Roots Music

Image of blues musician Scott Ainslie
Scott Ainslie

When Scott Ainslie was just three years old, his mother found him sitting at the piano playing melodies from records she played around the house. His proclivity toward music seemed innate, and his musical career evolved from there. He went on to learn every instrument he could get his hands on from flute to guitar, fiddle, and banjo. But he has also devoted his career to learning the deep history of American music and translating those stories to a public audience.

The Steel Wheels are an Americana roots band from Virginia featuring (L-R) Brian Dickel on bass, Trent Wagler on guitar and banjo, Eric Brubaker on fiddle and Jay Lapp on mandolin.
RubySky Photography

The Steel Wheels are an Americana roots band from Virginia taking influences from old-time and traditional string band music. Though they might look and sound like a bluegrass band to the average listener, The Steel Wheels do not consider themselves to be a bluegrass group.  Nonetheless they are bringing their music to the International Bluegrass Music Association’s festival in Raleigh for the second time.

An image of musician Phil Cook
Middle West Management

 

Wisconsin native Phil Cook headed south for a new home in North Carolina 10 years ago.  Since then, he has been in a band with Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, formed Megafaun with his brother Brad Cook and drummer Joe Westerlund, and has played on or produced records by everybody from Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls to Hiss Golden Messenger.

Along the way, Phil got married, had a son and settled himself deep in North Carolina's red clay.  Now he's releasing his first solo record called Southland Mission.  Fans of Megafaun will find Cook’s new music to be groovier with a more rootsy vibe than some of that band's work, but there are hints of the past in some of the vocal harmonies and instrumentation. On the whole, the album reflects a passion for southern music that’s been growing in Cook for decades.

"I had the title of the record before I had the songs written. I liked the idea that a title for a record is a theme for your life, a theme for your music, and seems to be the title of the chapter for wherever you’re at," Cook said. "To me, Southland Mission seemed like a great way to sum up being in the South for 10 years now, and longed to be in the South 10 years before that. I had built up quite a mission in my mind about, 'What was I coming down here for?' Well, it was the music."

Image of Darren Hanlon, who will open the Back Porch Music on the Lawn concert June 11.
Darren Hanlon

Darren Hanlon grew up in a small town in Queensland, Australia with American legends like Kenny Rogers playing on the turntable.

His early musical education, a month in the Australian desert, and an Amtrak trip through the American South informed the kind of artist he is today; a roots music singer-songwriter with a passion for lyrical and narrative tracks. 

Nick Vandenberg
Nick-Vandenberg.com

This was originally aired on  10/17/2014

Nick Vandenberg is a man of many talents. 

In the early 2000’s Nick ventured from his home in the Mid-Ohio Valley out to L.A. in hopes of writing scores for films, and guess what? It happened. He worked wrote music for indie flicks that have made their way to the Sundance Movie Festival and has even had his music featured on Nickelodeon. But, now the multi-instrumentalist is based in Chapel Hill and he’s working on his second album of folk/roots music. 

Justin Johnson playing cigar box guitar
Justin Johnson Music

  

North Carolina Musician Justin Johnson has always been drawn to stringed instruments. Starting with the beat up, one-string Stella guitar his mother handed down to him, Justin has played music with any band that would take him.

So when he was handed a homemade cigar box guitar at a show a few years ago, he was instantly drawn to the sound and feel of the unique instrument. Ever since, he's been making and collecting homemade instruments to play on the road.