‘Roots of S.C. Upcountry Folk Music’ concert next weekend

CENTRAL — In the migration that peopled the soaring Carolina border country, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, two lumbering oxen pulled the wagons of the well-to-do (others were glad to have one ox, and some had only their feet).
If there was a horse the man rode it, the oldest boy drove the oxen and the woman and the other kids walked beside the milk cow that was tied on behind with the tagalong hound.
Perched among the cargo — the washtub, skillet, axes, quilts and baby-cradle was likely to be Granny, the fiddle or the zither rode in style. Civilization was arriving.
Music was much a part of the society that would grow among the hills. These pioneers worked desperately hard to clear land and build shelter, but they craved communion with their neighbors, too. And a lot of that came through playing the old tunes together, learning new ones, and dancing that just wouldn’t quit.
Some things never change. As part of the Smithsonian Institution’s New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music traveling exhibition, a stellar assortment of local and acclaimed performers will appear in a concert called “Roots of S.C. Upcountry Folk Music,” at 7 p.m. on March 17, at the Newton Hobson Chapel and Fine Arts Center, at Southern Wesleyan University, in Central. Dr. Thomas L. Johnson of the Birchwood Center will be the emcee for this musical evening.
Performers include the “The Battle Axe Appalachian All Girl String Band,” a boisterous and bombastic experience in rhythm and energy from the Dark Corner — the historic moonshine capital of western South Carolina; a demonstration sampler of regional fiddling by Nick Hallman, master folk musician and SC Folk Heritage Award winner; “The Drovers Old-Time Medicine Show” — vigorous bluegrass, traditional and gospel and a whopping dose of hillbilly humor; “Piedmont Blues and Harp,” with S.C. Heritage winners Steve McGaha, guitar, and Freddy Vanderford, harmonica; “Primitive Blues,” with Hunter Holmes, “rawbone” guitar stylist who also plays “the Quills,” a historic instrument from Civil War times, and “Roots Blues,” with multiple-instrumentalist Andy Cohen and Jeron “Blind Boy” Paxton and his ragtime guitar.
The program is sponsored in part by the SC Humanities Council. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” traveling exhibition. The visual/interactive component of “New Harmonies” will be on display in Central from now through April 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday at Southern Wesleyan in Central, with live performances scheduled during the period at venues throughout Pickens County.
The Smithsonian Exhibit and the associated local events are made free to the public by the funding sponsorships of The Smithsonian Institution, the SC Humanities Council, Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, Blue Ridge Securities Services and the Pickens County Accommodations Tax, People’s National Bank and SC Bank & Trust. Support has also come from Pickens Saving and Loan and the Pickens County Library System
The host for “New Harmonies” is a partnership of Birchwood Center for Arts and Folklife, Southern Wesleyan University and the Pickens County Museum of Art & History.
For a complete calendar of local events associated with “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music,” go to