For many bluegrass followers in the US, our first introduction to Garret K. Woodward was when his name showed up as a nominee for the 2016 Bluegrass Print/Media Person of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. But those in and around western North Carolina have been reading his reportage and interviews of the music and people in traditional string music, including bluegrass and old time.
Serving since 2012 as the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Smoky Mountain News, a regional weekly that covers Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, plus the Cherokee Reservation, Garret has become deeply familiar with the arts and culture of these mountain communities, and a voice for the importance of the Appalachian folkways of the people who live there.
A native upstate New Yorker who has worked as a music journalist across the United States from his home state to Idaho – with a brief stop in Ireland – Woodward has now compiled his many interviews with bluegrass and newgrass luminaries into a new book, If You Can’t Play, Get Off the Stage: Bluegrass in Western North Carolina and Beyond. In its own way, the title reveals the openness of the traditional music community; everyone is welcome, as long as you can play. The only thing rejected is lack of ability.
Over the course of the book, Garret presents profiles, quotes, and full interviews with Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters), Balsam Range, Billy Strings, Bobby Osborne, Claire Lynch, Dave Johnston (Yonder Mountain String Band), David Grisman, David Holt, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Eric Gibson, Frank Solivan, Graham Sharp (The Steep Canyon Rangers), Jeff Austin, Jesse McReynolds, John Cowan, Larry Sparks, Marty Stuart, Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass), Peter Rowan, Raymond Fairchild, Rhiannon Giddens, Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Reno, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, and several others.
The book is offered directly from the author for $20, shipping included, on Facebook. It can also be purchased from a number of independent booksellers and galleries in western North Carolina, and from the Smoky Mountain News. We hope to have a better look and a full review in the near future.
Garret will host a reading and discussion of If You Can’t Play, Get Off the Stage on July 12 in Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe. Things start that evening at 7:00 p.m.
Looks like a good way to learn a bit more about some of your favorite acoustic artists on the scene today.