Apologies for the long gap between posts – with rehearsals for an impending production of The Sound Of Music, long nights interviewing Superintendent candidates for our local school system, and both end-of-term grades and my yearly professional evaluation due in a single week, it was all I could do to keep my head above water.
But through it all, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and this is it: the view from the balcony overlooking the lagoon and the sound beyond, where the turtles lounge on sunny banks, the geese protect their island nests, the ospreys and the cormorants vie for fishing rights, the breeze is warm and tinged with swimming pool steam and barbecue smoke, and the sunsets are to die for.
Which is to say: it’s school vacation, and I’ve earned our by-now bi-annual respite on the very upper tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where we can spend the week far from the cares and stresses of the working life with extended family and friends enough to fill three adjacent houses with a week of laughter and leisure, barbecue and beer. And so, in honor of our temporary locale, we kick off the week with an expanded list of otherwise familiar songs about the region – with a promise to return in a few days with a brand new feature on native sons The Avett Brothers, and a reposted series of older features on other artists associated with the Carolinas, including The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Elizabeth Cotten, James Taylor, Doc Watson and more.
- Red Molly: Oh My Sweet Carolina (orig. Ryan Adams)
Previously-featured sweet-voiced femme folk trio Red Molly covers this bittersweet tribute from North Carolina native son Ryan Adams with dobro, guitar, and harmony on their first full-length album, the live Never Been To Vegas.
- Mud Acres: Carolina in My Mind (orig. James Taylor)
Another song by a native son, this one reinvented as a ragged hootenanny by Happy Traum, banjoist Bill Keith, bass player Roly Salley (who penned the oft-covered Killin’ The Blues) and others from the mid-seventies Woodstock, NY Mud Acres music collective.
- Trocadero: Carolina In The Morning (orig. William Frawley)
This Tin Pan Alley-era American popular song, well-known from versions by Al Jolson, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, and others, takes a maudlin turn in this version from “experimental rock” band Trocadero, originally recorded for the Red vs. Blue Season 10 soundtrack.
- Grace Cheng: Carolina (orig. Ben Gibbard)
Toronto-based Soundcloud amateur Grace Cheng has the sweetly lo-fi vibe of a young Mary Lou Lord; the melancholy tone that results makes for an especially apt vehicle for Ben Gibbard’s escapist break-up fantasy.
- Cris Williamson and Tret Fure: Carolina Pines (orig. Kate Wolf)
A languid, mournful country ballad of loss and emptiness from Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf. One of Kate’s best, and the harmonica and slide on this powerful cut from Cris Williamson and Tret Fure make it that much better.
- Mike Seeger and Paul Brown: Way Down in North Carolina (trad.)
The title cut from Way Down in North Carolina, lovingly gathered and performed by collector of traditional song Mike Seeger and pal Paul Brown, is a fiddle tune at heart, true appalachian music from the old school. Timeless, true, and perfect for the back porch or the back country.
- Nicky Needle: The Boys From North Carolina (orig. John Hartford)
A celebratory banjo-driven original by the late great John Hartford becomes wistful and sweet when transformed into a solo living-room ukelele fingerpicker by Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Nicky Needle. The city lights on his Youtube video offer the perfect distance.
- Doc & Merle Watson: Kinfolks In Carolina (orig. Merle Travis)
A native son and his son take on Merle Travis’ upbeat tribute to family lines back in the homestead with everything from jazz guitar and brush stylings to boogie-woogie piano in the mix. From Two Days in November, a personal favorite recorded the year before I was born.
- Steve Forbert: My Carolina Sunshine Girl (orig. Jimmie Rodgers)
Singer-songwriter Steve Forbert swings this short but sweet old tune with a wry touch and his signature vocal strangle. Off Any Old Time, Forbert’s tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, king of the cowboy yodel.