The City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts in partnership with Skyflight Productions will present an evening with Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line on Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Renaissance Theater in Kingsport.
Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line are a traveling carnival of acoustic Americana. The high energy, Nashville-based quintet perform Struthers’ original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies, fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Struthers was catapulted into the spotlight when she led her band to a blue ribbon at the prestigious 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition. Previous winners of this event include Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks. Now, her group is touring heavily in support of its April 16 release, Carnival.
“When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” said Struthers. “That’s why I’m trying to do with this album — craft vignettes, and in some cases more developed narratives, about imaginary people’s lives.”
Struthers steps forward with a distinctive sound and on-stage style — her personal collection of vintage dresses makes her one of the most visually striking of modern acoustic artists. But the moving, perceptive and witty songs on Carnival represent a new quantum leap, born of hard work and deep creative reflection.
“Over the past three years, as I’ve been touring and performing, I realized that primarily I’m a storyteller,” she said. “I’ve been working to hone my skills so I can do that better.”
The album also marks the recording debut of Struthers’ touring band, the Party Line (which takes its handle from listening to Carnival, no one will deny the keen edge of Struthers’ masterful new work. The “Party Line” comes from the early days of rural telephone calls. The gifted group of instrumentalists includes Struthers’ longtime collaborator P.J. George (upright bass, harmony vocals, pedal steel guitar, accordion and banjo), Joe Overton (clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals), Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle, three-finger banjo, baritone fiddle, mandolin) and Drew Lawhorn (drums).
East Tennessee native Josh Oliver will be the opening act. He has spent the past five years as a side man, touring all over the United States, singing harmony, playing lead guitar and piano with the likes of the everybodyfields, Sam Quinn + Japan 10 and Jill Andrews.
Oliver’s debut album, Troubles, finds him on lead vocals, guitar and keys, as well as familiar faces Brandon Story on upright bass, Megan Gregory on fiddle and vocals and Sam Quinn on harmony vocals. Troubles, a warm and inviting collection of songs, harkens back to a simpler time, whether it’s through the contemporary renderings of traditionals or the traditional style of Oliver’s self-penned tunes.
The show starts at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats. Buy tickets at www.EngageKingsport.com, which is a new partnership between the City of Kingsport and Toby Weisend. A full schedule of new musical performances are planned at the Renaissance Theatre over the next year.
Former Ohio resident and president of Skyflight Productions, Weisend has focused his attention in adding a new cultural element to Kingsport. Over the last three years he has welcomed artists of all genres, including several Grammy-nominated artists, to rural eastern Ohio from literally all over the globe. “Many artistic/creative individuals in a small town have not had the opportunity or resources to experience the nourishment from some of the nation’s underappreciated musicians willing to share their creations,” he said.
An incredible line up is already set for Kingsport all the way through the summer of 2014 and plans are being set for fall as well. All Skyflight Production shows feature reserved seating in the beautiful Renaissance Theatre, where there is not a bad seat in the house. Refreshments will be offered for sale at the theatre.
For complete descriptions of the Skyflight shows and to purchase tickets, visit the City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts’ website at www.EngageKingsport.com or call 392-8414.