LOCATION: Holly Springs Cultural Center, 300 W Ballentine St, Holly Springs (http://www.hollyspringsnc.us/dept/park/culture/)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.
TICKETS: By Phone: Holly Springs Box Office: 919-567-4000; Online at www.etix.com; in person: Holly Springs Box Office, 300 W Ballentine St, Holly Springs, NC (M-Th: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri & Sat: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; 1 hour before showtime)
PRICE: $20 PineCone members, $25 general public
EVENT SPONSOR: PineCone – the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, Inc.
Holly Springs and PineCone continue the Listening Room concert series on Saturday, April 10 with the Red Stick Ramblers, who are releasing a new album on May 19.
Hard driving, witty, eclectic, and honest, the music of the Red Stick Ramblers is inseparable from their way of life and the rich Louisiana culture that first inspired them. Their upcoming album, My Suitcase Is Always Packed, is as much a travelogue as a sound recording, complete with audio snapshots of relentless all-night dances, laid back campfire sessions, dusty honky-tonks, and raucous family reunions. It includes the full spectrum of the Ramblers’ unique hybrid of Cajun, country, stringband, and swing influences – a sound marked by a daring willingness to experiment with mixing different elements, rather than simply progress through a laundry list of genres from song to song. Available May 19 on Sugar Hill Records, My Suitcase Is Always Packed is visceral and vital, an album that puts the Red Stick Ramblers at the very forefront of a new generation of Louisiana roots musicians who are reinventing their tradition while remaining deeply aware of their heritage.
The quintet of Linzay Young (fiddler, vocals), Chas Justus (guitar), Kevin Wimmer (fiddle, vocals), Eric Frey (bass, vocals), and Glenn Fields (drums) have performed more than 200 shows a year for the past three years in venues ranging from dancehalls to weddings and clubs to festival; they have further honed their chops by backing such artists as Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy on their acclaimed 2006 collaboration “Adieu False Heart.”
The band first emerged from Baton Rouge around 1999, where Justus, Young, and Fields were enrolled at Louisiana State University. Even early on, their live shows were inspired and infectious, equal parts unbridled, ramshackle energy and thrilling musical precision. Up and down the Gulf Coast, the Red Stick Ramblers quickly earned a reputation as a thrilling band as appealing to elderly Cajuns as they were to college kids out for a good time.
Over four albums, beginning with their self-titled debut in 2002, and several line-up changes, the Red Stick Ramblers developed their now trademark style. Their last two albums, Right Key, Wrong Keyhole (2005) and Made In The Shade (2007) were produced by maverick roots musician Dirk Powell (Balfa Toujours, Tim O’Brien). In 2006, they started the South Louisiana Black Pot Festival and Cookoff, held outside of Lafayette. The festival is a tangible extension of the band’s philosophy, encapsulating the social, culinary, and musical aspects of Louisiana culture. “It’s the only festival we’ve heard of,” Justus says, “where folks sit around and play Cajun music by the fire the same way that people pick bluegrass at bluegrass festivals. It features mostly Cajun and Zydeco dance bands, but we also have a listening tent for old-time music and other styles.
The social aspect of the Cajun culture – the way that food, family, friendship, music, and dance are uniquely intertwined – is key to understanding what propels the Red Stick Ramblers. “Linzay grew up in a Cajun family,” Justus explains, “where the men cook, and when they do, people come together, and things just happen from there.
“The sessions for this album,” Young recalls, “had a good combination of songs that we had been playing for a long time that we could just knock out quickly, and some more open-ended things that we could really develop in the studio.
One of the songs that came together during the sessions was “Nonc’ Yorick,” which began as a Dennis McGee-style fiddle tune Young wrote a few years ago. “I knew that if I put words to it,” Young explains, “they would be about these great-uncles of mine, who were really rough and rowdy types. They were bootleggers and pranksters. They’d take your buggy apart and reassemble it on the roof of your house.”
The lyric tells of a gory knife and gun fight that eventually landed Yorick in the penitentiary. The music blends Cajun and old-time elements in an almost orchestral fashion, carefully alternating different combinations of instruments. “We knew we wanted to use the banjo,” Young says. “We tried out different things, and they all sounded cool in their different ways. Sometimes it’s fiddle and banjo, sometimes fiddle and triangle…we gave everything its own little section.”
“Lafayette is really the upper tip of the Caribbean,” Justus adds. “If you listen to ‘Nonc’ Yorick,’ you’ll hear that connection between French and Caribbean. That’s one of the really interesting elements in Louisiana music.”
By drawing on a vast array of influences, the Red Stick Ramblers are also able to continually rediscover new facets of Louisiana music. It is this delicate balance, now honed over a decade of playing together, which allows My Suitcase Is Always Packed to sound both classically timeless and startlingly fresh. “Louisiana music is an incredible mix,” Justus concludes. “There are Irish immigrants, the creoles, that voodoo gris-gris. There’s a reason it doesn’t just sound like French-Canadian music. Even the language represents holding out – holding out from the homogenization of America. It’s not all Wal-Mart and McDonalds. There’s a cultural identity here, which is something that is getting harder and harder to find. We try to represent that identity, that authenticity.”
Tickets are still available and can be ordered through the Holly Springs Box Office at 919-567-4000 or online at www.etix.com.
The Listening Room Series began in 2008 as a partnership between PineCone and the Town of Holly Springs. With a mission to preserve, present and promote traditional music, PineCone is a non-profit organization that presents more than 100 music events each year, including concerts, participatory music sessions, a weekly radio show on 94.7 WQDR, and more. Most of PineCone’s programs are free and open to the public. The Listening Room Series features national and up-and-coming artists in an intimate 200-seat theater that offers the audience an up-close and personal listening experience. This year’s series kicked off with a sold-out show featuring North Carolina’s own Kruger Brothers, and it will conclude on June 19 with a performance by The Claire Lynch Band.
“This series allows us to offer listeners the opportunity to hear established traditional musicians and up-and-coming artists in an excellent listening room environment in Holly Springs,” said William Lewis, PineCone’s Executive Director.
Learn more at www.pinecone.org.