Posts Tagged With: Red Clay Ramblers

More Spotify fun with “Step It Up and Go”

A wonderful aspect of this wired world we live in is that it’s very easy to point people toward music, and let them hear something you’ve written about. To that end, I’ve been slowly but surely getting Spotify playlists together to accompany various parts of “Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk.”

I started out with a single playlist covering the entire book, “Songs from ‘Step It Up & Go'”54 songs clocking in at more than three hours (whew!). It’s a decent overview, but kind of cursory by necessity given how much ground there was to cover.

The next one I did covered Raleigh, assembled at the behest of the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau. “‘Step It Up & Go’ Songs: Raleigh” is a comparatively modest 17 songs, ranging from the Monroe Brothers to Corrosion of Conformity in a bit over an hour.

Now there’s one for greater Chapel Hill, on behalf of the Orange County Arts Commission. “‘Step It Up & Go’ Songs: Orange County” has 19 songs in 75 minutes, with a little of everything — Libba Cotten, Red Clay Ramblers, Superchunk and so on. I hope you’ll check all three playlists out, maybe as background listening while reading the book.

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North Carolina’s family tree rambles on

As 1994 turned into 1995, just around the time Whiskeytown was coming together, I undertook a rather insane project for the News & Observer: to construct a local-music family tree, showing lineup connections between different North Carolina bands through time. I took inspiration from English music journalist Pete Frame’s family trees, which were elegant-looking genealogies of classic bands. So for a couple of months, I carried around a big piece of paper with diagrams, circles and arrows, soliciting input from people at shows.

I got input from around 100 people and slaved over it for months, doing several dozen versions before I finally let the darned thing go. It never really felt “finished,” but I had to stop at some point. What emerged was something closer to a solar system than a family tree. I was fascinated at how it was possible to link up so many notable local acts from a quarter-century, spanning wildly disparate styles — everything from Corrosion of Conformity’s hardcore to Squirrel Nut Zippers’ hot jazz.

Superchunk, Arrogance, the Connells, Ben Folds Five, The Right Profile, Cry of Love, The Veldt and other notables were all in there, too. Dubbed “N.C. music galaxy: The big bang theory,” it was published in March 1995 and captured a key moment in local-music history. Within two years, the Zippers and Folds were both on their way to platinum, and I was positive Whiskeytown was soon to follow (read the danged book for further details).

At the time this was published, the worldwide web was still taking shape, and the newspaper’s big projects were printed on dead trees. So the only way to see the whole thing in a readable state is on whatever paper copies remain; I’ve still got a few and they’re yellowing with age. Someday perhaps I’ll put the whole thing online, although the thought of trying to update it makes my head explode. But here’s a relevant chunk of it, maybe one-sixth of the big picture:

Over on the right edge a bit more than halfway down is Whiskeytown (“Whiskey Town”), then recently arisen from the ashes of Ryan’s former band Patty Duke Syndrome. And look in the upper left corner, where the Red Clay Ramblers reside. Idiosyncratic stringband to the stars, the Ramblers were already a long-standing North Carolina institution in 1995, and they’ve become even more of one since. They’ll mark their 40-year anniversary this month and there’s a feature about it in Sunday’s paper, which you’ll find here.

As for the 1995 local-music galaxy, I wrote an accompanying essay that attempted to explain it. And here is how that concluded:

So what does it mean? As much or as little as you’d like. It certainly doesn’t imply that the Triangle music scene is one big happy family. But I think this shows that it is, at the very least, one family.

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