July 3, 4, 5 and 8

Phil Watson

Check out some of the diverse songs on Phil Watson’s play list: Jason Isbell’s “When We Were Vampires,” Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” and Young MC’s “Bust a Move.”

What’s going on in the mind of the Grandy-based singer-songwriter?

“I’m kind of like Pandora,” he says. “It’s all about finding songs to fit the crowd.”

Watson, 44, plays four no-cover shows this week on the Outer Banks.

A fine finger-picking style guitarist and versatile singer, the musician has about 550 songs in his repertoire, including two-dozen originals.

The full-time musician travels with two acoustic guitars, an electric guitar and a ukulele. For club gigs, he employs a looping device, which enables him to layer vocals and guitar and ukulele parts.

So, Watson, who performed 277 shows in 2019, is a regular one-man band.

He never uses a set list; it’s a musical free-for-all, with the singer-songwriter tapping several genres, including pop, rock, standards, hip-hop, country, rhythm-and-blues and alternative, for material

“I try to keep it fresh,” he says.

Among the artists on Watson’s ever-evolving and expanding play list are The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Britney Spears (“Baby One More Time”), Blackstreet (“No Diggity”), A-ha (“Take on Me”), Frank Sinatra (“The Way You Look Tonight”), TLC (“Waterfalls”) and Phil Collins (“In the Air Tonight”).

The latter song has been a standard since he debuted on the Outer Banks over two decades ago.

“The arrangement has changed over the years” Watson says of Collins’ atmospheric, not-so-subtle reaction to a painful divorce. “It’s really bluesy and gritty now.”

And if you’re wondering, Watson raps using a beat-box when the mood strikes.

His original songs are best described as Americana, with robust melodies and observant lyrics.

Watson says he plans to release a CD titled “Under the Rain” later this summer that features all self-penned tunes.

But for now, he’s playing for the crowd.

“I like connecting with people,” he says. “If they’re singing along, especially on my songs, there’s nothing better.”

  • When and where: 6 p.m. Friday, July 3, Village Table and Tavern, 1314 Duck Road., Duck; noon Saturday, July 4, Sanctuary Vineyards, 7005 Caratoke Hwy., Jarvisburg; 10 a.m. Sunday, July 5, Morris Farm Market, 3784 Caratoke Hwy., Grandy, and 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, Rooster’s Southern Kitchen, 804 S. Croatan Hwy., milepost 8.75, Kill Devil Hills.
  • Cost: No cover

Anytime

Molasses Creek

The Ocracoke-based band has struck a chord with listeners in recent weeks with a song titled “Can We Agree on Love?”

It was the subject of a news feature last month on the Greenville, North Carolina, TV station WITN, and it’s been frequently shared on Facebook. A striking video accompanies the tune and is available on YouTube and the band’s Facebook page.

Penned by singer-songwriter Gary Mitchell, the 66-year-old leader and co-founder of Creek, “Love” is lyrically and sonically comforting and uplifting.

It brings to mind the 1960s message anthems “Get Together” and “Abraham, Martin and John,” with poetic lyrics like “Can we agree on love/can we agree to try/the beauty of a flower bloom/a warm smile across a room/the wonder of a starlit sky/the pain when others cry/the earth still spins around the sun/there’s common ground for everyone.”

Mitchell’s warm baritone lead vocal and elegant acoustic guitar work enhance the words, and a pretty pop melody adds to the song’s charm.

He wrote the tune in 2017 and it appeared on Creek’s stellar 2019 album “Catch the Wind.”

The original version of “Love” was lo-fi with acoustic guitar, upright bass and fiddle. The re-released recording beefs up the 2017 track with contributions from Nashville drummer Chris Brush, Philadelphia-based cellist Michael J. Ronstadt (Linda’s nephew), Asheboro-based bassist-producer Tate Phillips and Ocracoke-based electric guitarist Lou Castro (a onetime member of Creek).

Creek members David Tweedie (fiddle), Kim France (multi-instrumentalist), as well as Mitchell’s daughter, Katy, provide rich harmonies.

“I wanted the song to build as it goes along,” says Mitchell. “Now it just feels right.”

And why does Mitchell think the three-year-old song is enjoying a revival?

“People are trying to figure out how we can all get along during this pandemic and civil unrest,” he says. “What things are important.”

“I think they appreciate the spirit of the song.”

Molasses Creek, whose original music blends country, pop, bluegrass, rock and folk, has been together in various incarnations since 1993. They’ve released 13 albums, including 1998’s “City Bound” (recorded in Nashville) that hit No. 1 in Europe.

Creek has played many major festivals and once performed on Garrison Keillor’s radio show “Prairie Home Companion.”

John Harper has been covering the local entertainment scene for The Coast and Virginian-Pilot since 1994. Harper also is longtime radio broadcaster and program director on the Outer Banks and can be heard from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday on the local Triple A outlet WVOD-99.1-The Sound, where Harper serves as music director. In addition, Harper can be heard on Classic Rock 104.9 and 92.3 and is an award-winning wedding DJ.

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