Cane Mill Road in Argentina: an update 

Cane-Mill-Road-on-stage-ArgentinaIn April we mentioned that the Deep Gap, North Carolina, band Cane Mill Road had been invited to participate in a youth El Concierto En Iguazu (Iguazu in Concert) that took place in Argentina from 25 to 30 May, 2015.

The three youngsters had to raise several thousand dollars to cover travel expenses, something they are still hoping to achieve through GoFundMe. Once they arrived in Argentina, all their expenses were taken care of by the festival.

Recently, we enquired about their experiences and the response to their performances during the week.

What was the reception like? Mandolin player Liam Purcell responds …

“We were treated somewhat like rock stars, what with our big cowboy hats and fancy cowboy shirts, which I thought was kind of unexpected, but I think more than anything they loved the music! We were never without a photo opportunity after a performance as the boys headed straight to Kinsey, while Eliot and I were busy talking and photo taking with the girls!!!”

Dad William Purcell, manager of the band, is a little more effusive …….

Cane Mill Road“Amazing! Someone described the people there as ‘starved for live music’ and I think that is an apt description. One venue we played was sold out, but they opened the windows and people were lined up five rows deep to stand and watch and listen. They open the grand finale concert dress rehearsal up to the public and it was held in a tent that seated 2,000 people. People were lined up for blocks. Halfway through the concert they stopped and asked everyone to leave because there were another 1,000 people still in line. Once the new 1,000 were in, they let people return to fill up the remaining seats. It is an isolated area, so when live music comes here the people come out.

Our hotel clerk was a huge bluegrass fan but had only listened on YouTube. He knew all the classics. He had to work and could not make any of the concerts. So, the band played him a private concert for one person at the hotel one night. He was in tears and said it was the most beautiful music he had ever heard. That was one of the most touching moments of our trip, to play bluegrass for one person who was so appreciative and grateful to get to hear it live. He kept requesting song after song and the band played into the night.

We were in the same hotel as the kids from Zimbabwe. They had never seen a banjo or played one. They were fascinated with it. We all swapped instruments and played and jammed. We had kids from Africa, Peru, Latvia, Columbia and the US all jamming together in the hotel lobby.

The band really felt like rock stars. By the end of the week the locals who were coming to the concerts knew the band name and would chant it out when they saw them.

The band did tons of TV and radio interviews. They spent a lot of time signing autographs and doing ‘selfies’ with people.

The schedule was intense. Seven hours of practice each day and performances each night. The goal was to bring kids from around the world together to make music in hopes they would go back with a better understanding of each other. I think the kids learned that kids are the same all over the world – they love to play, have fun, and sing and dance.”

Did the band enjoy their time taking bluegrass to Argentina? Liam speaks of some harmonious intermingling …..

“We really enjoyed the trip. At the end of the week it felt like our home. Us, our Peruvian neighbors next door, Ecuadorians across the way and Zimbabweans upstairs. We made more friends than you can shake a stick at!!!”

Was there any indication that bluegrass might take a hold in that country? Multi-instrumentalist Eliot Smith offers this assessment ….

“Given the response from the people, I would think it could definitely be popular there. The people there seemed to have listened to a surprising amount of bluegrass (via the internet), and they seemed to be very into it. We got the chance to play a private concert for a man who worked at our hotel. He requested some Carter family songs!”

Bass player Kinsey Greene adds her own perspective ……..

“I personally loved every second of the Argentina trip. I learned so much and made bonds that will last a lifetime with people all over the world. I feel like the trip opened my eyes culturally and made stereotypes I had go away. All kids have fun and make friends the same way. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it felt to bring bluegrass, the music I love, to people who have never heard it. I feel that over all everyone loved bluegrass, I felt like I was famous, maybe even like Rhonda Vincent! Everyone in Argentina had so much appreciation for bluegrass! I feel incredibly honored to have been able to share bluegrass music with people around the world who had never experienced it. I would love to continue to travel sharing bluegrass with the world. I am truly blessed!”

Since Cane Mill Road returned to North Carolina life has been extremely hectic. William Purcell, enlightens us ….

Cane Mill Road“The band has really taken off and it has been overwhelming for me as the so-called ‘band-manager.’ Since the trip to Argentina we’ve been getting booked more and more and the kids seem busier than ever!

Before the trip we were consumed with getting ready for it: fundraising, shots, passports, airfare, getting a bass down there, etc.

After the trip we went straight into a wild summer… Kinsey went to music camps and toured college campuses with bluegrass programs (she’s been offered a scholarship at one!), Eliot worked a summer Boy Scout Camp as a counsellor. Liam went to six music camps… even with all that the kids found time to perform on weekends.

They competed at several fiddler’s conventions, played twice at the Doc Watson MusicFest in Sugar Grove in July including opening the main stage on Saturday, they’ve played non-profit fundraisers such as Relay for Life, they’ve played festivals like Homegrown Music Fest in Foscoe, North Carolina, and venues like Red, White and Bluegrass in Foscoe, North Carolina, and the Linville Falls Winery and twice at the Mast General Store… plus individually they’ve been going to festivals, playing shows, busking, and going to jams and camps. It has been an amazing summer of music!!!!!

They are super excited to be playing the Kruger Brother’s festival Carolina in the Fall in September, and to play four times at IBMA (twice on the Junior Appalachian Musicians stage and twice at Common 414). And we are playing a huge festival in Charlotte called Festival in the Park.

The band is in the studio at CastleFord Studios in Boone, North Carolina.  Working on getting an album out, maybe this fall.

So, life is very busy for these four teenagers! Plus, school!

We have a fourth player now. After Argentina we added 16-year-old bluegrass banjo player Trajan Wellington. He is from West Jefferson, North Carolina. He has really added to our sound with his drive. He studies with Steve Lewis and Eric Harden.”

This video gives a taste of what the festival at El Concierto En Iguazu was like and features Cane Mill Road in one of their performances.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.