ARTISTS INCLUDE GRAMMY WINNER DOM FLEMONS, JAGJAGUWAR RECORDING ARTIST LONNIE HOLLEY, PBS AMERICAN EPIC STAR JERRON “BLIND BOY” PAXTON, AND NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE ALUMNI THE BRANCHETTES
Music Maker Relief Foundation – the nonprofit that helps elderly, southern, traditional musicians and also educates the public on Southern musical culture through albums, books, and museum exhibitions will cap its 25th anniversary with a series of concerts and an art exhibition entitled Music Maker 25. The festival will spotlight the true champions of Southern music that often live in obscurity yet continue to define our collective culture. Music Maker 25 will take place at The Fruit in Durham, NC — December 4th, 2019 to December 8th, 2019 and is presented by Duke Performances, Duke University’s professional performing arts presenting organization.
Click here for a Music Maker 25 Spotify playlist of songs from participating performers.
“Duke Performances is thrilled to partner with Music Maker Relief Foundation for Music Maker 25,” said Eric Oberstein, Interim Director of Duke Performances. “We’re proud to celebrate Music Maker’s critical work over the last quarter century championing and supporting artists of this region and beyond, and we’re excited to transform The Fruit in downtown Durham to present a diverse range of artists from the Music Maker family and to tell the stories of those individuals whose lives Music Maker has impacted.”
The Music Maker Relief Foundation has grown from Timothy Duffy’s efforts in a heavily used hatchback and its first donation, a pallet of nutritional supplement drinks for Guitar Gabriel; to a full non-profit whose mission serves to support musicians via gigs and grants and to document and educate the culture of which these players are such a vital part. This year, a traveling museum exhibition Timothy Duffy: Blue Muse opened at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), the book Blue Muse: Timothy Duffy’s Southern Photographs came out on UNC Press in conjunction with NOMA; and the Blue Muse compilation album came out.
This event is part of the Smithsonian Year of Music.
Highlights of the lineup include:
+ GRAMMY Winner Dom Flemons, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose Smithsonian Folkways album Black Cowboys earned considerable acclaim last year. Flemons works to show the black roots of various music, including string band music and cowboy songs.
+ JagJaguwar recording artist, visual artist, and southern visionary Lonnie Holley, who has toured with Bill Callahan and Deerhunter and been the subject of features in the New Yorker and NY Times. Holley’s musical and visual work is improvised and comments deeply on the American condition.
+ New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival alums and NC Folk Heritage Award winning gospel group The Branchettes. Music Maker helped the group after one of the members Ethel Elliott passed away in 2004 and they have appeared on PBS’ State of Music with David Holt.
+ Brooklyn Folk Festival headliner and star of PBS’ American Epic, Blind Boy Paxton, who has appeared on the covers of the Village Voice and Living Blues Magazine and performed at a Carnegie Hall tribute to Lead Belly. A practicing Jew who grew up in Los Angeles, Paxton learned about the blues from his grandmother and plays banjo, guitar, fiddle, piano, and harmonica.
+ JUNO nominee, NAMMY Winner, and Robbie Robertson collaborator Pura Fé, a member of the Tuscarora Indian Nation. Taj Mahal said, “This beautiful songbird transcends time and brings the message of our Ancestors who have sewn this beautiful seed, that makes powerful music.”
+ Guitar virtuoso Cool John Ferguson, whom Premier Guitar Magazine called “wild as a paisley tiger” and whom Taj Mahal called “among the five greatest guitarists in the world.” He is Music Maker’s secret weapon, appearing on numerous albums by Music Maker Relief Foundation as a reputable artist and as a leader.
The Music Maker Relief Foundation has been the subject of 2019 spotlights in No Depression, Paste, The Bitter Southerner, Popular Photography, Billboard, The A.V. Club, DownBeat, and The Hollywood Reporter.
Full schedule here or below:
PICKERS & STORYTELLERS: DOM FLEMONS, “BLIND BOY” PAXTON, JAKE XERXES FUSSELL & GAIL CAESAR
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4 | 8 PM @ THE FRUIT
Music Maker 25 opens at The Fruit with a celebration of the next generation of Piedmont Blues boundary-pushers and tradition-preservers. Founding Carolina Chocolate Drops member Dom Flemons, GRAMMY winner and “equal parts studious folklorist, multi-instrumentalist, and American griot” (St. Pete Catalyst), pulls from repertoire covering more than a century of American musical tradition. Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “virtually the only music-maker of his generation playing guitar, banjo, piano, and violin to fully assimilate the blues idiom,” Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton reaches back with his faithful renditions of 1920s and 30s songbook repertoire. Two accomplished pickers — Durham-based Jake Xerxes Fussell and Pittsville, Virginia-based Gail Caesar — further demonstrate that the future of the music is in good hands. Each artist will perform a short set and close out the show together in a finale of their favorites.
