Athens Area Council for the Arts (AACA) introduces a diverse lineup of performers offering something for everyone in its 38th performance season. AACA is bringing all performances home to the Sue E. Trotter Black Box Theater presenting five concerts by professional touring artists in its Black Box Concert Series. AACA is grateful to a group of corporate sponsors committed to supporting live performances in our community. AACA performance sponsors are BB&T and Crescent Sock Company/The Sock Shop. The Black Box Concert Series is sponsored by Athens Federal Community Bank, Logan-Thompson Attorneys at Law, PLLC, Mayfield Dairy Farms, and Tennessee Wesleyan University. All AACA programs are supported by premier sponsors Financial Guidance Partners and Madison Avenue Pharmacy, and Tennessee Arts Commission.
Gullah group, Ranky Tanky, opens the concert series on Friday, Aug. 25. "Gullah" is a West African word meaning "a people blessed by God." "Ranky Tanky" translates loosely as "Work It" or "Get Funky!" In this spirit the Charleston, SC based quintet revives a "heartland of American music" born in their own backyards. From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the musical roots of Charleston, SC are "rank" and fertile ground from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown.
Brother duo The Cactus Blossoms are known for bringing timeless sound to the modern era and on Sept. 15 will bring it to the Black Box. By infusing elements of early rock'n'roll and classic country, The Cactus Blossoms have created a sound that is both timeless and contemporary, accompanied by thoughtful lyrics and soaring harmonies. The duo shines a spotlight on the time-honored tradition of blood harmony, best illustrated by artists such as The Everly Brothers or The Carpenters. The BBC's Bob Harris has described their work as "completely stunning" and the brothers have appeared as guests on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion."
Folk's rising star Joan Shelley takes the stage Nov. 10. Backed beautifully by guitarist Nathan Salsburg, Shelley's music mixes the sound and feel of down-to-earth Appalachian folk music, airier U.K. folksingers, and soothing conversations with an understanding friend. Joan Shelley has recently been on the cover of magazines such as Acoustic Guitar and Rolling Stone offered this review: "If Nick Drake and Sandy Denny had had a kid, she may have grown up to be Joan Shelley, a Kentucky folkie whose exquisitely hushed fourth album sounds like a collection of the world's most downcast sea shanties" and praises her voice as "unsullied."
Jan. 26, 2018, brings David Gerald Blues Band back by popular demand. David Gerald grew up to the sounds of the blues and R&B music in his hometown, Detroit, where his dad moved the family to pursue the American Dream. Gerald started playing guitar at the age of 15, influenced by Prince and 80's rock guitarists. He rediscovered the blues and listened to the music of Albert King, ZZ Hill, BB King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name just a few. Year round the band performs at clubs and festivals across the United States and his most recent album topped numerous blues and roots charts.
Dead Horses, "Wisconsin Band to Watch in 2017," closes the series on April 26. Dead Horses have cultivated a soulful roots sensibility beyond their years due to the award-winning vocalist that is front-woman and songwriter, Sarah Vos. Raised on Bible Hymns by her preacher father, Vos's back story sounds more like that of an old bluesman from the Mississippi Delta than a young folk singer from Wisconsin. Despite their youth, Vos and collaborative artist and bassist Daniel Wolff have crafted a timeless sound that has won them 2016 Americana/Bluegrass "Best Artist" and "Album of the Year" awards and landed them on curated "must listen" lists.
Tickets are on sale now for all events in the Black Box Concert Series and there are two ways to save on the already low ticket price. Adult tickets purchased in advance are $15, whereas tickets purchased at the door are $20, subject to availability. Student tickets are $10 in advance or at the door. Concert-goers planning to attend two or more events can purchase a ticket package and save an additional 10 percent. AACA encourages patrons to purchase tickets early as seating is limited to 200 in the intimate Black Box Theater.
All Black Box Concert Series shows are in the Sue E. Trotter Theater at The Arts Center in Downtown Athens. Tickets and more information about this and other programs of Athens Area Council for the Arts are available online at athensartscouncil.org, by phone at 423-745-8781, or in person at 320 North White Street, Athens, TN. The Arts Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.