As a beginning musician, Jack Hinshelwood was thrilled by the sounds of legendary bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson.
“Doc’s playing was a thing to marvel at, to aspire to,” Hinshelwood says. “And yet it was also straightforward and relatable to anyone that wanted bad enough to learn it.”
Hinshelwood, who has gone on to a distinguished career as a guitarist, fiddler and singer, will be among four musicians playing at Blue Ridge Jamboree: Doc at 100 at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Diana Wortham Theatre. The benefit concert will be presented by the nonprofit Friends of the Blue Ridge.
The jamboree will include guitarists T. Michael Coleman and Jack Lawrence, who performed, recorded and toured with Watson longer than any other musicians. They will be joined by fellow guitarists Wayne Henderson and Hinshelwood, who were influenced by Watson’s music.
Ted Olson, professor of Appalachian studies at East Tennessee State University, will lead a preconcert talk about Watson’s legacy. Olson is the author of Doc’s World: Traditional Plus, the book that accompanies a 2022 compilation of Watson recordings.
Friends of the Blue Ridge, which focuses its efforts on North Carolina and Virginia, held a jamboree in Watson’s honor in Roanoke, Va., in November. The organization’s leaders thought it was important to present the program in both states, says Michael Hemphill, marketing manager.
Watson was born in 1923 in Deep Gap, an unincorporated community in Watauga County, and rose to prominence during the folk music revival of the early 1960s. His fingerstyle and flatpicking skills proved enormously influential in the realms of country and folk music. He died in 2012.
“Doc was a product of the mountain culture of the Blue Ridge and the larger Appalachian region,” Hinshelwood says. “His personality and immense talents made him one of the region’s greatest ambassadors, someone that the area’s residents were proud to claim as one of their own.”
The Diana Wortham Theatre is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to buy tickets, go to avl.mx/ci0.
RAIL Memorial Project Symposium
First launched in 2020, RAIL, the Railroad and Incarcerated Laborer Memorial Project, is preparing for its next community event: a free symposium at UNC Asheville, which runs Thursday, March 30, through Saturday, April 1.
During the three-day conference, members from the project will discuss its brief but prolific history. Founded by UNC Asheville history professor Dan Pierce, Marion Mayor Steve Little and a dedicated group of Western North Carolina history enthusiasts, the group marshaled community support to erect a monument at Andrews Geyser in Old Fort to honor some 3,000 inmates who built the mountain division of the Western North Carolina Railroad in the late 1870s.
Most of the workers were African Americans serving lengthy sentences for petty crimes such as theft and vagrancy. Many died from hazardous working conditions and were buried in unmarked graves. (For more, see “Local Historians Honor Forgotten Railroad Workers,” Sept. 27, 2020, Xpress.
Along with featured RAIL board members, faculty from Western Carolina University, N.C. State and Warren Wilson College, as well as representatives of other local memorial groups, including the Buncombe County Remembrance Project and the African American Experiences in the Smokies Project will participate in the gathering.
The symposium kicks off with an address by Darin Waters, deputy secretary of the N.C. Office of Archives and History, at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in the Mannheimer Room, Reuter Center, UNC Asheville. It continues from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, March 31, in the Mountain View Room, Kimmel Arena. On Saturday, April 1, participants may meet for guided visits along RAIL Project sites in Old Fort.
Pierce sees the symposium as the conclusion of the RAIL Project but notes work continues. Anne Chesky Smith, director of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, is creating panels to be placed at the top of Swannanoa Gap to tell a fuller story of the railroad’s construction. A boulder memorializing workers who died will be placed opposite Ridgecrest Conference Center, where ground-penetrating radar and human-remains-detection dogs have located evidence of a mass gravesite.
The symposium is free with registration. For more information, visit avl.mx/cic.
Eblen Charities will host its annual Prom Dress Express 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at 52 Westgate Parkway in the Westgate Regional Shopping Center. The event also will be held Wednesday, March 29, noon-4:30 p.m.
The nonprofit will give out free new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 0-24. Shoes and other accessories also are available. Last year, Eblen gave out 100 free dresses to people attending a prom or military ball and even outfitted two weddings.
Those attending this year will be entered into drawings for giveaways like makeovers, manicures and dinners.
For more information, visit avl.mx/ci2.
Clothes for a cause
AVL Clothing Swap will host a fundraiser 1-4 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at Hi-Wire Brewing RAD Beer Garden & Distribution Center. The event will raise money for local reproductive rights organizations
AVL Clothing Swap was first organized in August to raise funds for Asheville’s Planned Parenthood clinic in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. That decision, issued on June 24, overturned Roe v. Wade.
Tickets to the event range from $30-$50. For more information or to buy tickets, go to avl.mx/ci3.
Call to artists
Spring is just around the corner, and Sow True Seed will be selecting around 30 artists to design the company’s seed packets for the year. “We really love to showcase a range of artistic styles and always keep our eyes out for new and unique work,” says Chloe Grund, the company’s wholesale manager and creative director. “Seeds come in all shapes, sizes, colors [and] textures, and they all have their own histories and stories, so I love that the imagery that holds the seeds can reflect that unique nature.”
Artwork submissions are open through Monday, May 1. Winning packet artists will receive $150, an art packet with the artist’s commissioned artwork and name, five seed packets and 10 empty packets of the design.
Sow True Seed will also be choosing one artist as its 2024 catalog cover artist. The winning creative will receive $1,000, the commissioned artwork on the cover of the 2024 Seed Catalog, an artist biography on the front page of the catalog and highlights on the company’s social media page and newsletter.
“I think what this opportunity does is it holds a space for connection to gardening through art and gives our loyal customers a chance to be a part of something bigger,” says Grund.
Visit avl.mx/ch2 for additional information.
With additional reporting by Blake Becker and Arnold Wengrow