The Resonant Rogues Around the World and Back Again
“Sparrow, it’s Caleb from Ashvegas, I want to interview you about your show at The Crow and Quill on Friday night. Hit me back when you have a chance.”
Now, I realized, I was standing near the bar beside her, so I jumped the shark. After running to my car to grab my IPad, Sparrow and I headed to the picnic tables out back to talk shop.
Before we can even get going, Sparrow is examining the table we are seated at, trying to determine if the top is one massive piece of wood or composite.
“I’m like a month into carpentry and cabinetry school,” she confides, “and so now, everywhere I go I look at how everything is made.”
“Amazing how they can make it so you can barely see the seam,” she adds.
Sparrow is nothing if not inquisitive. From the old days of vaudeville acts to her solo musicianship to her powerful and prolific band The Resonant Rogues, which she shares the present and the founding of with her husband Keith J. Smith, she has always been difficult to pigeonhole.
She is easy to find though, if you are good at reading a tour calendar. The Rogues are back in town for a number of weeks after a massive cross-country tour.
“I think we played 32 shows over the course of about 40 days and that included driving to Seattle and flying to Alaska. We didn’t make it to the southwest though,” she laments, adding that it is absolutely not the longest tour they’ve been on.
Since their inception, the road is where you will find The Rogues. Smith was a busker, just passing through Asheville when he met Sparrow. The connection was immediate, and within a matter of days he would be recording tracks with her for her solo album. That desire to live on the road has never faded. With multiple European tours behind them, and having spent time north of Canada this summer, they are headed to Australia to play a run of festivals there.
The travel can be daunting, but there are rewards along the way. It was in Alaska on their last tour – the furthest and most difficult place to reach that they played on that run – that the Rogues had one of their most profound moments.
“We filmed a music video. We went to all a place with this hand tram (tyrolian traverse) that was over a river. We hiked down to the river and played some banjo and some fiddle. The night before, we had played an open mic and then found out we were sleeping on the balcony and were awakened by bears,” Sparrow rattles off, and I can tell that she is conscious for much more of her life than the average human.
We talk about their brand of “vagabond jazz” or “swinging folk” or “hot club swing” or whatever you want to call it, and how hard it is to nail down in a description. The truth is, even those descriptions fall far short of communicating the trans-Atlantic style of music that made their last album, Hands in the Dirt, one of my five best local albums of 2017 when I was hosting Soundcheck Radio over at WPVM.
They are so much more than Eastern European, drawing on a range of folk music from all over Europe, South America, North America, and coming soon, Australia.
As we finish up the conversation, coming off of a 15,000 mile tour, she decides to offer some words of wisdom for young touring bands: “Make sure you take wear and tear for your vehicle when accounting expenses. Make sure your vehicle has an account before it’s a major thing.”
Then it’s back to swing dancing, where she tells me she is every Tuesday night when she is in town, and back to my friend teaching me the Lindey, and back to her little bit of quiet, comfortable, personal time, back in the town she calls home.
Crosstown Traffic (One More Saturday Night Edition)
Saturday night at 7pm is The Asheville Opry Part Tw, at the Masonic Temple, featuring The Maggie Valley Band and Miss Cindy and the Knocking Boots. In fact, Saturday at 7 is a ridiculously popular time for great local acts with Laura Blackley and The Wildflowers at Pillar and Les Amis with members of Toubab Krewe at One World West.
Black Mountain is hopping Saturday night too, with Chuck Lichtenberger at The Black Mountain Ale House and Marcel Anton at White Horse Black Mountain.
For the West Asheville hippies, Dirty Dead is playing Saturday night at 9 pm (don’t expect it to actually start at 9) at Upcountry Brewing, and it promises to be a dance party with all of the beautiful human smells of Asheville.
Meanwhile members of Phuncle Sam are putting on Noble Kava’s first Grateful Dead night, a show that I will be hitting late and a great place for all walks of people, including the sober as there is no alcohol served there.
The Freeway Revival, one of the hottest young bands in Asheville, is opening for Funk You at Asheville Music Hall and plans to be on stage at 9:30 prompt, and when they are done, if you wanna stay local, you can stumble over to Foggy Mountain for Asheville OG Douglas McElvey and his impressive yet farcical bluegrass side project, Grass to Mouth.
Finally, if you are looking for beats and a diverse crowd that not only accepts but embraces the LGBTQ community, DJ Honey will be spinning, as she does every Saturday night, at LaZoom Room from 10pm until late.
Caleb Calhoun is an author, poet, and journalist who makes his home in Asheville, NC. He is a founding member of the Asheville-Biscuithead Slam Poetry Team and the publisher of the local rag Rosman City Blues. His first album of poetry will be available on ITunes, Spotify, and Google Play on November 1. He can be reached at [email protected]