Re-releases and Reunions

The Continental Drifters are Back!


With the abundance of talented artists and bands, there is no shortage of Almost Famous stories.  Musicians and fans have long considered New Orleans’ Continental Drifters, a 90s super group. Without a definitive genre to market and promote them, the Continental Drifters struggled to find their American radio audience. Were they pop? Country? Rock? Americana wasn’t officially born yet. Cross over wasn’t even born yet.  Hell, Austin was beginning down the road of becoming, “The Live Music Gentrification Capital of the World”.

If you do know the Continental Drifters, then count yourself among the fortunate. For those who haven’t, allow me to proselytize, for I am an avid follower.

With a rotating cast of songwriters and vocalists including Mark Walton, Ray Ganucheau, Russ Broussard, Susan Cowsill (The Cowsills), Danny McGough, Gary Eaton, Peter Holsapple (The dBs, Hootie and the Blowfish), Robert Mache, Carlo Nuccio and Vicki Peterson (The Bangles), they released their masterpiece, Vermillion in 1999. You can hear the album here.  Vermillion by the Continental Drifters. Vermillion is in my Desert Island Jukebox playlist.

Regardless of their lack of commercial fame, The Continental Drifters continue to influence writers, visual artists, college students, and independent record geeks. They have come through the other end of intra-band marriages and divorces, illness, canceled tours, and unfathomable losses from Hurricane Katrina. Almost two decades later since the release of Vermillion, the Continental Drifters will assemble for a reunion show in their beloved New Orleans.

When Susan Cowsill sings their anthem, Drifters, we may experience nostalgic bitter sweetness as ghosts are buried and the band pauses to reflect on their lifetimes of love, loss, friendship, and rock and roll. I say “we” because I intend to make the trek from NC to NOLA for the reunion show.

The reunion shows, one in LA where they began and one in NOLA, are preceded by the double CD release of Omnivore Recordings’, Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond.  This 33 song collection includes several unreleased cuts from their archive and live recordings.

Continental DriftersWhere: Tipitina’s New Orleans Louisiana
When: September 12, 2015           Time:  9:00 PM
Cost:  $50 – $130
Event Link: Continental Drifters Beginning Beyond Reunion Show

Featured Video – Cry No More

Grammy winner, Rhiannon Giddens, provides a “Come to Jesus” moment with her new video, “Cry No More”.  In response to Charleston’s Emanuel AME  Massacre, Giddens assembled  a group of Greensboro, NC activists, artists, family, and friends for a call remembrance and actions against inaction. Playing only a traditional Cherokee hand drum, Giddens flowed a poetic stream of in your face reality.

Let’s face it. It’s all true.

Africans were stolen from their homeland and sold in our new country. They were stripped of name, gods, personhood, and community to build our nation. As Americans, the black community continues to be the target of hatred and systemic injustice.

If we, as Southerners, can’t see it, perhaps a call out to God and the global community will send others to guide the South through this ignorant darkness.

Watch and share here >>> Cry No More by Rhiannon Giddens

 Blue Note Grill Relocates to 27701

After weeks of bureaucratic inspection delays, The Blue Note Grill successfully opened their new downtown location on Washington Street across from the Historic Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Former site of the auto parts store.bngbefore

Blue Note Grill’s New HomeBNG

Not only did they expand their kitchen and BBQ smokers to accommodate their growing catering and retail businesses, but BNG’s new music hall is a welcomed music venue with the capacity for 200 music-loving patrons.

Formerly of Southern Seasons and Parts & Labor, Sharon Mahofski joined the husband – wife management team of Bill and Andrea Whittington. Passionate about opening new kitchens and menu design, Sharon has already added new items to the menu including hamburgers and new sides.

GR8PICKS of the Week

7/ 20 Farewell to Tom Maxwell of the Squirrel Nut Zippers 
7/ 24 Warehouse Blues Series
7/25 Comics Fest
7/25 Claire Holley & Bruce Piephoff
7/26 Dex Romweber & John Howie Jr. 