Southern Voices: Lonnie Holley & Alexa Rose
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5 | 8 PM @ THE FRUIT
Thursday evening at Music Maker 25 features individual sets from two distinct Southern voices — multidisciplinary visual artist and improvisational musician Lonnie Holley and Southwest Virginia mountain native and roots musician Alexa Rose. A journeyman and sculptor who recorded his first ever album of music in his sixties, Holley has lived an unparalleled life, one reflected in the captivating fare of 2012’s Just Before Music and last year’s sprawling MITH. Of that latter full-length, The Quietus hailed it as “a record that, far from being cartoonish or hackneyed, feels tangible and rings true.” Rose, compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Hurray for the Riff Raff, is developing a sound distinctly her own. Drawing inspiration from her Appalachian heritage, her voice “stands out with depth and complexity, capable of gymnastic yodels and deep resonance” (Cary Magazine).
Zydeco: Major Handy with Buckwheat Zydeco, Jr. & Ils Sont Partis
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2019 | 8 PM
For one memorable night, the history and evolution of the Creole Zydeco tradition will be on display. A veteran of Buckwheat Zydeco and Rockin’ Dopsie’s groups, as well as a seasoned bandleader in his own right, accordion virtuoso Major Handy has spent decades honing his craft. Informed by his French Creole heritage and still going strong nearly a decade and a half following Hurricane Katrina, his music captures the potency and eclecticism of the zydeco genre. Buckwheat Zydeco heir Buckwheat Zydeco, Jr. and his band Ils Sont Partis join Handy, each artist trading off lead on an evening-length zydeco dance party heavy with accordion and rub board.
Native American: Pura Fé, Cary Morin, Deer Clan Singers & Lakota John
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7 | 1 PM @THE FRUIT
At this Saturday matinee presentation, an intergenerational mix of performers from the U.S. and Canada demonstrates the extraordinary range of sounds and musical styles being advanced by Native American artists. Over the past 25 years, Pura Fé’s voice has graced records by the Indigo Girls, Robert Mirabal, and The Band’s Robbie Robertson, among others. Her own albums, with a capella trio Ulali as well as solo, place her mesmerizing vocals front and center. Born and raised in Montana, Crow tribal member Cary Morin shifted from the rock-oriented ensemble The Atoll to the acoustic fingerpicking now synonymous with his solo work. Sharing Tuscarora lineage with Pura Fé, the Deer Clan Singers bring indigenous traditions into the present. Pura Fé hosts the proceedings, with opening sets by Morin and Deer Clan Singers. Scarcely into his twenties, Pembroke-based Lumbee and Lakota guitarist Lakota John & Kin perform in the exhibition space at The Fruit prior to the performance.
Blues Revue: Cool John Ferguson, Alabama Slim, Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, Pura Fé & Cary Morin, Music Director: Timothy Duffy
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7 | 8 PM @ THE FRUIT
Music Maker founder Timothy Duffy directs the house band for Saturday evening’s “Music Maker Blues Revue,” the organization’s signature traveling showcase. Left-handed lowcountry electric bluesman Cool John Ferguson started in gospel groups, building a reputation for outstanding live performances characterized by his upside-down guitar technique. He has earned high praise from the legendary Taj Mahal, who likened Ferguson to Jimi Hendrix and Django Reinhardt. Another blues authority, octogenarian Alabama Slim, recorded his debut album, The Mighty Flood, in 2007; that album and its 2010 follow-up Blue and Lonesome proved well worth the wait, each a robust collection of history and heartache. Joining them are longtime New Orleans singer Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, blues polymath Pura Fé, and inimitable guitarist Cary Morin.
Gospel: The Branchettes with special guest Phil Cook | The Glorifying Vines Sisters
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8 | 1 PM @ THE FRUIT
The Sunday proceedings at Music Maker 25 celebrate the gospel tradition. The matinee features The Branchettes, a Johnston County, NC duo composed of vocalist Lena Mae Perry and pianist Wilbur Tharpe, who are devoted to sharing the songs and congregational hymns that live in their hearts. Having previously tapped Perry for his own Southland Revue shows and in other collaborative efforts, gospel’s influence on Phil Cook’s inimitable vocal delivery is unmistakable. Aquarium Drunkard praised his 2018 album People Are My Drug as a vital product of our times, adding that “the Durham-based singer/songwriter clearly views his mission as a celebratory one, recognizing that the work required right now is good work to do.” In recent years, Cook has also worked with Hiss Golden Messenger and Mavis Staples, an indication of his impressive range. Cook joins The Branchettes for a special collaboration.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8 | 7 PM @ THE FRUIT
Music Maker 25 closes out Sunday evening with a gospel set featuring The Glorifying Vines Sisters. The Glorifying Vines represent a divine musical tradition, one that dates back to the singing quartets of the 1930s. Fittingly, The Raleigh News & Observer once praised the gospel singing group for “bringing old-school tent-revival fervor to unexpected places.” Led by Alice Vines, the Eastern North Carolina family band has taken their gripping devotionals wherever the spirit leads them, no matter if the venue is sacred or secular. Alice Vines is joined by vocalists Audrey Vines, Melody Harper, Curtis Harper, Johnny Ray Daniels, and Anthony Daniels, who will trade off on lead and welcome additional family to the stage for guest performances, a triumphant close to this five-day celebration of Music Maker Relief Foundation, a North Carolina and national treasure.