Monday, April 15, 2013

Darin & Brooke Aldridge Music Fest in Kings Mountain, NC - Review

The Joy Theater

Kings Mountain, North Carolina, is a small (pop. circa 10,000) suburban city in the neighborhood of the fast-growing Charlotte metropolitan area. The mountain after which it is named, the site of an important revolutionary war battle, looms over it, providing a scenic background. Like many small cities and towns in the state, Kings Mountain has been damaged by the decline in manufacturing, and the downtown area, with train tracks running down the middle, shows it. Obviously, though, there's redevelopment going on, focused on the revived Joy Theater which was sold out on Saturday night for the first time in thirty years for the Darin & Brooke Aldridge Music Fest which provided a weekend of bold, innovative programming. Featuring three gospel groups from three different musical traditions on Friday along with native son country singer and advocate for foster children Jimmy Wayne on Saturday, the event proved to be an artistic success as well as a financial one.

Darin's Free Bluegrass Jam

Like many bluegrass musicians, Darin Aldridge needs to work at other jobs to keep his high profile national band going. During the week he can often be found teaching acoustic string instruments at the Gaston School of the Arts as well as in his studio in the basement of his mother's home. As a part of his teaching, he holds a weekly bluegrass jam in Gastonia, which is well attended by both his students and other local jammers. Several new participants have been picked up from spillover from the Gastonia Youth Orchestra, the only remaining youth orchestra in the region.

Rick Dancy & Irene Lehmann Confer

Jammers of All Ages

Music Parents

Gospel Night at the Joy

Gospel music plays an important role in the musical, spiritual, and social lives of many people of faith.  Promoter Rick Dancy decided to invite three different gospel groups from three different musical traditions to appear on the stage on the same night. This effort to bring together different forms of musical worship in one place at one time worked on all levels and the people who attended were treated to, perhaps, forms of musical worship they had not heretofore experienced.  

Rick Dancy

Men Standing for Christ

Men Standing for Christ has been in performing in church and the region for half a century. Originating in the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, the group sings fervent gospel music in four part harmony accompanied by a four piece band composed of keyboard, bass, drums, and saxaphone, all tastefully subordinate to the magnificent singing of this too little known group. Men Standing for Christ is a magnificent musical and spiritual aggregation which more people deserve to hear. I can only wish churches and other locales would reach out to them and book them, or that they would record. (Look for a few videos of them on our YouTube Channel later in the week as well as on our FB Page on the next few Sundays).

Will someone please contact me in the comment section, on Facebook, or by email to identify the singer in these photos? 

 The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen are one of the most recognized and awarded quartets in southern gospel music. They're members of two halls of fame and have won numerous awards. Their singing in close four part harmony with intricate vocal choreography supported by pre-recorded music is slick and highly professional as well as spiritually uplifting for those who emjpy southern gospel. The format places the emphasis on vocal pyrotechnics rather than on making real connection with the audience or allowing any hint of spontaneity. Out of respect for the group's request, we made no recordings of their music.

 Ray Dean Reese - Bass

Chris Jenkins - Tenor

Bob Sellers - Lead

Randy Crawford - Baritone

Darin & Brooke Aldridge

 The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band, from nearby Cherryville, NC, has made remarkable progress on the national bluegrass stage in recent years. They have continued to broaden their repertoire, hone their sound, and add personnel who complement Darin's musical imagination. Becky Buller, who recently had a baby, was, sadly, absent this weekend. Nevertheless, the Darin & Brooke Aldridge presented two sets, a gospel set to complete the Friday night show and a set showcasing their soon to be released new CD as well as well-loved music from their earlier work. 

Colin Willis

Matt Love

Dwayne Anderson

Brook Aldridge

Darin Aldridge


Saturday at the Joy Theater again was structured in an innovative way and presented a carefully tailored way to showcase local talent and focus on an evening with Darin & Brooke and headliner Jimmy Wayne, one of only three people listed in the Wikipedia profile of Kings Mountain as worthy of note as Kings Mountain natives.  

Student Recitals

Darins student performed early in the afternoon to a small audience of parents and dedicated other interested people. A band composed of Matt Love's students also performerd.

 The ling below will take those interested to a Google album I've posted. Please help yourself to these pictures and use them freely.

Rocky River Bluegrass

Unspoken Tradition
We've been watching Unspoken Tradition for about five years, ever since Dr, Bobby Jones took us to the Bomb Shelter on our first visit to Shelby. We've watched them grow from an enthusiastic group of pickers at a local jam into a band that's become ready to reach out to a wider audience. They play bluegrass standards, excellent covers of newgrass and contemporary bluegrass, and original material with a combination of respect for the music and driving, strong play. The recent addition of Tim Gardner on fiddle rounds out their sound. We look forward to seeing more of this emerging band in the next few years as they continue to develop.
Zane & Audie McGinnis

Lee Shuford & Ty Gilpin

Matt Warren

Tim Gardner


 Harvest, also known as The Oak Grove String Band, was the big surprise of the weekend for us. Check out Harvest's Facebook page, too. With some encouragement from others and a little work on the part of the band, it should soon become better known. The band features five very able musicians whose repertoire runs from classic bluegrass through a range of jazz, folk, and rock songs that surprise and please. Their hard driving style is complemented by excellent musicianship and well wrought renditions of both familiar and less well known material. Known to alert listeners in Cleveland County, one can only hope they seek to widen their appeal. I sometimes scoff at people who say of local bands, "You should hear (insert name). They play like a touring band." should try to hear Harvest, they may be the real thing.

Brian Evanson & Tommy Brooks

Thomas Fitz

Tim Spence
Darin & Brooke Aldridge


The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band opened the evening session, after a lengthy supper break with an hour long set featuring their new country tinged bluegrass sound plus a generous selection of the great music from their earlier recordings and a few unrecorded songs. Brooke's acclaimed vocal treatments and Darin's great harmony vocals and instrumental virtuosity were at their best for this evening. Dwayne Anderson continues to shine with his bass work as well as doing additional duty singing backup. Matt Love's work on banjo and guitar have shown significant growth. Colin Willis is very sturdy on the Dobro, always there with the right fill and backup as well as fine solo work. We're really eager to see and hear this band with the addition of Becky Buller, who should be returning soon.

 Colin Willis

Matt Love

Dwayne Anderson & Darin Aldridge

Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy Wayne, a native of Kings Mountain, has an inspiring story to tell of overcoming the effects of an alcoholic mother and absent father, periods of homelessness, life in foster families, and eventually finding a family that took him in, socialized him and encouraged him to go to college. His life course took him to the local community college and work as a corrections officer. His singing and song writing took him to Nashville, where he has opened for country greats Dirks Bentley and Brad Paisley and had three songs top the charts. Recently he has devoted much of his energy to advocating for children who age out of foster care and have no means of obtaining further emotional or financial support. . At this performance, Jimmy also presented Jody Lee Hager, who, twenty years ago, while as a convict was talking to student groups about his experiences and singing songs about living a different kind of life, had inspired Jimmy Wayne to pick up a guitar and start singing and writing. For the people from Kings Mountain, who knew the two men and were familiar with the story, the nearly two hour performance wasn't too long.

 Jimmy Wayne

Jody Lee Hager

Jimmy Wayne

The Joy Theater - Sold Out

The weekend was successful on many levels. It demonstrated the ability of varying kinds of music and presentation to appeal to audiences and attract people to attend. The Joy Theater lived up to its name and should become more of a draw for the region. 

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