“One of our own”

Life Is Good: For nearly 23 years, musician Jimmy Landry has been promoting his fellow WNC artists. Now he’s the one who needs some support.

Jimmy Landry believes that strength is found in numbers. This thinking — this unwavering belief that we are stronger when we work together — has rooted Landry in the local acoustic music industry.

Landry is widely known as a thoughtful singer-songwriter, boasting four independent albums, including his most recent release, Life Is Good, which was produced locally. But Landry is equally known as a mentor, an ally to artists across the region and as a loyal friend.

After moving to the Appalachian Mountains in ‘93, Landry got busy. When offered a monthly gig at The Grey Eagle (back when the tavern was located in Black Mountain) Landry said, “How about we try and do something special, make it more about the event than about me.” That’s when his long-standing Emerging Songwriter Series began. “I had been traveling relentlessly for years,” Landry tells Xpress. “And I felt [Emerging Songwriter] was an opportunity to show off my friends … and the beautiful place where I had settled.”

From there, Landry founded a local record label called Independent Songwriters Group (the now-defunct ISG), and brought Asheville-area voices to airwaves across the country. “The first release was called Here We Are, a compilation of 20 different acoustic singer-songwriters from around Western North Carolina,” says Landry. “At the time, I think it put us on the map.” It included the first song ever released by Christine Kane, the first song released by Wanda Lu Greene (now Wanda Lu Paxton), songs by David LaMotte, Billy Jonas, Chris Blair, David Wilcox, Nance Pettit and Landry.

“It was like, ‘hello, here we are, we’re in Asheville,’” says Landry. The album “created a vehicle for getting all of us recognition.”

Now, it is Landry who needs support. In March of 2008, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Though he has an excellent team of doctors standing confidently behind him, he will, eventually, need a heart transplant. Now is the time to rally behind Landry — and celebrate him — with an evening of acoustic music.

Have A Heart: A Concert for Jimmy Landry features a stellar lineup of local players, and longtime friends of the musician. “To start off the night, we’re doing a songwriters-in-the-round,” says Jennifer Duke, the musician who is organizing the upcoming concert along with Jeff Whitworth, owner of the Grey Eagle. Singer-songwriters to take the stage include LaMotte, Chris Rosser, Landry himself and Duke (who says, with a smile, that she’s “going to be the only girl in the round”). Shannon Whitworth performs later, with Malcolm Holcombe wrapping up the evening.

As LaMotte wrote: “The great thing about Jimmy is that he doesn't just promote himself as a musician, he really believes in promoting other regional musicians — building the whole scene. He's made a significant contribution to Asheville becoming nationally known as a music town. Now, he needs that community, and it's good to have a chance to show up for him.”

“Jimmy is one of our own,” adds Duke. “He’s like our uncle; he’s a staple in our community and has been for a long time.” Have A Heart offers an opportunity “for our community to come together and show Jimmy how much we love him.” Duke also notes that the concert will function as a platform for Landry to educate people about heart-disease prevention.

When Landry first went to the emergency room, he thought he had a bad case of the flu that might have turned into pneumonia. It turns out that he had a massive myocardial infarction, which, in non-medical speak means “a whopping big-ass heart attack,” says Landry. “Here’s where my education and outreach comes in. In Asheville I had a chiropractor and an acupuncturist, and that’s all well and good, but I hadn’t gone to see a real doctor.” If he had, Landry would have learned that he was diabetic and prone to heart disease. “Had I done that basic blood work, I would have known my blood glucose, and would have noticed if it got higher.”

At the upcoming concert, Landry hopes to encourage everyone in the audience to take an active role in their heart health by talking to family members about their medical history, and by knowing individual heart-health numbers. Leslie Council, of Asheville Cardiology Associates, will be available throughout the event to answer questions and pass out information on heart heath, management and risk assessment. (Also, Mission Hospital offers blood screenings at the Heart Center Lobby of Mission Hospital: 213-7000 for an appointment; and sponsors monthly screenings at the Reuter Family YMCA: 213-9211 for details.)

When Landry was hospitalized again in May of 2008 to have a cardiac defibrillator installed, he remembers looking up at the nurse beside him and saying, “God, what I would do to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else I know.” During his stay at Mission St. Joseph's Hospital, a friend, John Stineman (a local musician who happened to be an E.R. nurse at the time) comforted Landry and helped him interpret his diagnosis.

Stineman said, “You must be really scared of dying.” To which Landry replied, “Well, no. I’ve never been particularly scared of dying; as far as I can tell, none of us gets out of this alive. Why, should I be?’” Stineman told his friend that his heart was really sick. Landry said, “Now, I am a little scared. … I’m scared I might die before I tell everybody ‘Thank you, I love you.’ I guess I better get busy.”

who: Malcolm Holcombe, Shannon Whitworth and writers in the round with David LaMotte, Chris Rosser, Jimmy Landry and Jen Duke
what: Have a Heart: A Concert for Jimmy Landry
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Friday, Jan. 6 (Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. $15 suggested minimum donation. Info: thegreyeagle.com or 232-5800)

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About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

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One thought on ““One of our own”

  1. Don Talley

    Jimmy is one of the true jewels of Western NC. Not only is he a wonderful songwriter and performer….he’s a great human being. Jimmy is the consummate encourager and supporter of music and musicians in our area. His constant smile and upbeat personality bring light and love to all he encounters. I’m thrilled to see this wonderful event to give something back to one who has given so much to others.

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