By John Harper / Correspondent
March 5, 2021
March 9, 23 and 30
The COVID-19 shutdown last spring left a lot of musicians struggling to find work. So, the Dare County Arts Council jumped in to help, launching a virtual performance series called The Courthouse Sessions.
“It was mostly to support local artists,” says Chris Sawin, the council’s executive director. “But I think we put Manteo on the map.”
It also gave folks at home an opportunity to hear live music and, maybe, discover some new sounds, he adds. “We had people watching from Raleigh to California,” he says.
The series name was a nod to the council’s 100-year-old building in Manteo that was once the Dare County Court House. Financial assistance was provided by the Town of Manteo and several local businesses.
“It was very much a community thing,” says Sawin.
Musicians from various camps – rock, bluegrass, folk, jam, country and even opera – played hourlong sets on the council’s Facebook page, which featured a virtual tip jar. Some performed from home; others played in the council’s second-floor gallery. The Rea Family, Natalie Wolfe and Tshombe Selby were among those to appear.
The series took a short hiatus, but it’s back. Performers in March include Nu-Blu, Ed Tupper and Friends and Gypsea Souls.
Nu-Blu is an acoustic duo made up of husband-and-wife Daniel and Carolyn Routh that “bends the boundaries of bluegrass,” according to the pair’s slogan. With Carolyn on upright electric bass and vocals and Daniel on guitar and vocals, Nu-Blu mixes upbeat originals and covers, including some reimagined 1980s rock tunes.
Ed Tupper is an inventive bass player who’s comfortable in rock, jazz and funk genres. His “friends” include drummer Josh Martier and guitarist-vocalist John Saturley. The trio, according to Tupper, will offer a set of originals and offbeat covers.
Gypsea Souls – Amanda Williams on vocals, keyboards, mandolin and ukelele and Brad Privott on guitar and vocals – traffic in inventive, harmony-filled remakes of classic rock (Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty), rhythm-and-blues (Otis Redding, Sam Cooke) and “outlaw country” (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson) tunes.
What: Courthouse Sessions
Who: Nu-Blu, March 9, Ed Tupper and Friends, March 23; and Gypsea Souls, March 30
Time:: 8 p.m.
Where: Dare County Arts Council Facebook page
Cost: Free, but there is a virtual tip jar
Info: 252-473-5558, darearts.org
New Music – Laura Martier: “Diving for Light”
Laura Martier is reluctant to use the word “channeling” to describe her songwriting process last June. But the Southern Shores-based singer-songwriter was inspired, writing a song every day for a month.
“It just flowed,” says Martier, 58, who’s performed on the Outer Banks since 1989. “With the pandemic, I had time to digest my feelings.”
The result of the writing spurt is the seven-song album “Diving for Light,” released in January on the major music platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, etc.). A CD should be available in March. Surprisingly, it’s Martier’s first solo album of all-original material.
Known for her unique interpretations of tunes by artists ranging from George Gershwin to Patsy Cline to Aretha Franklin, the singer-songwriter has found her own voice on the atmospheric and meditative “Light.”
Produced by guitarist Matthew Wentz (of the local band Zack Mexico), who also plays on the record, it’s both celebratory and cerebral, with swirling sonic textures surrounding Martier’s earthy, unadorned voice.
Martier’s husband Dan (a member of TR3) and son Josh (of Zack Mexico) played drums on every track; Ed Tupper contributed melodic, spacey bass lines. Her nephew Santos Sharma, who lives in New York City, contributed haunting tenor saxophone solos, and Portland, Oregon-based Dylan Hayes provided the keyboard fills. Lindsey Dilworth added essential harmonies.
“It felt so natural,” says Martier of the recording process, which took place at a rehearsal space in Kitty Hawk. “Very organic.”
Standout tracks include the Joni Mitchell-ish “Permission, “where Martier explores isolation, singing, “Hold the Child within me and give it love like no one else.”
On the probing, mid-tempo “Full Heart In,” Martier gets in touch with her inner-Sarah McLachlan, asking, “Where is peace/where is joy/how do we hold on when suffering surrounds?”
She celebrates sisterhood on the torchy, gospel-infused “Amazing Woman,” and evokes inner strength on the album’s title track, which she describes as “tribal”; it benefits mightily from her son and husband’s hypnotic drumbeats.
She asks other weighty questions about love, peace and the earth on “Diving for Light,” but she says the answers should come from the listeners, who, like the singer-songwriter, may be trying to figure out how to navigate a pandemic and uncertain times.
“We can create the world we desire,” says Martier. “It’s in all of us – imagination.”
For more information about Laura Martier and the album “Diving for Light,” go to: martiersoundmeditation.com.
John Harper has been covering the local entertainment scene for The Coast and Virginian-Pilot since 1994. He’s also written hundreds of stories on
subjects ranging from history to sports and food. Harper is longtime radio broadcaster and program director on the Outer Banks and can be heard on the internet station radiofreeobx.com. He’s the host of the popular Saturday morning feature “Flashback at 11” and is also an award-winning wedding DJ.
Correction March 7, 2021
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Zack Mexico and to update John Harper’s tagline.