Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mountain Aid at Shakori Hills

Last Saturday, my mom and I met Kathy Mattea at the Mountain Aid benefit concert on Shakori Hills farm in Silk Hope, North Carolina. We went to the show because it was a good cause, and also because my friend, David McCracken was playing with my favorite band Donna the Buffalo at the end of the evening. Mom hadn't met David and his other half, Kimmy, and we wanted to remedy that. What better time than at a benefit concert to stop injustice. Anyway, before last weekend, had you asked if I was a fan of Kathy Mattea, I would have said, "Sure, I liked that song about the Grandparents. What was that again?"

Ask me now, I'll tell you that woman is amazing. What a voice. Her deep, alto sound is one you can't mistake, plus she really puts her heart and soul into it and transfers that onto the crowd. Several grown men stood around the field and cried during a few of the sad songs. But, she also pulled me out of my chair several times, because my feet just wouldn't stay still. Her Americana music is a little bit country, a little bit folk, bluegrass, and let's not forget a touch of the Irish, thanks to her fiddle/mandolin player and her own talent on the piccolo and penny whistles. I had no idea.

What a personality. Kathy is down to earth, very caring, an open and giving person. One might think this is just how she makes herself appear onstage, but behind the scenes she was equally open. She spoke to fans who approached her by name, remembered them and their situations, particularly those she was donating her time to help, and she took the time to chat with them, giving of herself with each conversation. When we approached Kathy, she was perfectly willing to share her own situation about her mother's Alzheimer when mom explained how "Where Have You Been" made her cry. My Gramma suffers from severe dementia and often does not remember us, either.

But, what impressed me most about Kathy was her willingness to donate so much of her time and talent to Mountain Aid, a cause that is not yet well known. It's an attempt to educate people on the effects of mountain top removal and its consequences and raise money to help those struggling to survive life in these mountains. Kathy is from West Virginia, and she very much wants to help people all over her home state and the surrounding states to cope with the destruction created by the coal mining industry, where homes are destroyed, their foundations cracked and crumbled by the blasts, where water is turned black from contamination, and so much more. These mining companies even have the nerve to dump toxic waste directly behind an elementary school. The money from Saturday's concert went towards helping the children of that school. More on this shortly at Got2BeGreen. In the meantime, you should visit here.

On a happier note, the big surprise of the day was Ben Sollee. He walked out on stage, just him and his cello, and I thought, "Oh, boy. Time to sleep." Classical music always does this to me. Not that I don't enjoy it, mind you. But, classical was not what Ben played. Well, he broke out some of it, combined it with his own style, a funky rhythmic sound, sort of like electric guitar. Sounds you had no idea a cello could make. His performance reminded me very much of the first time I saw Xaviar Rudd at Floyd Fest. He, too, walked out on stage alone with his funky didgeridoos, at the time I had no idea what they even were, and literally blew us away with his talent. By the end of the festival, everyone was lined up buying everything he was selling. The same can be said of Ben Sollee. People were even buying his vinyl albums. Yes, I typed that right. The guy likes vinyl. However, if you don't have an old school player, not to worry. He also has a CD for sale on his website. I highly recommend it. As my friend Cheryl kept saying, his music will give you goose bumps. Jessica thinks he's the next Bob Dylan. I don't know if I'd take it that far, since there can be no one equal to Bob in my book, but you get what I'm trying to say.

Last, but so not least, the night ended with my all time favorite band, Donna the Buffalo. Every good concert should close with their funky beat. How great is a band that can make people as varied as the two-year-old toddlers I saw dancing in the field all the way up to people my Mom's age dance together until their feet ache with big sloppy grins on their faces. As usual, the funky mix of zydeco, folk, country, and rock got the people moving. If you have not "herd" them, you really should give them a listen. But, to get the full impact, you must see them live somewhere, preferably at a Grassroots Festival near you.

The evening was topped by Kathy Mattea's return to the stage for an encore with Donna the Buffalo. Apparently, Tara Nevins approached her bus and convinced her to come out in her pjs and sing one more song. Kathy, who had just turned fifty at the stroke of midnight, and let me tell you doesn't look a day over forty, was happy to sing one more impromptu number with the band, even joking about being willing to come onstage without her bra. They sounded amazing together, Tara's distinct higher voice was lovely harmonizing above Kathy's gravelly alto. All in all, it was a night for the scrap books. Thanks to all who came out and played, donated their time and talent to such a great cause, and entertained us for the weekend. Thanks to Shakori Hills for hosting the event. And as usual, thanks to Donna the Buffalo for bringing their music and their wonderful herd of friends into my life.

All photos, blurry as they may be, were provided by Amanda C. Sandos

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