Mountain Soul Party: The Soul of Collaboration
Author’s Note: This feature appeared previously in edited form in the pages of Mountain Xpress, and is a preview of a show that took place earlier this month. Happy Holidays! — bk
Look deeper than the surface of Asheville’s music scene and you’ll discover a fertile and vibrant community of musicians playing soul music. A uniquely American musical genre that draws from gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues, soul means different things to different people. But most can agree that it connotes music with feeling, music that encourages the listener to move. A varied lineup of some of Asheville’s most prominent soul artists will come together for what’s being billed as the First Annual Mountain Soul Party, Friday, December 11 at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall.
Organizer Gregory Scott describes Mountain Soul Party as “combining soul, funk, and hip hop.” A look at the event’s lineup reinforces that wide-reaching musical approach: The Secret B-Sides, Ryan RnB Barber (of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo), Free Radio, and Lyric are all scheduled to perform. But the party won’t simply be a showcase of one act following another: musical collaboration is a central theme of the evening.
“In Asheville, there are so many musicians who love the opportunity to work together that it naturally works out that way,” observes Scott. He says that as he developed plans for the evening, working closely with Lyric and Secret B-Sides’ Juan Holladay, the idea was “to make it a collaboration, to get more people involved.” Secret B-Sides will open the show; next, Barber will sit in with them, performing several of his original tunes. Scott says that the Mountain Soul Party is planned as “the first of many collaborations between the B-Sides and Barber.”
Lyric is both the stage name of singer-songwriter-guitarist Leeda Jones, and the name of her band. The evening’s music will include a full set from Lyric, augmented by the Brothership Horns (of the Travers Brothership). The Mountain Soul Party will also serve as a CD release party, and the show will preview songs from Lyric’s upcoming EP, Perspective.
Lyric started out in 2009 as one of Asheville’s buskers, “playing to the locals and tourists on the streets of downtown Asheville,” she recalls. Joined by her cousin Derrick Graves (on percussion) and her father on upright bass, Lyric played as often as possible. “We would start at Greenlife in the morning, head downtown in front of the [Malaprop’s Bookstore] bistro at lunch time, and at dinner time we would come back and play in front of the bistro.” While the band grew and soon graduated to stage performances, Lyric still feels a kinship to busking in many ways. “We still have the same feel and love as we did when we were on the streets.” Her songs come from her own experiences: “I like to think of my life and other people’s lives as stories; those stories need to be told.” She adds, “I believe that a positive message with a funky rhythm is what the world wants and needs.”
The Mountain Soul Party at Isis will present Lyric in a venue quite different from the bars and outdoor festivals the band usually plays. Lyric relishes the opportunity, but sees the event as having a more important goal of “keeping the soul scene alive in Asheville.” She believes that “There is a lot of music here, but soul and funk are not talked about much here in the mountains. So this is a great opportunity to bring soul music to the forefront with all the other genres of music that Asheville loves.” And Gregory Scott stresses that it’s only the beginning. Plans are already being laid to make Mountain Soul Party an annual event in WNC.
While the Isis Restaurant & Music Hall is often though of as a seated, dinner theater kind of venue, that’s changing. Consistent with the the approach used for other recent Isis dates, the Mountain Soul Party will feature plenty of room on the dance floor. Coupled with the venue’s well-regarded acoustics, that open space should make for an uptempo evening.
Even with the lineup of local music luminaries on the bill, the night is still really about the music. Gregory Scott promises that the First Annual Mountain Soul Party will focus on “that smooth, grooving sound that makes you feel good. It’s gonna make you move.”