By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Dave Holt says he’s not from a musical family, except for the part about the rhythm bones. “Each generation [Holt side] had to learn to play the rhythm bones that had been passed down from my great, great grandfather from one generation to the next, for 125 years. Playing this folk instrument as a child opened my ears to [the] unusual and exciting sounds of traditional music,” the four-time Grammy winner told The Island Connection in an email.
Holt was born in Gatesville, Texas and attended the University of California, Santa Barbara. He earned several degrees which included facets of biology and education. There was also a suspicious focus on art for someone who says they aren’t from a musical family. Music may have been relegated to hobby status in those days but turned into quest in 1969.
“I came to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of old-time banjo players. I found a world of music there and have spent my life learning the instruments, collecting and performing the songs of the region. My mentors were folks born in the late 1800s and closer to our pioneer ancestors than to the modern world. I like to say they came of age before self-doubt was invented. They were very grounded and wonderful musicians: folks like Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, Grandpa Jones and Ralph Stanley,” says Holt.
Holt has amassed a collection of well over 100 songs. Many are solo efforts, while others are collaborative performances with an array of artists. His most popular song on iTunes, for example, is Dixie.
Holt’s genius isn’t so much the inventive process as it is the delivery. Some of his most popular works are stories set to music where timing and tenor make or break the show. The bard’s tendency to do it “just right” makes Holt a favorite with families. Audiences sit spellbound by a ghost story, cringing at the staccato down stroke across banjo strings. The family friendly Festival of Mountain Music scheduled for July 2 from 3-5 p.m. at Kiawah’s Freshfields Village is the perfect venue for Holt’s art and the raft of artists he’s bringing with him; The Jeff Little Trio, Amythyst Kiah, Josh Goforth, and of course, David Holt and the Lightning Bolts.
“Mountain music is a combination of Anglo American and African American musical ideas. [That’s] what gives it [its] rhythmic drive and soulful delivery. Amythyst Kiah is an astounding young talent with a powerful voice somewhere between Odetta and Big Mama Thornton. She is also a fine banjo and guitar player.
“The Jeff Little Trio features Jeff on piano and reigning National Guitar Champion, Steve Lewis on guitar. In putting together the “Festival of Mountain Music” I tried to chooseacts that show the variety of mountain music.
“In 2000 I was asked to bring a band to the largest country music festival in Europe. I chose the members of the Lightning Bolts because each is a great musician grounded [in] the songs and styles [from] around Asheville, NC, where we all live. The band has been together seventeen years. We have played two standing room only concerts in Kiawah in the past and are looking forward to playing there July 2. This is a festival for the whole family. There will be lots of musical variety and phenomenal musicianship,” concluded Holt.Tweet