My Courtship with Music

August 2017 marked the 7th anniversary of my writing Women Making Music! It’s been a joy to interview and write almost every single month since 2010. Yet it’s only a fraction, especially now, of the outstanding female musical talent in our area. This assemblage of young girls, young and ageless women who have graced these pages are intertwined by a common thread, and delving into their lives and careers only scratches the surface of their profound dedication and trajectories. I am honored to continue bringing them to you!

That first month in August of 2010, I chose to introduce my dear friend and earthly sister, Laura Michaels, for my published maiden voyage. Since then, she’s gone on to be an amazing wife and mother. At that time, she stood ready to release a CD entitled “Wisdom.” In a song from that album, Goodbye To Blues, she expresses an epiphany that it only takes a change of attitude to turn darkness toward hope and light. A prolific lyricist and skillful arranger, her impact on other songwriters and troubadours lives on.

It was stirring, soul-filled busker, mother and wife Rhoda Weaver selected next for the September 2010 issue. Her artistic evolution since then has been beautiful and inspiring to watch. Now a full time musician doing regular, indoor performances in musical halls, theaters and clubs, as well as outdoor festivals with her band, The Soul Mates, you can still find Rhoda on the streets of downtown Asheville, belting out a-cappella style, iconic hits from every era of Rhythm and Blues and Soul. This articulate, passionate activist invigorates her listeners with every single note she executes; pitch perfect. Just WOW! Find her at Ben’s Tune Up most Tuesday evenings from 6 – 9 pm and visit her band page on Facebook: Rhoda Weaver and the Soul Mates.

When I interviewed Blues Ingénue Jesse Barry back in December of 2010, she was flying high around Asheville with her teen super group, Skinny Legs and All. Now in her 20s, she presents Jesse Barry and the Jam every Thursday night at 8:30 for a Blues dance party at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues Club. What a powerhouse vocalist, with charm and evocative style galore! And while I’ve got you on the Blues, it was a starstruck girl crush I had on one Miss Sheila Carlisle. By the time I interviewed her in early 2011, she’d been performing for nearly 30 years and the stories we included in the piece, of her touring days with BB King, are indelible.

The Jazz Jezebels I’ve interviewed and written about over the years include the phenomenal Linda Mitchell, the multi-faceted scat singin’ sister Wendy Jones, the quirky and ultra-unique, unparalleled interpreter Serpentine Arborvitae, Evalina Everidge who reinvented herself and her career at the tender age of 60-something, and the genre-hopping songwriter, marvelous Millie Palmer. Evalina and Millie have moved out of our area and are pursuing their dreams in other cities. And Serpentine has changed her name back to Roberta Baum. One thing remains the same though – these Jazzers are pursuing, revamping, co-creating, and manifesting outstanding new and old music.

Each and every female I have written about is special in her own right, and some interview experiences really stand out. For instance, the fact that writing songs comes so easily for some, like Amanda Platt from the Honeycutters, and is a long labor of love for others. When I interviewed Kat Williams, she was in the middle of a health crisis and the conversation was emotional, poignant, and one I’ll never forget. It took almost a week to finish the piece on Stephanie Morgan, what with her busy career as singer/front woman, performing artist, actor and entrepreneur – we eked out 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there over the phone to get it done.

The young and driven, talented beyond measure, daughters of delight – like multi-instrumentalist Dulci Ellenberger, rock superstar vocalist Caitlin Krisko, fiddle violinist improviser Lyndsey Pruett, old time upright bassist with an unequaled twang Cary Fridley, pianist/composer/exceptional gospel singer Rockell Scott, whimsical rock and roll drummer Eliza Hill, two ever-rising stars in our midst consisting of award winning pop and soul blender, Lyric and country/blues/Americana hip chick Ashley Heath, and the song smith with the beguiling lilt to full on throttle of singer CaroMia – all these young fem fatales, as well as countless others I’ve introduced or expounded on over the last seven years, have one big thing in common: Their courtship with music.

Slated for the November and December issues are profiles on Eleonore Schwarz, a self-made music business woman who heads the EC Entertainment and Booking agency in Asheville, and newly replanted violist/jazz singer, Anastasia Yarbrough. There are so many Women Making Music still left to spotlight: richly gifted singer songwriters Brie Capone, Hope Griffin and Nicole Nicolopoulos; funk mama Mary Frances; actor/singer Marisa Bee; flutist Kate Kinney Barber; Americana crooner and songwriter Mare Carmody; orchestral bassoonist Rosalind Buda; two of Hendersonville’s finest, Bluegrass singer Kelli Redmond and pop princess Izzy Hughes – just to name a few. With 46 profiles and counting, it will take years to get them all in!

I am thankful to have this platform to reflect on matters like equality in the music business and the future of the Blues genre. I have been privileged to promote fundraisers and special events and shows, many of them my own collaborations: to recognize women who make music happen, and women who teach music. Their talents and artistry, and profound entertainment contributions, create a respite to our sometimes overwhelming, daily lives.

At a time when the world is chaotic, when it brings some of us to tears and to our knees, we remember that music has always been and always will be a healer. Please continue to support your local musician. While this column emphasizes female artists, to paraphrase the late great James Brown, “the world would be nothing without a man or a boy!” Remember that each June, WNC Woman Magazine focuses on the Y-chromes and I dedicate that column to the remarkable men who help make the Asheville music scene so rich and handsome.
The faith that Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, publisher and editor, has in me to produce this monthly section, where I get to boast and gush about all these incredibly deserving women, deserves a special and heartfelt thank you! Which doesn’t begin to describe what being entrusted with this means to me personally. I am grateful and humbled.

Peggy Ratusz

Peggy Ratusz
Written by Peggy Ratusz