Planning Ahead

August 1 Shugie Otis w Greg Humphreys Trio
August 10 Lauryn Hill 
August 29 Shakori Hills Stars in the Round

More Good Stuff to See and Hear

GR8MUSICROX CALENDAR   Try the Agenda view. I like that best.

Tobacco Crossroads

Triangle – Triad Songwriters Gather ‘Round

Two master guitar pickers, an Irish storytelling siren, and a Southern sawbending rocker will share the stage in the first Triangle Meets Triad in the Round at  Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle Back Room on July 16 at 8:00 PM.

Durham blues and Americana artist, Jon Shain, will host the Bluebird Cafe style songwriters round.  Known for his gritty vocals, and Piedmont Blues guitar picking, Shain fronts the Jon Shain Trio and is featured in the NC Music Love Army compilation. Recently, Jon has been collaborating with IBMA award winning songwriter, Joe Newberry.  Jon will dig into his deep repertoire and introduce new songs from his upcoming record.

Sam Frazier was one of the collaborators for Greensboro College’s, The Healing Blues Project, benefiting the Interactive Resource Center. The project’s concept was to team up local Blues musicians as songwriters with homeless storytellers to create a 15 song CD about daily life on the streets of Greensboro.  Although no stranger to social and philanthropic causes, this unique project is one of his personal favorites. Inspired by his homeless storyteller Ryan L., here is Sam performing I Wait from the HBP.

As one of the Triad’s award-winning writers, Molly McGinn’s use of strong imagery captures an audience during her live performances. Molly’s smoky voice will draw the listener into a comfortable slumber while her lyrics gently burns like an addicting lover.  Her 2014 release of Postcards from the Dismal Swamp was one of my favorite releases of 2014.  Listen to Postcards from the Dismal Swamp here.

Frazier and McGinn often play together around their Greensboro hometown, where they support several social justice causes through their live and recording appearances. For Shain and Frazier, this series is the beginning of a new musical partnership.

Melissa Swingle (Trailer Bride, the Moaners) is no stranger to the Triangle scene. Originally from Mississippi, Swingle arrived during the hey day of the 90s Chapel Hill scene. She continues to bring her Deep South influence with a dive bar edge to her devoted cult fans. Some of her solo work reminds me of Nico from the Velvet Underground. Here is Melissa performing Arrowheads.

Who: Jon Shain, Molly McGinn, Sam Frazier, Melissa Swingle
Where: Cat’s Cradle Back Room
When: July 16, 2015  Time:  Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
Cost:  $10 Adv / $12 DOS
Event Link: Triangle Meets Triad Songwriters Round

For fans of John Prine, Merle Travis, Velvet Underground, Amelia’s Mechanics, Bonnie Raitt, John Dee Holeman, Guiness, Sarcasm

Videos of the Week

Well, we might as well keep riding this Frazier / Shain carousel. With less than 10 minutes of rehearsal at Doodad Farm’s John Prine tribute, these two put together a grand finale style set that inspired the Triangle – Triad songwriter showcase.

Carousel of Love by John Prine

The Glory of True Love by John Prine

New Releases

The Sprinter – The Old Ceremony

The Old Ceremony celebrates the release of their fifth  record, The Sprinter, with a two night event at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room. Known for their eccentric arrangements, front fella, Django Haskins, expanded the band’s musical influences to include some of Haskins’ recent collaborations from his recent Big Star tribute shows.

Recorded and produced by Mitch Easter at the Fidelitorium Recordings (Alejandro Escovedo, The Avett Brothers, REM), Haskins’ reached out to his Big Star tribute pals Chris Stamey (dBs) for special arrangements and Mike Mills (REM) to add guest vocals to two tracks.

