They say a band is like a family. There must be trust among the members. There must be an atmosphere of peace and gentleness that allows for quiet time to think, and be inspired, and to create. There can’t be any secrecy. There must be easy laughter. Hanging out should be effortless as breathing. And you must honor your musical elders around you, spending as much time to learn from and listen to them.
You can feel this sense of honor when you sit with Darin & Brooke Aldridge. Towards the music. Towards each other.
At the end of April, I attended a retreat deep in the mountains of North Carolina near the town of Black Mountain. I joined a couple dozen alumni who were my classmates from the various graduation years of the Leadership Bluegrass organization. We came together to play music, create business schemes, and discuss some forward thinking plans for the professional side of our music.
Leadership Bluegrass is very much a musical family. And there is a lot of trust there (as well as the occasional odd relative.) When all seemed to be falling apart this past spring in the bluegrass world around us? It was this family who kept the ship’s ballast weighted properly and the steerage on path.
On one of our retreat evenings, we headed over to nearby west Asheville to the fantastic Isis Restaurant & Music Hall for dinner and a bluegrass show put on by one of our classmates Darin Aldridge, his wife Brooke, and their band.
Darin & Brooke had just signed with new management, they released a new album Snapshots, and their first single from that project was just being sent to radio stations across the country. That single, Tennessee Flat Top Box is now topping the charts. One would think that Brooke & Darin would be too busy to be attending a retreat for relaxation, reconnection, and to spend the evenings to pick music in jam sessions. But this is western North Carolina. It’s way different.
The musical roots in this part of North Carolina are thick with bloodline, kin, elders, and generations of expectations on what is important. Beech Bottom is the home to Brooke. Darin was raised two ridge lines and one county over in Bakersville, North Carolina. Brooke’s mom was a McCoury — a wayback branch of the family tree connects her to Del.
Western North Carolinians have their own brand of bluegrass and it speaks with a common age-old dialect. It’s kind of hard to explain to an outsider, but if you are from here, you know it when you hear it, and it immediately feels like home.
Give our interview a listen and hopefully you’ll hear what I mean. By the way, I take questions from the audience, I think you’ll enjoy that too.
(Recorded on stage at the Isis Restaurant & Music Hall in Asheville, North Carolina with Leadership Bluegrass members in the audience, as well as lots of Asheville musicians who were there for a big jam later in the evening. Thank you to proprietor Scott Woody for the stage and sound crew.)