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By Ron Stutts

The Gift of Music

By Ron Stutts Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:56 am

At my house, everybody knows the best gift for me is always music-related. So when my birthday rolled around, it was only natural that it was time to do some serious listening. And with Father’s Day not far behind, I knew I was in for a couple of great weeks. Here are some of the highlights.

The celebration started early with a trip to the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The tickets were cheap and I love the band. I’ve been fascinated with Grace Potter for maybe a year. She’s a great singer/songwriter, plays guitar and keyboard, and she’s almost a throwback. To whom, I’m not sure, but she’s really a musical phenomenon. So Bev and I went to the show that night, and never having been to the Lincoln Theater, didn’t realize it would be standing room only. It actually wasn’t too bad because at least we got there early enough to have a wall to lean against. My wife wasn’t crazy about it—mostly because it was so incredibly loud—but I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It WAS very loud, but that’s the way I like it, so it was okay. If you’re not familiar with the band, take a look at this live performance from a similar concert by Grace Potter.

Months ago, Bev had purchased tickets for us to see B.B. King at Durham Performing Arts Center. I couldn’t wait. The show was a week later, and I knew the experience (from a standpoint of comfort) would be different. Any show at DPAC is good, and the facility is terrific. Not a bad seat in the house, (and we had good ones) and with B.B. King on stage, I knew it would be special. It was wonderful just being in the guy’s presence. I respect this man so much, but B.B.’s getting up there in age now, and his skills have declined considerably. The show consisted of more talking and story-telling than music, really, and for me it was like sitting in your grandfather’s living room, while he reminisced. I kept waiting for him to break into some major guitar work with Lucille, if only for a few minutes, but almost before you could say, “The Thrill Is Gone,” he was thanking us for being a great audience. I was really glad I got a chance to see him in person, but wish it could have come earlier in his career. The man is truly a living legend. Here’s an earlier live performance of B.B. King’s most famous song.

Ironically, the next night we were back at DPAC for Stephanie Miller’s Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour, and it was a lot of fun being able to spend some time backstage, and then to introduce the show. The night wasn’t about music, but we did some serious laughing. It was thought-provoking and humorous. The whole DPAC experience, as always, was enjoyable.

My actual birthday was the following day, and it happened to fall on a Friday. That meant “Fridays on the Front Porch,” at the Carolina Inn for a few drinks and some music at the end of the day. Our daughter, Cam, works there part time, and is often assigned to this event, so we try and go when we can. This particular night, the music was provided by Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos. Mel and his band are great, with a combination of Zydeco, Cajun, blues, and rock.

We enjoyed the crowd and listened to Mel’s band for a couple of hours, and then, ironically, headed over to Mel’s restaurant, Papa Mojo’s out on Highway 55, to catch a late dinner and see the Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band. You might not have heard these guys—yet—but if you’re a fan of blues and rock and roll, you’ll love ‘em. Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse is not very big, but it’s a perfect setting if you enjoy listening to music as much as I do. The dinner was great, the beer was cold, and since we were sitting at a table just a few feet from some of the best musicians I know, it was a great night. What a show! And what a birthday present…just being able to listen to these guys play. You may have heard that Harvey Arnold is originally from North Carolina, played with The Outlaws, for years….and less than a couple of years ago, he had moved back to this state, bought a house in the country, and just happened to walk into a guitar store in Burlington, looking for some strings. That’s where he met Kim Shoemaker, they jammed in the back, and the rest is history. I first became acquainted with these guys a few months after that, when I had the opportunity to introduce them at Carrboro’s Fourth of July celebration. They blew me away that day, and they’re even better now than then. The musicianship and chemistry are amazing.

Harvey’s band did all their usual blues numbers, some by a variety of blues greats, and some originals, but since I saw them last, they’ve added material. Clapton, Cream, Hendrix, etc., and what really blew me away was their rendition of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy.)” I’ve never heard anybody do that song besides the Beatles. They have gotten so good, it’s scary. Harvey and Kim trade licks and have so much fun doing it. You can see the sheer joy of playing when this band performs! As Jerry Lee Lewis used to say, “All killer, no filler!” I didn’t want the night to end.

This video really doesn’t do this band justice. They put on a great show, they already have a couple of CD’s out, and I love hearing them play. If you appreciate musical talent, you’ve gotta check ‘em out! Go to www.harveydaltonarnold.com.

For a couple of weeks there it was about as good as it gets for me. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with my family, and listen to some great music. I highly recommend it!

By the way, who do you enjoy in concert? Tell me some of your favorite performers. If I tried to list them all, my list would surely be a mile long, but I’m curious to know the bands that YOU enjoy! Maybe I can put some of YOUR favorite music in my head.

See you on the radio.

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