LUMBERTON — Local bluegrass lovers can kick up their heels for free at the annual Bluegrass on the Blackwater concert next week.
This year’s show features The Parsons, who will take the stage at the historic Carolina Civic Center Thursday at 7 p.m.
Jon and Caroline Parsons call Gray’s Creek home, and the husband and wife team have played together for more than 25 years. On Thursday, the band will include their long-time member Jerome Hawkes on mandolin and Matt Hooper on fiddle.
“This our second time playing at the Carolina Civic Center,” Jon said. “It is a beautiful place, and we’re looking forward to playing there again.”
Cumberland County is Caroline’s home and provides some of the backdrop for her songwriting. The Parson’s write much of their material and recorded two CDs.
Jon is a California native who met Caroline while they were playing music together in Boulder, Colorado. Their style reflects wide geographical influences.
The Parsons music may be described as contemporary bluegrass that fuses roots music with jazz and blues. It’s music that audiences can relate to, Jon says.
“Caroline has a great voice that ranges into jazz and blues,” he said. “She is a remarkable talent and a remarkable person.”
As Jon is quick to point out, you can’t make a living playing bluegrass — you do it for love. An engineer by training, he is the associate vice chancellor for facilities at Fayetteville State University.
Caroline worked four years in the White House during the Carter Administration. After a stint as a rafting guide in Colorado, she returned home with Jon. Caroline has served as director of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and as volunteer coordinator at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden.
The show is sponsored by Scott and Gayle Bigelow in conjunction with the Robeson County Arts Council and the Carolina Civic Center. Gayle Bigelow is a member of the Civic Center board.
“Gayle and I love bluegrass music, and we have heard The Parsons several times,” Scott said. “They put on a fun show, and they are very talented musicians.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the theater, the Arts Council and live music in Robeson County,” he said.
Last year’s Bluegrass on the Blackwater was also held at the Civic Center and was the brainchild of Arts Council President Mary Ann Masters’ son. It was held during Cycle NC, to entertain cyclists passing through town on their cross-state ride.
“It was so successful,” Masters said. “The Bigelows were there and they said ‘we want to sponsor it’.”
Masters said this year’s event promises to be an intimate show.
“It will be a laid-back concert,” she said. “The Parsons are a lot of fun.”