Their first single from The Sprinter, The Magic Hour, is a dark sensual cut with a message about love. REM’s bassist, Mike Mills, provides more layers of harmonies   Check out the  The Magic Hour.

Who: The Old Ceremony
Where: Cat’s Cradle Back Room
When: July 17 and 18, 2015  Time:  Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
Cost:  $18
Event Link: The Old Ceremony “Sprinter” Record Release Show

GR8PICKS of the Week

July 12 – 16 Amy, Amy Winehouse Documentary
July 14, 2015 Robert Earl Keen – Saxapahaw
July 15 Ballet Folklorica Cutumba

Planning Ahead

August 1 Shugie Otis w Greg Humphreys Trio
August 10 Lauryn Hill 
August 29 Shakori Hills Stars in the Round

Humble Tripe Debuts Cat’s Cradle Backroom Sept. 13

Humble Tripe Returning from SE Tour

Humble Tripe Plays Cat's Cradle Back Room Sept. 13
Humble Tripe Plays Cat’s Cradle Back Room Sept. 13

It’s been several months since Humble Tripe has played in the Triangle. Fresh from their SE tour covering VA, TN, and KY, they make their headlining debut appearance at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room.

The new Cat’s Cradle Back Room is quickly becoming one of the Triangle’s favorite intimate venues for local and touring artists to play.

Who: Humble Tripe with Joe Stevens
Where: Cat’s Cradle – Back Room
300 East Main St. Carrboro, NC 27510
When: September 13, 2014 Time:  Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00
Cost:  $8

Are you already going to the Cat’s Cradle for Hiss Golden Messenger? Come early to the Backroom. 1/2 price off to Humble Tripe with proof of HGM ticket!

For fans of Joni Mitchell, Beck, Radio Head, Neko Case, Feist, Kafka, Robert Frost, Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger, Birds and Arrows, Mount Moriah, Lost in the Trees, Richard Buckner, Coffee (the drink), and those who pause to watch a spider weave their web through the window.

The Giving – A Humble Tripe Offering

Perhaps it was the timing of the early winter release of Humble Tripe’s, The Giving, that still evokes my need to cocoon in a dark room to consume this record away from social media, text messages, or other life’s distractions. Humble Tripe’s upcoming show at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room is an excellent opportunity to shut it down to indulge in the extravagance of being present.

The Giving was one of GR8MUSICROX’S favorite records of 2013.

Devoid of over production, this collection of songs were simply presented by frontman Shawn Luby’s small group of multi-instrumentalist collaborators, Stud Green, Jess Shell, Melissa York, and Kadji Amin. Luby allows each melodic song ample room to ripen into its own haunting yet uplifting vignettes.

Not shoving any particular theme down my throat, I found this project’s strength is in its gentleness.  The Giving took me to the edge of paralyzing fear when faced with the dare of a new love, as depicted in Acrobat’s Affair. The listener then meanders through each song as Luby illuminates the darkness to its dramatic conclusion with Anchors and Oh Lord.

Take a listen to The Giving and take advantage of a free download of November, their opening song.

Chatham County Line Debuts New Video

With Wide Open Bluegrass just 4 weeks away, CCL calls out Nashville and claims Raleigh as the new home for the Bluegrass genre. They will perform a free show this Thursday, Sept. 4 at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

Watch here >>> Living in Raleigh

Cool Projects

The Healing Blues, Greensboro artists brings the homeless and music community for a unique collaborative storytelling project.

NC Museum of Art Wants Your Opinion

“The purpose of this survey is to gain your input about the performing arts program of the North Carolina Museum of Art – how you feel about the program, our offerings, and why you come. ”

Take the survey here >>> Patron Survey


Sept. 6 The Monti Storytelling is back! –  Carrboro

Sept. 12 Holy Ghost Tent Revival CD Release – Carrboro

Sept. 13 Velcro MC from Puerto Rico – Durham

Planning Ahead

Sept. 17 – 21 Americana Music Festival – Nasvhille, TN

Sept. 20 Rubblebucket – Raleigh

Sept. 20-21 CenterFest – Durham

Oct. 3-4 Wide Open Bluegrass – Raleigh

Oct. 9-12 Shakori Hills Grassroots & Dance Festival

Nov. 15-16 NC Comicon

More Good Stuff to See and Hear

GR8MUSICROX CALENDAR   Try the Agenda view. I like that best.

