The Music of the Carolinas series features the best home-grown North Carolina traditional artists and showcases the musical traditions of the various cultures that call our state home today. Other upcoming concerts in the series include:
Magnolia Klezmer Band - Nov. 14, 2010
Nixon, Blevins & Gage Christmas - Dec. 12, 2010
Sparky & Rhonda Rucker - Jan. 9, 2011
Film - TBA - Feb. 13, 2011
The Thistledown Tinkers - March 13, 2011
Film - TBA - April 10, 2011
Film - TBA - Mother's Day - May 8, 2011
Flamenco Comes Alive! with Carolota Santana - June 12, 2011
Holeman has been awarded a National Heritage Fellowship (1988) by the National Endowment for the Arts and a North Carolina Heritage Award (1994) by the NC Arts Council. Born in Orange County, North Carolina in 1929, Holeman grew up on a small farm and began playing the blues at the age of 14. Though he never met Blind Boy Fuller, Holeman credits Fuller with teaching him to play guitar. He says he learned to play by listening to Fuller's records and by playing with musicians who had learned directly from Fuller. Holeman uses both the Piedmont and Texas guitar styles in his playing.
For most of his life, Holeman supported himself and his family as a heavy equipment operator and construction worker in Durham. Over the years, he supplemented his income by playing blues and "patting juba." Juba, the use of complex hand rhythms to provide timing for dancers, is a centuries-old tradition among Africans and African Americans. Where Holeman grew up, it was customary when party musicians took a break for the males to engage in competitive solo dancing accompanied only by hand or "patting" rhythms. Juba refers to both the complex hand rhythms and the dance traditionally done to them. The dance done to the juba rhythm is also called "buckdance,"
Though he never chose to pursue music as a full-time profession, Holeman has played at festivals around the country and in concerts in Europe and Africa, where he also conducted workshops for students and other performers.
Coats has begun delving more into the Piedmont blues and working out the styles of such titans as Blind Boy Fuller and the Rev. Gary Davis. "It's an amazing technique," Coats says, "much like the style of piano players. In some ways, I feel like it's already a part of me since I grew up here."
Coats was born and raised in the NC Piedmont and has been involved in music since his early teens, when he sang and played in a hard rock band and later a progressive rock band. From there he worked his way back to the genres in which so much rock is rooted, including the blues. "My passion for this sort of music really came to a head when I was about 25 ... . I was living in Southern California, struggling through graduate school, and it was then that the magic of the blues masters fully hit me. I dove head first into Robert Johnson's material, listening to it daily."
After completing his degree in 1999, Coats focused his attention on his music. He has released three independent CDs and appeared on The United States of Americana, a 2004 compilation put out by Shut Eye Records. He has performed live on NPR stations in the Midwest and in the South, and he has played at a wide variety of fairs and festivals, as well as at venues across the country. He has opened for national-level acts such as Eric Sardinas and W.C. Handy Award winners Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers.
Coats met Holeman at a concert/blues session at the All Peoples Grill in Durham. "The Grill," as it is affectionately known, is a landmark in the history of Durham and of local blues. The evening was getting late, and Coats had been listening to and sitting in with a number of blues greats, including Cool John Ferguson, Boo Hanks, Holeman and others. Holeman, in particular, regaled Coats and the other musicians with stories. Despite the late hour, Coats convinced Holeman to play one more set ("As I recall, (the audience) gave us a standing ovation," Coats said).
Coats was deeply impressed at the energy, enthusiasm, and sheer joy that Holeman conveyed that night, and he decided that he wanted to play with Holeman as much as possible and to seek him out as a mentor. After that initial jam session, Coats visited Holeman many times at his home in Durham. In 2007, Coats, reeling from the recent death of his sister, found respite playing at a jam session with Holeman and members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. In 2008, shortly after Holeman had gotten out of the hospital after a severe bout of pneumonia, Coats found Holeman again and delighted in making music with him.
Through these seminal experiences, Coats and Holeman forged a genuine friendship and started performing together regularly. They have shared the stage at the Bimbe Festival in Durham, a WTVD Television special for Bull Durham Blues Festival, several appearances at the Eno Festival, and many others.
Join PineCone and the Museum of History to discover and celebrate North Carolina's rich musical heritage! All Music of the Carolinas concerts begin at 3 p.m. in the NC Museum of History's Daniels Auditorium. They are free and open to the public, and program notes are provided. Large-print program notes are also available at the concerts. Visit http://www.pinecone.org for complete details.
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PineCone—the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, is a private, nonprofit, charitable membership organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting traditional music, dance and other folk performing arts.