Artists Include Jimi Hendrix Collaborator Hermon Hitson, Documentary Film Subjects The Branchettes, Grammy Nominee Joe Troop, & Music Maker Blues Revue

The Town of Carrboro, North Carolina will present the Music Maker Foundation’s Freight Train Blues series of live concerts every Friday evening between May 13 and June 10 at the Carrboro Town Commons. The series is a collaboration between Town of Carrboro Recreation, Parks, & Culture Resources; the Music Maker Foundation; and WUNC 91.5FM. The concert series was held virtually the past two years in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures.

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An annual event, the concert series highlights GRAMMY-winning folk and blues artist and North Carolina Music Hall of Famer Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, born in Carrboro, North Carolina in 1893. Cotten’s soulful voice and unique guitar style have rendered her a legend in the world of blues, leading her to receive National Heritage Fellowship in 1984 and a GRAMMY award in 1985. She lived to be 104 years old and died in 1987. Her songs, like the iconic “Freight Train,” have been reimagined by artists like The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

Music Maker Foundation honors Cotten’s legacy in the world of roots music by emphasizing the cultural diversity, complexity, and vitality of her music and the music of many other artists local to her community and all over the country.

Concert Lineup:

May 13 – Hermon Hitson, Harvey Dalton Arnold

Hermon Hitson boasts an impressive 50-year career, blending psychedelic rock, blues, R&B, and soul influences into an eclectic music style. The artist has worked closely with a number of notable artists, including Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Joe Tex, Bobby Womack and Wilson Pickett.

North Carolina’s Harvey Dalton Arnold has demonstrated his love for playing the bass since he was a teen, earning him a spot in the renowned southern rock group, The Outlaws, which played arenas in the 1970s and early 1980s. He has since branched off into solo work, releasing a soulful blues album and a southern rock/outlaw country album. Arnold collaborated with Music Maker Foundation on Stories to Live Up To, showcasing a set of stories and songs that embody his creativity and influences.

May 20 – Sacred Soul of North Carolina Revue; Weaver Gospel Singers Tribute

Surviving members of the Weaver Gospel Singers — in song and with an oral history – will pay tribute to group leader Susie Weaver, who passed away in 1984. Susie Weaver’s original song “Freedom in Chapel Hill” was recorded live at First Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by JCP Records during the Civil Rights era. In addition to singing, Mrs. Weaver owned a funeral parlor and was active in the Civil Rights movement. The music will be accompanied by praise dancer Joshua Weaver, Susie’s nephew. Rev. Sister Susie Weaver also co-owned and operated the Chapel Hill Funeral Home with her husband, Mr. Bynum Weaver. This set is presented in partnership with the Marion Cheek Jackson Center.

The Sacred Soul of North Carolina Revue features Bishop Albert Harrison & the Gospel Tones, Big James Barrett & the Golden Jubilees, The Johnsonaires and The Glorifying Vines Sisters. These artists appeared on the “joyous” (MOJO Magazine) fall 2021 compilation album Sacred Soul of North Carolina (Bible & Tire / Music Maker), which earned praise from NPR Music and DownBeat Magazine.

Bishop Albert Harrison, leader of the Gospel Tones, has been traveling and singing gospel music solo since the 1980s. Harrison hails from the experimental planned black community of Soul City in Warren County, while the Gospel Tones make Ahoskie, N.C., their home base.

The Johnsonaires recently marked two decades of performing in their hometown of Greenville, N.C., and on the road. The group is made up of all brothers whose musical education came from their father, their uncle, and their dedicated church attendance. Tony Johnson remembers one life-changing Christmas morning when his father surprised the brothers with real instruments — guitar, drums, microphones. When their uncle’s group disbanded, the Johnson brothers created their own group to “carry on the mantle” and continue the family’s musical legacy.

The Glorifying Vines Sisters are a thriving musical institution. Based in Eastern North Carolina, they’ve been tearing up the road for decades and tearing up every church they visit. But they don’t confine themselves to churches; they’re comfortable playing secular venues, too. Their music is steeped in the traditions of quartet gospel and they have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the genre, including the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Swanee Quintet. With over four decades of experience, the Vines Sisters continue to travel, record, and perform. And they’ve instilled gospel music into their children and grandchildren, who keep the tradition alive and thriving.

May 27 – Hard Drive, The Branchettes

Tatiana Hargreaves, Aaron Tacke, Sonya Badigian, and Nokosee Fields come together to form a modern, yet traditional bluegrass group known as Hard Drive. The group infuses old-time bluegrass music with a whimsical spin. Known for their unique modern touches, others in their field have accredited Hard Drive’s ability to “subvert expectations of what bluegrass is supposed to be.”