August – That Dude (in the movies)

A most innovative cellist, Josh Starmer, is one of the coolest cats I know. Ukes are cool too!

Joshua Starmer - Composer, Instrumentalist and Scientist

This is an embarrassing story, but I’m going to tell it anyway. All of my life I’ve been a skinny guy. This is fine. I don’t mind, but back in college I got this crazy idea that I would look better if I had big muscles. I smile about this because I would look idiotic if I bulked up, but at the time I daydreamed about taking my shirt off at the beach and everyone admiring my physique. I have no idea why.

charles_atlas_j When I was a kid, I saw ads for the Charles Atlas workout routine.

One day I thought I’d try to live the dream and I signed up for a weight lifting class. I spent hours imagining how awesome I was going to look at the end of the semester. I’d come home for the summer and everyone would freak out. People might even call me up to move furniture. Stuff like that.

So I took the class and learned…

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Jim Lauderdale Leads the Pack of NC Songwriters

Stars in the Round Showcases NC’s Songwriters

Jim Lauderdale hosts Stars in the Round at Shakori Hills
Jim Lauderdale hosts Stars in the Round at Shakori Hills

When it isn’t raining, Shakori Hills is a magical place to take in a variety of music, visual art, and dance events. Once a year they host the Stars in the Round, featuring regional songwriters followed by a hootenanny inducing featured artist.

This year’s inducer and Grammy winning host, was endearing and prolific songwriter, Jim Lauderdale. Lauderdale’s tireless dedication to the craft of songwriting is evident through regular coverage in American Songwriter Magazine, and his involvement with Merlefest’s annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, and Swannanoa Gathering’s Contemporary Folk Week.

After an opening set by local blues legend, Ironing Board Sam, the Round commenced in a flurry of heartbreak, murder ballads, protest, storytelling, and mountain songs.

Leading the pack of local songwriters was Laurelyn Dossett, whose song, Leaving Eden, was the title track of the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Grammy winning 2012 Best Folk Album. She also wrote Anna Lee, which was featured on Levon Helm’s emotional Grammy winning comeback album, Dirt Farmer.

Heartbreak master and “smooth as butter” baritone, John Howie Jr. took us to those deep dark places of heartbreak honky tonk, while Allegheny newcomer Daniel Justin Smith’s balanced out the dark with his earnest debut. Brevard’s bewitching sirens, Shannon Whitworth and Nikki Talley dueled out some serious clawhammer banjo songs, enchanting songs of Spring, family, and good ole’ mountain folk.

Lauderdale & Dossett Credit:Justin Catanoso

Lauderdale & Dossett
Credit:Justin Catanoso

Proceeds from the annual Stars in the Round benefit the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center.

“Shakori Hills Community Arts Center was created with the mission to purchase, preserve and enhance the Shakori Hills farmstead for community building through music, dance, arts and education. Our mission has further evolved to provide music education opportunities in schools through our Hopes & Dreams program.” – Shakori’s Mission Statement

 Justin Catanoso

Justin Catanoso

Cool Projects

The Healing Blues, Greensboro artists brings the homeless and music community for a unique collaborative storytelling project.


