Interview and Meet & Greet at Lowe Vintage Instrument Company
Burlington, NC is a once thriving town made comfortable and important by its location along a railroad line where it became the center for locomotive repair and then the growth and wealth brought by the textile industry brought to the Carolinas by low wages and the proximity of cotton. Once known as Company Shops, the city changed its name to Burlington when the railroad left. Since its height, the railroads have mostly died, and both textiles and cotton have largely left North Carolina for lower labor costs and less expensive land on which to grow cotton. Burlington remains a regional center for industry and commerce and seems to be in the midst of an urban revival centered on downtown Main Street, where Lowe Vintage Instrument (327 S. Main Street, Burlington, NC) has built a lovely shop to buy, sell, and repair fine instruments amidst other shops, restaurants, a restored theater, government services, offices, banking, and other commerce. (Thanks to Bob Webster for the brief tour and orientation.)
Vintage Instruments, presided over by Ed Lowe and his son Will, along with Will's younger brother, provides an environment where customers can feel free to sit and play dozens of fine instruments as they seek just the right one to meet high standards of sound and performance. Each instrument has been burnished and set up to high standards by luthier David Sheppard, whose work is superb. David knows his stuff from both the shop and the stage, where he is lead singer and guitarist with his wife Ivy for the rising band The South Carolina Broadcasters . On Saturday, the newly opened shop, replacing the basement where Will and his father Ed have done business since 2004, hosted an in-store interview of the Gibson Brothers by Cindy Baucom (one of bluegrass' foremost broadcasters and IBMA Broadcaster of the Year in 2005) of Knee Deep in Bluegrass followed by a meet and greet.
The Gibson Brothers dropped by Lowe Vintage Instrument for the interview on their way to a concert in Taylorsville, NC before heading to the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN for a Sunday appearance. Winners of the 2012 and 2013 IBMA Entertainer of the Year Award as well as many others over the past decade, each one of their last seven CD's has reached the Number One spot on the bluegrass charts. Their new CD from Rounder Records, featuring performance of brother duos from the mid and late twentieth century will be released in February. This will be their first recording not featuring any songs composed by the Gibson Brothers, but including music from other great brother duos, a club the Gibsons clearly belong to.
The show was opened by a solid local band called Idle Time Band. North Carolina is filled with music, and bluegrass represents a major component. Competition for bookings for many of these part-time bands is fierce and competitive, the opportunity to perform much less available than the number of bands ready and willing to fill the space. For instance, their were nearly thirty North Carolina bands scheduled into the showcase venues at the recent Wide Open Bluegrass component of IBMA's World of Bluegrass in Raleigh during and immediately after the Awards ceremony. The Idle Time Band, like many of these bands, is filled with musicians whose love of the music brings them together to play, but for whom the rigors and risks of the road don't call strongly enough to wrench them from jobs and family. The Idle Time Band is a worthy member of this large and able cohort.