Serpents of Reformation, delved into religion; this time, several songs address aging and the perspective of a man in review mode — a perspective he sums up on the final track, “Goodbye to Growing Old,” written with Theresa Halfacre. It approaches the subject with a mix of acceptance and defiance.

Well, it’s mostly just a state of mind/And I ain’t about to say that it’s time/To surrender to anything. Anything. Anything, he sings, driving home his points with harmonica and his own layered harmony.

“I used to be afraid of growing old, but now I wouldn’t trade where I am for all the lean fury of my youth,” Childers insists, saying he’s happier now than he’s ever been. Especially now that he can concentrate on making music and painting; he and Robert did the album cover, a fine example of his primitive/outsider style.

He’s also considering adding memoirs to his publishing credits, which include two books of poetry. And there’s gardening, and dogs and cats, to tend. Yep, life’s pretty good for the man Crawford likes to call “the sage of Mount Holly.”

Crawford has also called Childers “a great friend, a great thinker and a great man … a true North Carolina treasure.”

But let’s take out “North Carolina,” because Childers is the kind of treasure who can spread joy wherever people love listening to great songs. In other words, just about anywhere. Or everywhere.
LINA MARIA FERREIRA CABEZA-VANEGAS
LINA MARIA FERREIRA CABEZA-VANEGAS
Lina M. Ferreira C-V graduated from the University of Iowa with a Creative Nonfiction Writing MFA in 2012, and a Literary Translation MFA the following year. She was born in Bogota, Colombia, and is currently working as a visiting assistant professor of creative nonfiction at Ohio State University. Her work has been featured in a few journals, including The Bellingham Review, Arts & Letters, Brevity and the Chicago Review. She won the Iron Horse Review's Discovered Voices Award, 2009's Best of the Net Award, and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes for publications in Wag's Review and Anomalous Press
BENJI HUGHES
BENJI HUGHES
Charlotte, North Carolina
NC's Benji Hughes fronted a rock band in the 90s. He’s written commercial jingles (“Got a Little Captain in You?” for Captain Morgan rum). He’s made music for film & TV (Walk Hard, Eastbound & Down). He released 2008’s A Love Extreme, his double-LP debut record. But these ventures aren’t different hats Hughes wears. They’re not different paths traveled. This is Hughes playing in different keys.
BILL NOONAN
BILL NOONAN
Bill Noonan has been exploring the border of country and rock and roll on the Charlotte scene since the 1980s. Interstingly, his current group, the Hey Joes, received the Creative Loafing people’s choice vote as “Best New Band” in 2015. On this Double Door show, however, Noonan will front a slightly different lineup and perform a “greatest hits” set highlighting some of his best original tunes, from Rank Outsiders classics to crowd pleasers from his more recent solo albums.
THOMAS RHYANT
THOMAS RHYANT
As a young boy in Florida, Thomas Rhyant used to slip out of the house late at night to go sit in his Daddy’s Cadillac and listen to AM frequencies that you couldn’t pick up during the day. He heard voices coming from the Bahamas, Chicago, New York, all over the place. His dream was to one day see those places. And it was music that would take him there.

Rhyant was raised on quartet gospel music. His father was an aspiring singer who was frustrated with the difficulties of trying to keep a group together. Eventually, he decided to build one the organic way, fathering four sons who became a family gospel quartet known as The Rhyant Brothers. All four sons sang, but Thomas—the oldest, and the one with a razor sharp musical memory—was elected to be the guitarist.

Early on, Rhyant followed his father’s musical vision, but the first time he heard Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers—on his dad’s 8-track cassette player—his own musical aspirations snapped into focus. The sound, the range, and the versatility of Cooke’s voice completely gripped Rhyant. He began working to emulate Cooke’s style, and found his efforts paying off when, at 19, he traveled with his father to a multi-night engagement at a church in the Bahamas. “Every night, the church was jam packed with girls,” Rhyant laughs, “I mean full! And there were guys all around the outside of the church who kept yelling through the windows, ‘Sing, sing. Sing some more, man. Sing some more!’”

With Sam Cooke’s style as a guide, Rhyant set about pursuing those late night Cadillac dreams. He traveled all over, singing and playing guitar. He became part of The Violinaires, the legendary group with whom Wilson Pickett cut his teeth before becoming an R&B superstar. The group’s drummer was the son of R.H. Harris—Sam Cooke’s mentor and teacher, and one of the most important figures in the history of gospel music. Rhyant listened intently to every story the younger Harris told. Through the Violinaires, Rhyant met many of his musical heroes, and spent hours listening, soaking up the history of their lives and music.

These days, like a griot or medieval troubadour, Rhyant uses music to tell the stories of those who came before him, allowing people to not only understand, but emotionally connect with, history. When his 93 year-old mother-in-law came to hear his Sam Cooke show—where he mixes performances of Cooke’s music with stories about his life—she threw her hip out dancing. “She couldn’t get up the stairs the next day,” Rhyant laughs, “but every now and then she asks, ‘When are you going to do that Sam Cooke show again?’”

Rhyant is well on his way to fulfilling his youthful dream of seeing the world. But now he realizes that the traveling is only a byproduct of his real calling—making people happy by sharing the music he loves, and thereby keeping its history alive.
Venue Information:
Booth Playhouse
130 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC, 28202
http://www.blumenthalarts.org/

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