Aug. 27 Chuck Prophet (FREE!) – Hillsborough

Sept. 4  Chatham County Line (FREE!) – Durham

Sept. 6 The Monti Storytelling is back! –  Carrboro

Sept. 12 Holy Ghost Tent Revival CD Release – Carrboro

Sept. 13 Velcro MC from Puerto Rico – Durham

Sept. 17 – 21 Americana Music Festival – Nasvhille, TN

Sept. 20 Rubblebucket – Raleigh

Planning Ahead

Sept. 13 Farm Aid 2014 is in Raleigh YAWL

Sept. 20-21 CenterFest – Durham

Oct. 3-4 Wide Open Bluegrass – Raleigh

Oct. 9-12 Shakori Hills Grassroots & Dance Festival

More Good Stuff to See and Hear

GR8MUSICROX CALENDAR   Try the Agenda view. I like that best.

No Swan Song for Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse

August 3, 2014 Durham, NC –

Main Photo
“I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for the African American community.”   Mel Melton

For all of his animated presence, Mel Melton chose a quiet exit for Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse after closing his doors July 19. He’s just not much of a good bye guy.  Mel’s been known to slip out of the Roadhouse backdoor rather than spend another hour saying his goodbyes.

The closing of the Cajun themed restaurant and Blues venue caught many by surprise, but not Mel. With the inability to expand at the current location and juggling five careers including venue management, fronting a busy band, catering operations, kitchen and general restaurant operations,    Melton saw an opportunity to hit the “Quality of Life” reset button when the lease at Greenwood Commons came due.

Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse stage was the birthplace for several local artists. Before the Bulltown Strutter’s became a parading showcase of Durham’s inclusive eccentricities, PMR gave them a home for their weekly Tuesday jams. Melton provided them a friendly stage and audience to build their Mardi Gras chops and repertoire.

Papa Mojo’s was the first place that brought the Mardi Gras culture to Durham. They were also an early adopter of recyclable or compostable take out containers. – Cathy Kieler, Co-Founder of Bulltown Strutters and Durham Mardis Gras

Papa Mojo’s stage fostered local acts Blues World Order, Matt and Nikki Hill, Tad Walters, T.A. James, Jasme Kelly, Jennifer Evans, and the Triangle Blues Society. The Triangle Blues Society’s monthly First Sunday Blues jam moved to The Blue Note Grill. Their first monthly jam is Sunday 8/3 at 7:00 pm.

It was a wonderful 4 and a half years. Mel and I have worked together to keep the OpenMic going. I chose his spot because it had the right 'vibe', great location with parking, and wonderful Creole/Cajun food. I will miss Mel and the staff, as they've become part of my OpenMic family. Come see us at our new home 58 fifty Bistro. - Brett Chambers, Brett Chamber’s OpenMic
It was a wonderful 4 and a half years. Mel and I have worked together to keep the OpenMic going. I chose his spot because it had the right ‘vibe’, great location with parking, and wonderful Creole/Cajun food. I will miss Mel and the staff, as they’ve become part of my OpenMic family. Come see us at our new home 58 fifty Bistro. – Brett Chambers, Brett Chamber’s OpenMic

It was home to the best open mic in the region. Brett Chambers and the Usual Suspects weekly Wednesday night open mics, is one of the area’s best offerings of live R&B, Blues, and poetry performances. This high end “bring your A-game” open mic moved to the new 58 Fifty Bistro in Sutton Station.

National acts that have passed through the Roadhouse include C.J Chenier, Doyle Branham II, Delta Moon, Michael Burks, Bob Margolin, Soul Rebel Rebellion, Buckwheat Zydeco, Will McFarlane, Tinsley Ellis, Sonny Landreth, Seth Walker, Dennis Gruenling, Bill Toms, and Damon Fowler.

When asked about the future of the live Triangle Blues scene, Melton said, “A viable Blues scene has been a struggle around these parts, for years.” With the closing of Blues friendly venues such as The Hideaway BBQ, Blue Bayou, Berkeley Café, Casbah, and Billsborough Music Hall, Blues fans have bounced back and forth between the Roadhouse and The Blue Note Grill. However, The Blue Note Grill does not curate touring bands at the level Melton offered. With the lack of a viable Blues venue in the Triangle, touring acts may pass right through the region.

