Performers for Music on the Mountain at Northeast Alabama Community College will be music greats Holly Williams, Singer-Songwriter, and Norman Blake, Grammy Award winner for the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. Music on the Mountain is Saturday, August 27, beginning at 6 pm in the state-of-the-art Tom Bevill Lyceum on the college campus.
Holly Williams will headline this year’s concert in her first performance on stage at NACC. She is a Nashville-based, popular and successful singer-songwriter who has built an international following. The Associated Press says of Williams’ music, “her songs seek something true amid the bumps and bliss of daily life,” and American Songwriter says, “…Hank Sr. would be proud.”
Part of the key to Williams’ success as a singer-songwriter is that it’s never been her mission to try and live up to the legacy cast by her famous and prolific father and grandfather – Hank Jr. and Sr., respectively – nor has she spent a lot of time trying to live it down. The respect that Williams has garnered as an artist over the course of many years spent building an international fan base, and the release of two acclaimed albums, 2004’s The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South) and 2009’s Here With Me (Mercury Records), has come on her own terms, based on her own sound.
The Highway finds the 31-year-old artist putting a distinctly personal spin on universal themes like love, loss, conflict, family and desire. The Highway is heavy with references to memories of simpler times and beloved relatives; ruminations on lives destroyed by addiction; our shared need to love and be loved; and an earnest longing for the road.
Williams spent nine months recording The Highway, which she self-financed and released independently. Just because she went independent on this one doesn’t mean she was by herself. Throughout the process, the Nashville-based songwriter was surrounded by a hyper-talented supporting cast, including co-producer Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars), her multi-instrumentalist husband Chris Coleman, bassist Glenn Worff (Mark Knopfler), pedal steel guru Dan Dugmore (James Taylor, Stevie Nicks), and friends like Dierks Bentley, Jakob Dylan, Jackson Browne and Gwyneth Paltrow who all make guest appearances on the record.
In addition to her music, Williams carries a fondness for fashion and haute homemaking, passions she channels into H. Audrey, her Nashville women’s boutique, and her lifestyle blog, The Afternoon Off. Go to www.hollywilliams.com for more information.
Returning to the NACC stage is grammy-award winner Norman Blake. Although he is proficient with a variety of stringed instruments, Blake is famous for his acoustic guitar skills -- he was one of the major bluegrass guitarists of the '70s. Blake came into view in the late '60s, when he began performing as a sideman with artists as diverse as June Carter and Bob Dylan. During the '70s, he began a solo career that quickly became one of the most popular and musically adventurous within bluegrass. He continued recording and performing -- occasionally with his wife, Nancy -- well into the '90s. Blake began playing music professionally when he was 16 years old, joining the Dixieland Drifters as a mandolinist in 1954; the group debuted on Tennessee Barn Dance, a radio show based in Knoxville. After two years, he left the band and became a member of the Lonesome Travelers, which was led by banjoist Bob Johnson. By the end of the '50s, the Lonesome Travelers had added a second banjoist, Walter Forbes, and had made two records for RCA. Although he joined Hylo Brown & the Timberliners in 1959, Blake continued to perform with Johnson. The following year, he also became a member of June Carter's touring band.
In 1961, Blake was drafted into the Army, where he was stationed in Panama. While he was in the service, he was a radio operator on the Panama Canal and he formed a band called the Kobbe Mountaineers. The band became a popular attraction and was voted the best band in the Caribbean Command. In 1962, Blake recorded 12 Shades of Bluegrass with the Lonesome Travelers while he was on leave. He was discharged from the Army the following year and moved to Nashville. Once he was in Nashville, Blake joined Johnny Cash's band. That same year, he married Nancy Short and settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For the next few years he played with Cash, both on recordings and concerts. In 1969, Bob Dylan hired Blake to play on his country-rock album Nashville Skyline, providing the guitarist a whole new audience. That audience expanded even further when he became Cash's main guitarist on the singer's television show. Cash's program featured a wide array of musical guests, who were often impressed with Blake's talents. Kris Kristofferson asked him to join his touring band and Norman did so, playing both guitar and Dobro; he also played on several of Kristofferson's records. Blake also played on several of Joan Baez's records, including her hit version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
Following his folk and country-rock experiments, Blake returned to his bluegrass roots in 1971 when he joined John Hartford's band, Aeroplane, which also featured fiddler Vassar Clements. Aeroplane fell apart quickly, but Blake stayed with Hartford for a year and a half. In 1972, Norman recorded his first solo album, Back Home in Sulphur Springs, which began a long relationship with Rounder Records. This arrangement lasted through Blake's 1990 album Norman Blake and Tony Rice 2, a follow-up to an earlier collaboration with Tony Rice. Most of Blake's output in the '90s was released on the equally venerable Shanachie label, including 1999's Be Ready Boys: Appalachia to Abilene. Far Away, Down on a Georgia Farm arrived that same year, followed by Flower from the Fields of Alabama in 2001. Blake teamed up with Ukrainian fiddler/mandolin player Peter Ostroushko for 2002's Meeting on Southern Soil in February of the following year, with the compilation Old Ties arriving later that spring. Norman and Nancy put out Morning Glory Ramblers in 2004 and Back Home in Sulphur Springs in 2006. Norman released Shacktown Road in early 2007, following it with Sleepy Eyed Joe in 2009. That same year saw the release of the Rising Fawn Gathering a reunion of sorts with the Blake's early-'80s group the Rising Fawn String Ensemble that issued three albums for Rounder in the early '80s with James and Rachel Bryan. The new recording juxtaposed the group with Ireland's Boys of the Lough in a collection that showcased Southern folk music as it evolved from Celtic origins.
In 2011, Blake released Green Light on the Southern, a completely solo collection of traditional folk and country standards. He recorded solo again in late 2014. Wood, Wire & Words was his first collection of all-original material since 1974's Fields of November; it was issued by Plectrafone in January of 2015.
“After Music on the Mountain last year, Dr. David Campbell (NACC President), Ronny Kisor (MOTM Committee Member) and I met to discuss the past event and what we wanted to do for the next year,” said Chasley Bellomy, Event Planner at NACC. “We were so grateful for everyone who came out to hear Norman Blake and Jimmy Fortune and we really wanted 2016’s event to be something the community looks forward to. We were so appreciative Mr. Blake would come back to perform. Before he came on stage last year, we played a clip from the Johnny Cash Show where Mr. Cash says, ‘Kick it off, Norman’. It was so special to be able to listen to his music knowing what an influence he has had in country music for decades.”
Bellomy added, “The first time I heard The Highway by Holly Williams, I listened to the song over and over. I started listening to more of her music and discovered she was Hank Jr.’s daughter, and that made it all the more better! She writes about her family and past experiences, and has a writing technique a lot like her grandfather’s. We’re very excited to have them both on stage at NACC. It will definitely be a once in a lifetime night to have two amazing artists with such country music history join us on campus. We hope everyone can come out and join us for this year’s Music on the Mountain.”
Tickets are on sale now. Go to www.musiconthemountainNACC.com or call Chasley Bellomy, Event Planner at NACC, at 256-638-4418 or 256-228-6001, ext. 2248.