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Carolina Homegrown by Campfires & Constellations

Tara Alexander (@redtalyn)

Down south, we do things a little bit differently. We have traditions and folklore that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and to accompany ourselves and provide a soundtrack to the wilderness surrounding us, we created our own genre of music that has spread across the country in a way that forever changed the music industry. Bluegrass, steel guitars, and banjos can always be found when you visit the Carolinas, but if you venture a little deeper into the hills of Chapel Hill, NC, you will find yourself a very progressive little five piece calling themselves Campfires & Constellations. With their sophomore effort, “Carolina Homegrown,” these guys have taken heavy cues from their backgrounds and roots to combine their love of the genre, offering up a rip roarin', toe tappin', and bottle smashin' version of their brand of Americana. 

Starting with an 'Intro' of classic southern nighttime noises: crickets. Coyotes, and a wavering steel guitar, then slips into the second track, 'Roll Along,' a quick acoustic tune that is as rowdy as it is clean and well organized. The vocalist, Charlie Smith, has a great grasp of southern twang that he applies perfectly to the tracks. In 'Get Lost,' the listener can't help but slap their knees in time with the rambunctious drums and furious banjo that comprise the track, as the band adds a certain freshness to the genre while keeping true to the original feel of bluegrass and rock. The next track, 'Busted,' is a quick little number you would definitely expect hear at a local hoedown, with every attendee jumping to their feet and stomping their heels in time. The first track to feature a predominantly electric sound is 'Fast Burn to Tabor City,' a fast drivin', hard lovin' song that will have the listener clapping along and maybe pressing down a little too hard on their accelerator. 

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'Hazelnut Eyes' shifts into a softer, slower feel, a love song that proclaims that the only thing right in this world is when two people can share each others' lives and experiences, making the other feel like everything is going to be alright, going to be just fine. The next track 'Monhegan Blues,' is fast, electric, and forces a yee-haw! to escape from the lips of the listener, ending with a fantastic electric guitar solo.  With 'Movin' and 'Can't Get No Rest' the nostalgia is upped and the melodies are rhythmic and catchy in a way that only this particular genre can be. The fun and banjo filled 'Outlaw's Dream' is a great tune that perfectly encapsulates life in the mountains of North Carolina, with silly lyrics and classic country imagery spread throughout. The last and longest track, 'Black Muddy River,' is the heaviest and most electric of all of the tracks, with steady drums, hard riffs, and strong lyrics reminiscent of Clutch, this is definitely my favorite track on the album, and a fine one to round out the entire repertoire. 

Although I have grown past my country listening days in favor of heavy metal and rock, I still love the opportunity to discover new and exciting ways in which my generation is embracing the music that raised them, and paying a fine tribute to it makes for a fantastic experience for both the listener and musician. I will absolutely be keeping an eye on these guys for future releases, and until then, I wish them the best of luck in all of their endeavors!

I had the chance to talk with the guys from C&C; check out what they had to say below.

Tell me a little bit about your background and why you formed Campfires & Constellations.

The band was originally formed by guitarists/songwriters Corey Bax and Charlie Smith in Dunn, North Carolina. They attended high school together, and instantly hit it off when they realized they had a shared interest in music. After performing as a duo for less than a year, Charlie and Corey moved from Dunn to Chapel Hill to attend college at UNC, and continued performing as part of the local campus scene. At Carolina, the band grew from 2 to 5 members, adding banjo, bass, and drums, and expanded their sound accordingly. After graduating college, all five members of the band stuck around and decided to pursue music full time. Our current goal is broadening our reach throughout the state of North Carolina and beyond.

What/Who are your musical influences? 

One of the things we pride ourselves in as a band is having an extremely diverse array of influences. Charlie and Ernest are both old school country buffs, listening heavily to artists like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, The Carter family, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc. etc. Corey and Stephen both come from a more contemporary, hard-core rock and neo-folk background, having played in punk and metal bands in addition to Campfires and Constellations. Some of their influences are He Is Legend, Veil of Maya, Arliss Nancy, Ween, Drag the River, Russian Circles, Bright Eyes, and more. Danny listens almost exclusively to Merle Haggard.

What is your favorite aspect about blending the genres of bluegrass, country, and rock? 

We like showing people that there is a common element to be found across these varied genres, which is simply put, the story of the human experience. Everybody loves, laughs, gets scared, gets in trouble, makes stupid decisions, has their heartbroken, gets angry, finds hope, yearns for home, pursues hobbies and passions, and ultimately must come to terms with their mortality. We find that by interweaving country and rock, we can bridge the communication gap between different kinds of fan bases and help everyone have a good time.

Country music these days seems to be lumped in with pop categories anymore. How are you working to keep that element of a genuine country feel?  

It's a tough balance. As much as we like listening to and playing the really old classic stuff, you have to be modern and relatable enough to be relevant to today's audiences. Realistically, not that many 21 and 22-year-olds are going to be rocking out to Ray Price's "Heartaches By The Number" or Kitty Wells' "My Big Truck Driving Man." I think the best strategy is to show that you are versed and grounded in tradition, by playing the occasional old school cover and by incorporating certain lyrical and musical tropes in your originals, without being afraid to try new chord progressions and melodies that might not have been used in country before. A good concrete example of this is our song "Get Lost," which vamps heavily on Lester Flatt's famous G-run but extends it melodically as a transition into a minor chord. The song also features a breakdown section, which is more a feature of contemporary rock then country.

How do you feel about the digital revolution in music and has it helped or hindered your success?

Considering our first album was released independently over the internet in 2014, it's hard to speak on the older conventional distribution models, since we've never really worked with a record label or experienced the mainstream music industry from an insider's perspective. That being said, I would say that the digitization of culture and entertainment has benefited us, since most of our fans are heavy Facebook users and spend a lot of time on the Internet anyway. It's been a great tool to spread the word and reach people that we might not have reached by word-of-mouth on the street.


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Tara Alexander has been writing as soon as she could put pen to paper, and although she has only been reviewing music professionally for a few years, she has been an avid partaker in the music scene her entire life. She has been published on various websites and is always looking for opportunities to build upon her already expanding resume. A native North Carolinian, she now spends most of her free time in Michigan writing, playing video games with her husband, or watching too much television.



Artist's Info

Artist: Campfires & Constellations

Album: Carolina Homegrown

Release: April 17, 2014

Producer: Carter Fourqurean

Genre: Bluegrass, Country


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