Blue Jean Ball Returns
By day, Karen Lewis teaches orchestra in three Moore County schools. By night, she puts the classics aside, calls her violin a fiddle and cuts loose as the lone "cowgirl" in The Cowboy Band.
Fiddle or violin, "she can do it either way," says fellow picker and grinner Tom Konold.
On Saturday, June 3, for the third time in as many years, The Cowboy Band will perform at the Blue Jean Ball. It's also the third year for the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation's Cancer CARE Fund fundraiser, so The Cowboy Band has become something of a Blue Jean Ball entertainment tradition.
"We've done it from the start," Konold says. "It's one of two charity events that we do every year."
According to Konold, the six cowboys and their one cowgirl were more than happy to be asked to perform at the first Blue Jean Ball in 2004. By the time the second fundraiser rolled around the following year, they had a special reason to help out. Rebecca Lapping, the wife of lead guitarist Steve Lapping, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"We were happy to do it the first year, but it seemed to have more meaning to us the second time," Konold says. "It's something we have continued to support, and we're happy to do it."
He is also happy to report that Rebecca Lapping "is doing great."
The Cowboy Band got its start with a handful of choir members from Pinehurst's Community Presbyterian Church.
"We got together at a party one night and started playing," Konold recalls. "It kind of came together after that."
The group has been performing in its current seven-member incarnation for about five years now.
In addition to Lewis, Lapping and Konold (the group's mandolin player), the Cowboy Band also includes Mike Newman, guitar; Craig Phifer, guitar; Randy Hughes, bass; and Raul Recio, percussion.
Most also play with other groups. Hughes has his own band, the Randy Hughes Band, which also includes Recio, Newman and Konold. And when he isn't playing with The Cowboy Band, Lapping spends a lot of time touring the Carolinas and Georgia with The Sand Band, a popular beach music group that keeps him busy throughout most of the summer. He and Rebecca also have a band called Sweet T.
As if all this music-making isn't enough to keep everyone busy, each of the seven musicians has a day job, too. Lapping, Newman and Phifer are attorneys; Lewis, as mentioned before, teaches; Hughes teaches English at Sandhills Community College; Recio is a certified dental assistant; and Konold owns Moore Uniforms.
Now recording its first CD, the group specializes in a little bit of everything: Jimmy Buffett, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, traditional country-western and country swing. "The old traditionals, as well as the newer Toby Keith and a little bit of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd," Konold says. "We usually start off with country-western and finish up with rock 'n' roll."
The group's repertoire also includes one original song, a "good foot-stomping," bluegrass-style instrumental called "Throwdown" that Konold wrote.
The Carter Brothers
While usually the headliner for an event, The Cowboy Band will open this year's Blue Jean Ball for the Carter Brothers Band out of Nashville.
Born and raised in North Carolina, brothers Dan and Tim Carter draw their influence from the Appalachian rock, blues and bluegrass scene prominent in the area for generations. But they also credit Jerry Garcia, The Byrds, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Little Feat and Tom Petty with influencing their sound.
Since they started touring the South in the early 1980s, the Carters have become known for their harmonies and unusual mix of traditional acoustic instruments and electric guitars, drums and keyboards. Current tours now take the brothers through the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Brent Wakefield of "Rolling Stone" had this to say about their music: "at one point thoughtful and poignant, sad and blue beautiful brother harmonies the next moment they're driving you down a curvy mountain road with a wild, almost reckless abandon fueled on by masterful banjo and guitar playing."
And, said Dave Higgs of NPR: "in a world rife with gifted musicians, Tom and Danny not only stand alone, but manage to raise the bar for everyone in the process "
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