Lena Mae Perry will perform with accompanist Angela Kent as The Branchettes, which originally came together in Benson, NC. Their musical style draws from African American traditional music and hymnal singing. Since their founding, the Branchettes have accumulated a number of accolades, including the North Carolina Heritage Award in 1995. They are the subjects of the new documentary film Stay Prayed Up and have performed and recorded with Phil Cook (of Hiss Golden Messenger).

June 3 – La Banda de los Guanajuatenses, Joe Troop w/ Larry Bellorín

Since its founding in 1999 in Guanajuato, Mexico, La Banda de Los Guanajuatenses has been heard on radios all over the state of North Carolina. The thirteen members of the group prove to be fan-favorites among many Mexican immigrants residing in the state.

Joe Troop is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter hailing originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The founder of GRAMMY-nominated stringband Che Apalache, Troop’s music is deeply embedded with and inspired by his activism. The radical folk singer’s first proper solo album Borrowed Time. The record features music luminaries like Béla Fleck (who produced Che Apalache’s GRAMMY-nominated album), Abigail Washburn, Tim O’Brien, and Charlie Hunter, but the visceral songwriting is influenced both by Troop’s time spent living abroad as well as his upbringing as an openly gay bluegrass musician in rural North Carolina.

The last place you’d expect to hear one of the world’s finest Llanera harpists is in a dimly lit warehouse in Durham, NC. Larry Bellorín grew up in Punta de Mata in the state of Monagas, Venezuela. By age 6, he built a faithful clientele as a shoe shiner by singing as he polished. As an adolescent, he was supporting himself through music alone and was well-versed in the folk music of his region (valse, pasaje, joropo, música oriental) as a multi-instrumentalist. internationally acclaimed harpist Urbino Ruiz, affectionately known as the King of the Strong Harp, later mentored Bellorín on the instrument, on which he has become a master.

With the collapse of Venezuela, he arrived in the United States with only thirty dollars and slept on the floor of an unfurnished room while doing construction day labor. Larry and his family of now four are still waiting for their asylum case to be reviewed. Last year, he met and began to collaborate with North Carolina Bluegrass evangelist and human rights activist Joe Troop, who has long drawn connections between Appalachian roots music and folkloric traditions from Central and South America.

Larry is excited at the opportunity to begin working with the Music Maker Foundation. He has dedicated his life to mastering the musical traditions of Venezuela, sharing it with audiences and teaching eager students.

June 10 – Music Maker Blues Revue featuring Gail Ceasar, Tad Walters & Lil’ Jimmy Reed

The roots of Gail Ceasar’s music run deep into the Virginia soil. Music Maker met an elderly blues guitarist from Pittsylvania County, VA named Pete Witcher. Returning several times to record Pete, he made a point of taking Music Maker staff to see his niece Gail Ceasar. She plays with incredible precision.

Since his youth, Tad Walters has played the guitar and harmonica, using his skills to join the band of Bob Mangolin (Muddy Waters) in 1996. After years of making music with another group, the Big Bill Morganfield Band (led by Muddy’s son). He has played with luminaries like GRAMMY-winning pianist Pinetop Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf lead guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Blues Hall of Famer Billy Boy Arnold.

Lil’ Jimmy Reed comes from an era of Louisiana bluesmen who tell stories of poverty, segregation, and hard work. Though most of the artists of his era have passed on, Jimmy still makes Louisiana Blues music to this day. Though not related to his famous namesake, he was once booked by a promoter as Lil’ Jimmy Reed and kept the moniker, as he is a master of the elder Reed’s style and repertoire on guitar and harmonica.

About WUNC

North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC creates, acquires, and distributes programming that enhances and reflects the diverse communities it serves. Through a blend of newscasts, feature radio, and digital reports, WUNC provides balanced information in a manner designed to help listeners make informed decisions as citizens. WUNC also produces culturally rich music programming that celebrates the diverse musical community in North Carolina. As an NPR affiliate, the station provides a 24 hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week news and public affairs service to listeners each week throughout the state of North Carolina. WUNC serves a wide geographic area with broadcasts that reach into more than half of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

The broadcast license of North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC is held by the Board of WUNC Public Radio, LLC. More than 90 percent of WUNC’s annual budget comes from the support of individual donors, businesses, and foundations.

For more information about the station, please visit

About Carrboro

Carrboro is located just west of Chapel Hill in the Central Piedmont region of North Carolina. Home to a thriving local arts scene, Carrboro was recently named one of the country’s Top 5 Small Arts Towns by 24/7 Tempo. In addition to the Freight Train Blues Concert Series, the town also sponsors a variety of other signature events including the Carrboro Music Festival, Carrboro Film Fest, and the West End Poetry Festival.

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