Sunset Series brings music to the Smokies

Blue Mother Tupelo will open the Sunset Music Series at the Heritage Center on Friday, June 17.

Blue Mother Tupelo will open the Sunset Music Series at the Heritage Center on Friday, June 17.

Bob Patterson, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, will measure the success of the Sunset Music Series by the look on the faces of the guests.

Smiles equal success, said Patterson.

“That’s the idea behind the bands scheduled to perform at each of the eight shows planned for the Sunset Music Series,” said Patterson. “It is a good series. When people walk out, they walk out with smiles.”

Patterson said the series is a mix of tried-and-true performers and new faces.

“What we try to do each year is bring back some of the groups who are the most popular and who people are always wanting to come back. Blue Mother Tupelo, our opening act, is one of those,” he said. “We also have Wild Blue Yonder and Steve Kaufman, who are always well received. Our biggest crowds were those three acts. Kaufman generated well over 500, and Wild Blue Yonder generated 400. Our amphitheater seats 500, so it gets tight, but these are some really neat shows.”

Patterson said the music is a good mix. “We’ll have some blues and jazz and a little bit of country - which is mostly mountain music and Appalachian music with some Bluegrass,” Patterson said. “It’s a mix that is peppy and fun but not loud and annoying.”

Patterson said the center’s agents knows the type of music they want and is very careful.

“Every year we sit down with our agent and talk about the different bands before we make our final choices,” he said. “Some groups we’ve had in the past we may not invite back, just to give them a break for a while, and others sometimes just don’t work out as well and feedback is not as positive.”

The executive director said the first concert is this Friday with Blue Mother Tupelo. “The Sunset Series will run until the 12th of August with eight concerts. We also have an Appalachian celebration which includes music and a program planned with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in August,” he said. “They’ve got story teller Faye Wooden and Morelock and Gladson will do their music. It will be very entertaining.”

Patterson said this is the fifth year the Heritage Center has hosted the Sunset Music Series. Each show starts at 7 p.m. with a $5 admission charge. Food and beverages are available on site. “Our Sunset Music Series sponsored by BankEast. That is the only way we can afford this is with their kind sponsorship,” he said. “To put on the whole event each week cost quite a bit. With their help, we are able to keep admission prices low so everyone can come.”

Friday, June 17: Blue Mother Tupelo

Blue Mother Tupelo, with a sound described as Southern Soul and Bluesy Roots music, started in 1995, a year after Ricky and Micol Davis married. They began performing together at Sassy Ann’s in Knoxville. They released their first album, “My Side of the Road,” in 1997.

The couple moved to Nashville in 1998 and continued to perform and tour. In 2001, they released “Delta Low - Mountain High,” described as an experimental, eclectic blend of songs reflecting their love of Southern Roots, earthy rock, soul and mountain music.

Their album, “Love Live ~ 5 Songs From The Road,” showcases some live favorites recorded between 2001 and 2006, and highlights the duo’s penchant for spontaneous musical sincerity. Blue Mother Tupelo’s latest CD, “Heaven & Earth,” was released in 2009 and made waves across Americana and on “Roots Rock” radio stations. It debuted at No. 2, behind Kris Kristofferson, on the EuroAmericana Charts for November of 2009, in the Top 40 on Americana radio in the USA and continues to be in the Top 40 of Roots Music Report’s “Roots Rock” Chart.

Friday, June 24: Y’uns The Y’uns performs acoustic swing, country, hokum and blues music.

Friday, July 1: Wild Blue Yonder Wild Blue Yonder is composed of Melissa Wade on rhythm guitar, Philip Coward on mandolin and lead acoustic guitar and classically trained violinist and virtuoso fiddlers, Laura Knight and Cindy Wallace on fiddle to perform bluegrass, country and roots music.

Friday, July 8: Drunk Uncles The Drunk Uncles will perform traditional classic country music. The band features Jeff Barbra and Mike McGill on guitar and vocals and Gordy Gilbertson on fiddle and vocals.

Friday, July 22: The Naughty Knots The Naughty Knots play acoustic country and roots music.

Friday, July 29: Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. Pistol Creek features Edward Harper, Bill Cabage, Scott Hinds and Carl Gombert as they perform rockabilly and Western swing.

Friday, Aug. 5: The Kirk Fleta Band will bring the sounds of folk, rock, blues and roots music to the amphitheater stage.

Friday, Aug. 12: Steve Kaufman The Sunset Music Series wraps with three-time national guitar picking champion Steve Kaufman taking the stage.

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