First time we played there, we were on our way to Canada. I walked in and thought we were just playing another restaurant but by show time, it transformed into a kickass music club. I thought I WAS in South Louisiana. Audience, food, drinks, and hospitality were all great. Thanks for the kicks, Mel! – Mark Johnson, Guitarist, Delta Moon

For all of the accolades Durham receives for its diversity, Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse may have been the only venue that nurtured authentic diversity. It served gumbo and Gospel, Jezebels and Jazz, Beaver Queens and Blues, Business Suits and Boomers, while fostering a non-judgmental environment of free expression.

The first time I went to the Roadhouse, it was to see Sonny Landreth. I came back for OpenMic, Randall Bramlett and Doyle Branham II. I’ve lost count since. It’s rare to have direct access to these national artists. I was able to chat them up at the bar while eating my favorite gumbo, then danced all night until my mascara ran.

As Durham’s urban development and “improvement” initiatives continue to extend our skyline and homogenize our demographics, I will shed a tear for our mutual loss.  The neon sign might be turned off, but Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse will always be the foundation of authentic diversity, local and national blues, rock, and R&B scene in Durham.

Feel free to add well wishes, favorite memories, or thoughts.

Papa Mojo’s has been a major supporter of the Blues Festival and our entertainment community. Whether it has been Mel playing at the Festival or supplying some awesome food, Mel is a vital part of the Blues community. – Marc Lee, Emcee, Bull Durham Blues Festival, Hayti Heritage Center

I will sorely miss Papa Mojos. This was My place – but I’m sure that feeling is shared by a lot of my friends. A big thank you for the individual efforts that Mel, and the ever changing Krewe, put into the food, the music, and the Fun.  I anxiously look forward to launch of Papa’s 2. – Daniel Phillips, Mojo Patron

Mel knew that starting a dedicated Blues club posed challenges and that bringing in national blues acts was a risk, but he did it anyway.  Some of the best bands in the Blues world played there and some of them only brought in a handful of people.  It was a bright torch in a rather dim scene.  Josh Preslar, Triangle Blues Society

The Roadhouse was a strong supporter of our work. Mel hosted two fundraisers at the club, the annual Holiday food drive, as well as performed for the Food Bank’s Summerstock fundraiser.   – Pete Sloane, Feeding America

2014 Free n Cheap Music, Movies, Arts

It’s that time again. Bring your blanket, cooler, and kids to the area’s Spring / Summer music and arts series.

Several of the usual venues have not posted their line up yet. So keep checking back.

Alamance County

Saxapahaw Music Series 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Chatham County

First Sundays Pittsboro

Durham County

Back Porch Music Series Yay it’s back!

Find Your Cool Downtown Durham Music Series
DDI has a lame website. Here is the PDF to their concert series. Unfortunately, it’s static so you can’t add the event to your calendar automagically. This music series is the most eclectic of any of the others, in my book. Daring schedule.

Durham Central Park Warehouse Blues Series

Duke Gardens Music in the Gardens Weds $12
This line up will rock your socks off. I really can’t believe it. Bring ear plugs  for your parents.

Full Frame Documentary Free Movies

Forsyth County: Winston Salem

Downtown Jazz Fridays Summer on Trade Saturdays Music Series

Guilford County:

Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park

Orange County:

Carrboro Weaver Street Market
Sundays 11:00 am – 1:00 pm Thursdays 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Carolina Inn Fridays on the Porch  5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Heads up…Moonshine tasting on June 14!

Southern Village Market Movies at Dusk

Southern Village Market Sundays 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Hillsborough – Last Fridays

Wake County Cary, Raleigh, and Wake Forest

Cary – Movies by Moonlight $3

Raleigh – First Friday

Raleigh – Music on the Porch

Wake Forest – Six Sundays

Molly McGinn

song | writer

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