UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Autoharp and Banjo in Traditional Stringband Concert

102010EyeOnArts_BryanBryan Bowers and Riley Baugus will play the Music Building’s Organ Hall, Saturday, Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m.

Call 4-4849 for tickets or purchase online at boxoffice.uncg.edu.

Autoharp master Bryan Bowers and banjoist and singer Riley Baugus will perform a concert featuring solo sets by each musician as well as a collaborative set. Bryan Bowers has been a leading figure in the traditional music scene for more than 30 years. As a child, Bowers would tag along with the field workers and gandy dancers and learned to sing old call-and-answer songs. It wasn’t long before Bowers encountered the autoharp. “I ran into a guy that played several instruments and could get the harp in good tune. He played without any fingerpicks, just with his fingernails. He had a real sprightly style on it. It was the first time I’d heard someone play it in good tune and play it well. It opened my eyes and my ears. I went out and got one the next day.”

Bower’s creativity and talent have won him induction into Frets Magazine’s First Gallery of the Greats after five years of winning the stringed instrument, open category of the magazine’s readers’ poll. In 1993, Bryan was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame to stand only with Maybelle Carter, Kilby Snow, and Sara Carter.

Riley Baugus represents the best of old time American banjo and song. His powerful singing voice and musicianship place him squarely in the next generation of the quality American roots tradition. With friend and neighbor Kirk Sutphin, years ago Riley visited elder traditional musicians throughout North Carolina and Virginia, learning the Round Peak style at the knee of National Heritage Award winner Tommy Jarrell and other traditional musicians of the area. While working as a welder and a blacksmith by day, Riley played with many old time string bands, including the Old Hollow String Band and the Red Hots.

One fateful day, Riley got a call from longtime friend and musician Dirk Powell, who was involved in the music direction for the Academy Award-winning film “Cold Mountain” and had convinced the producers that they needed Civil War era banjos made in the Carolina hills, specifically Riley’s handmade banjos. They also needed an authentic acapella ballad singer for the film and soundtrack. A whirlwind Hollywood experience ensued, culminating in a place on the star studded “Great High Mountain” tour.

His next recording, “Long Steel Rail,” appeared to critical acclaim, with Billboard Magazine heralding it as “…quintessential American old-time music. The instrumental component is impeccable, while Baugus’ vocals sound like they’ve been echoing through the Appalachian Mountains for about 150 years.”

He also played banjo on the Grammy award winning Album Of The Year “Raising Sand” by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.