Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Homecoming for The Biscuit Burners

Asheville, N.C.-based The Biscuit Burners have been making a splash on festival stages for the last several years, but this was the first the band has played MerleFest. Along with their band performances on the Americana stage and the Walker Center auditorium, Mary Lucey and Shannon Whitworth were featured in several workshops and showcases.

I chatted with Mary for a bit after one performance. She said the debut appearance at MerleFest was exciting because the individual members have attended the festival for many years. "I went to my first MerleFest 11 years ago, and Shannon, John [Stickley] and Billy [Cardine] have been coming a long time as well. For Dan [Bletz], this is his first time."

I suggested it was ironic that local bands might have a tougher time getting recognition from festivals booking national talent. Each of the North Carolina acts that was featured--The Avett Brothers and Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, as well as the Biscuit Burners--are well-established performers. "We've been working toward this for a long time," Lucey said. "You really have to develop your local base."

Since the Burners are local, lots of family members were on hand to support the band. Lucey's parents and other relatives came over from Fredericksburg, Va., where her mom runs an independent book shop. With so many friends and family on hand, it was like homecoming weekend.

On stage, the band was as wonderful as ever. If you've been following Festival Preview, you know what a fan I am. I was especially moved this time by "A Mountain Apart," the title cut from their second album, in which Lucey and Whitworth trade off vocal parts as friends on different sides of the Civil War.

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