By John Harper/Correspondent
“It’s a return to old Ocracoke.”
During a recent morning phone call, Marcy Brenner, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, was buzzing about the new backyard concert series on the tiny island south of Hatteras.
The brainchild of her and her husband Lou Castro, who’s also a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, the free shows take place in the backyard of the couple’s home.
“This is the way it’s been on Ocracoke for more than 100 years,” Brenner said. “People have gone to houses to listen to music.”
Brenner and Castro make up the acoustic duo Coyote and will perform in the new series every Tuesday this summer.
The last two years have been tough on the island’s musicians, who were hit with a double whammy: the devastating Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and the pandemic in 2020.
Brenner and Castro lost their Coyote Music Den in Ocracoke Village, where they had performed for several years, to the storm.
But they’re back to where they once belonged, playing music for an audience. (Coyote streamed shows on the internet during the pandemic’s shutdowns.)
Today about 75 chairs are set up in the backyard, but Brenner said these concerts can accommodate about 100 people. “You can bring a blanket or a chair,” she said. “And you can bring food but no alcohol.”
Brenner (guitar, mandolin and vocals) and Castro (guitar, Dobro, bass and vocals) are musicians with a sense of humor and adventure. They skillfully reimagine songs by rock, folk, blues and jazz artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Led Zeppelin and Randy Newman (the theme from theTVseries“Monk”).
“Expect the unexpected,” Brenner said. “But we’re always true to The Beatles.”
The duo also has a rich catalog of folk-rock originals.
Wednesdays in the backyard bring sounds from Ocracoke native Martin Garrish (guitar) and Friends. Their repertoire is made up of Americana and old-timey country artists like Merle Haggard, John Prine and Doc Watson.
The backyard concerts will run about an hour. And how does Brenner describe the feeling of playing live shows again?
When: 8 p.m., with seating starting at 7:45 p.m.
Where: 13 Cabana Drive, Ocracoke
Cost: Free but donations are accepted
Fans of ’70s singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Cat Stevens will find much to love about Portsmouth, Virginia-based musician Derek Smith.
With a voice that recalls Stevens at his most aching and shades of Taylor’s finger-style guitar playing, Smith traffics in original music that features lilting melodies and direct, insightful lyrics.
“The Best Years,” from Smith’s 2020 self-titled EP, is a prime example .With a Dave Matthews-style groove, the singer-songwriter recalls a teenage love affair.
“I took a gamble on this thing called love/But I got what I paid for/Not what I dreamed.”
His subject matter includes life, family and traveling.
Smith plays outdoors every Thursday this summer at Trio Restaurant &Market in Kitty Hawk.
For club shows, where Smith presents fresh takes on familiar sounds, he arms himself with a Taylor acoustic guitar and looping device and remakes tunes from artists that include The Beatles, Brett Dennen, Pink Floyd, The Band, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, Talking Heads and, of course, Cat Stevens and James Taylor.
When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Trio Restaurant &Market, 3708 N. Croatan
Highway, milepost 4.5, Kitty Hawk
Cost: No cover
Info: Derek Smith Facebook page