Roots musicians set to pick, grin at cozy Folk Society concert

Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus.

Riley Baugus wanted to become a musician from the time he was a young boy growing up in the Piedmont region.

“I was surrounded by traditional American roots music at church and in the home, and saw the respect musicians received and how people were moved by their music,” said Baugus, 49. “I wanted to be a part of that and was encouraged by my father, who helped me build my very own banjo at age 10.”

Baugus will bring several banjos with him to Charlotte Saturday, when he joins longtime pal and renowned roots fiddle player Dirk Powell for a special Charlotte Folk Society house concert at south Charlotte’s Wedgewood Church.

The pair of old-time music masters met in the ’80s at a fiddlers’ convention and developed a deep and lasting friendship.

“Old-time American roots music – whether it is tied to the sounds of southern Appalachia or Creole from Louisiana – is music that was never meant to be commercial,” said Baugus, who tours regularly and teaches at music camps throughout the Southeast.

“It’s music that people play for their own entertainment at home and in community gatherings. The music has a sense of place that takes people back to a simpler time, when there was less hustle and bustle – and, in my case, back to an ancestry that extends back in North Carolina to the 1700s.”

Baugus cites legendary Mount Airy fiddler Tommy Jarrell, Doc Watson, and old-time singer, songwriter and banjo player Doc Boggs among his earliest musical influences.

Though his heavy touring schedule prevents him from crafting handmade banjos these days, fans of his instruments will recall that three handcrafted banjos Baugus made were featured in the 2003 Civil War-era film “Cold Mountain” (starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman). Baugus also provided the hauntingly beautiful voice for Ethan Suplee’s character of Pangle, singing “I Wish My Baby Was Born” for the film.

“Dirk served as an adviser and consultant on the film and encouraged the director and producer to have authentic instruments and introduced me to the project,” Baugus said.

Powell owns an impressive musical resume, having recorded and performed with artists such as Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, Sting, Jack White, Levon Helm, Jewel, “T Bone” Burnett, Ralph Stanley and Linda Ronstadt.

Concertgoers will be entertained with songs from Baugus and Powell’s new CD, “Tomorrow Morn.” On tap is traditional southern Appalachian mountain music, Louisiana Creole and even some Zydeco. The evening will provide more than a few opportunities to dance, a few jokes and plenty of storytelling.

“We like to provide context and backstory to the music we play,” said Baugus, a natural raconteur with a folksy and accessible style. “It’s important for people to learn how this music was passed on, and the history of its origins.”


Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus

The concert is presented by the Charlotte Folk Society.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Jim Rivers Fellowship Hall, Wedgewood Church, 4800 Wedgewood Drive.


DETAILS: 704-537-4813; www.folksociety.org.