Finger Pickin’ Good – Pure Americana

That is to say it is very popular and bluegrass/Americana bands are seemingly everywhere. But no one wants to be just another in the crowd following the herd, so every bluegrass act describes itself as unique with a diverse musical repertoire. This is all a bit comical as bluegrass is more than a little formulaic as a genre. Can they all be that much one of kind, really? In reality, many of these modern Americana bands do have some sort of hook that sets them a bit apart. Brunswick County will see two such acts in Harpeth Rising and Loren and Mark.

The acoustic guitar and vocal duo Loren and Mark hail from different generations and sides of the globe. New Zealander Mark Mazengarb graduated with a classical guitar degree from the University of North Carolina in 2005 as part of an exchange program, while Loren Barrigar is a seasoned performer just becoming interested in finger-style guitar picking a la Chet Atkins. The two met at a workshop in Australia and eventually began playing together, the first time at a Chet Atkins fan festival in Nashville. Mazengarb made a permanent home in the United States in 2012 and since then the duo has been touring both domestically and overseas.

Loren and Mark play duel acoustic guitars while Loren sings lead vocals and Mark supplies harmony. Their music is as much country-influenced as much as bluegrass, with an impressive guitar style that reminded me very much of parts of the old Hot Rod Lincoln record from the 50s. Loren and Mark’s vocals are well-blended, but the instruments are the stars.

Despite including the traditional banjo, Harpeth Rising is a bit more off the beaten path. The trio of Maria Di Meglio, Michelle Younger and Jordana Greenberg are all Millennials with classical performance degrees. Their combination of violin, cello and banjo harkens back not just to Americana’s bluegrass roots, but to the Medieval European roots of bluegrass. It’s kind of funny, but to me while the guitars of Loren and Mark stood out, even with the incredible talent these women display on their instruments, it was the vocals that leapt out at me. They sing in beautiful three-part harmony that I found absolutely mesmerizing. And according to the band’s website, none of the three have any formal vocal training, they just decided to sing when they formed the band.

Based in Indiana, Harpeth Rising tours the United States playing venues from the traditional stages of folk festivals to hip-hop clubs and airplane hangars, playing original compositions, classical pieces, traditional bluegrass and even covering Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper (hey, it has a banjo!) sometimes. They keep a log of the local eateries they visit along the way on the website Yelp, claiming on their own website to eat “from three to seven meals a day.

Like Hobbits. Folk music Hobbits.” While both acts will be performing at Odell Williamson Auditorium, they will be gracing two different stages. Loren and Mark are being brought in as part of Odell’s Performing Arts Subscription Series and can be enjoyed in the main auditorium at 7:30 pm Thursday, February 23. Tickets are available at the Odell Williamson box office Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 4:30 pm and Friday from 9 am to 2:30 pm, by phone at (910) 755-7416 and online by visiting www. bccowa.com. Prices are $29 for adults, $27 for seniors and $10 for children. Harpeth Rising is sponsored by Listen Up Brunswick County and will be performing at 7:30 pm on Sunday, February 19 in the Virginia Williamson Events Center, a more intimate setting inside the Odell Williamson Auditorium.

Tickets for all Listen Up Brunswick County shows, including Harpeth Rising, are $20 each and are available via the organization’s website at www.listenupbrunswickcounty.com as well as the following local businesses: Fuzzy Peach in both Southport and Leland, the South Brunswick Islands Chamber of Commerce in Shallotte, Beach House Fine Arts in Calabash and Grape and Ale in Oak Island. Listen Up Brunswick County is a non-profit organization dedicated to their motto, Good Music/Good Deeds. Profits from each season of Listen Up Brunswick County shows are donated to a local charity, in the case of the 2016-17 season proceeds will benefit Hope Harbor, a non-profit organization whose goals are to provide shelter and services to victims of domestic violence and to promote nonviolence in our communities. For more information on Listen Up Brunswick County, including donating or purchasing season tickets, contact Jeannie Dufour at listenupbc@gmail.com.

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