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Sarah Pirkle at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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Archive for the ‘Sarah Pirkle’ tag

More “Spirit”: Jeff and Sarah’s radio show expanding in 2013

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Hard to believe Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle have been on the air for more than a year, co-hosting their “In the Spirit” radio show since August 2011.

When we talked to them around the show’s humble beginnings, their goal was a simple one: To play “just good, inspirational music — from Sam Bush to Sam Cooke, from Bob Marley to Bob Wills, from Loretta Lynn to Mahalia Jackson,” Barbra said.

“Basically, it’s what you would hear if you came to our house on Sunday mornings,” Sarah added. “It’s what you’re going to hear from our collection while we make you breakfast.”

But 2012 has been good to the duo, and starting Sunday, Jan. 13, “In the Spirit” will air twice on Sundays: From 8-11 a.m., and from 4-7 p.m. They won’t be a repeat of one another, meaning the evening show will stand on its own and feature different music — including some more upbeat numbers that might sound a little too wound up for the a.m. hours.

In addition, the two are incorporating a new segment into the show: “In the Moment,” a 15-minute interview/performance segment recorded at the couple’s house in Blount County’s Barb Hollow community. One recent guest: Local picker/guitar teacher Roscoe Morgan.

“In the Spirit” airs on WFIV-FM, i105, which can be found at 105.3 on your FM dial.

Written by wildsmith

January 4th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Knox music royalty pays homage to Woody Guthrie

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The Laurel Theater, that esteemed church-turned-concert-venue in Knoxville Fort Sanders neighborhood, is a beautiful setting in which to see a show, and it’ll be the perfect setting for a “History Songs: A Celebration of the Life of Woody Guthrie” that’s scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19.

To celebrate the 100th birthday of the American folk music icon, local artists — including Maggie Longmire, R.B. Morris, Jack Herranen, Sarah Pirkle, Jeff Barbra, Greg Horne and Daniel Kimbro — will gather to recreate Guthrie’s canon, from his dustbowl ballads and traveling songs to his more political songs and writings. When we caught up with Longmire earlier this month, she said the concert is a small token of appreciation on the part of East Tennessee musicians for Guthrie’s influence over the years.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to,” Longmire said. “There are shows going on all year to commemorate this, and some of the big guys are doing their shows at places like the Kennedy Center, but I think this one will be real interesting. It’ll be a mix of music and spoken word, and with everyone we’ve got, it won’t be a straight-edge show.”

Longmire counts among her favorite Guthrie songs “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” Guthrie’s tale of a plane crash of undocumented Mexicans on their way south out of California, and his scatching indictment of the treatment of the dead.

“You know how you have a song that sort of impacts you? There’s something about that one that tied it together, the telling of these horrific stories through folk songs, for me,” she said. “Sometimes, things just kind of line up, and that’s one I connected with and sang as a young folk singer.”

More information about Guthrie can be found here; the concert, which takes place at the Laurel (1538 Laurel Ave. in Fort Sanders), costs $12.

Rhonda Vincent selects Jeff Barbra and Darrell Webb song for next CD

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Rhonda Vincent is a pretty big deal in the world of bluegrass music.

How big, you might wonder? Well, she received the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” Award in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Her 2010 album “Taken” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums chart, No. 3 on the Heatseekers chart and No. 21 on the Top Country Albums chart — no mean feat, considering the pop-country competition.

Now, she’s got a new CD and a DVD project in the works. The former, “Sunday Mornin’ Singin’,” will be out July 10; the latter is a gospel concert filmed at a church in her hometown of Greentop, Mo. (no word on its release details). Both will include a song co-written by a feller whose name most local music fans will recognize: Jeff Barbra.

The song, “Silent Partner,” was co-written by Barbra and Sevierville-based singer-songwriter and bluegrass guy Darrell Webb. And you can hear it this weekend, when Jeff and his fiddling/singing partner and wife Sarah Pirkle spin it on their Sunday morning radio show, “In the Spirit.” The spiritually oriented program airs from 8-11 a.m. Sundays on WFIV-FM, 105.3 on your radio dial. You can tune in and listen live via the station’s website.

Written by wildsmith

May 4th, 2012 at 10:05 am

Sarah Pirkle gets props from The NYT

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Any time one’s name is mentioned in The New York Times, it’s a big deal. And when it’s mentioned with a fine dose of praise from that esteemed publication, it’s even better.

Blount County’s Sarah Pirkle got some props from the Times in a recent review of “Somewhere South of Crazy,” the new album by bluegrass queen Dale Ann Bradley. Bradley, the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year for 2007, 2008 and 2009, recorded Pirkle’s song “Come Home Good Boy” for the record, and the NYT picked it as one of the album’s best moments: “The highlight is ‘Come Home Good Boy,’ an affecting, quietly enraged song written by Sarah Pirkle about sending a child off to war.” Read the full review here.

Bradley recently shot a video for the song, which first appeared on Pirkle’s 2010 solo record “Walking Tall Through High Weeds.” The video should be released any day now, and you can read about it here. Pirkle and her husband, Jeff Barbra, are putting the finishing touches on their gospel album, “Family Singing,” which should see the light of day any time now as well.

Written by wildsmith

September 4th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Blount couple launches “In the Spirit” radio show starting Sunday

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Seventy-five years ago, folks all over rural Tennessee would gather around the family radio on Saturday nights and listen to the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry transmitted across the airwaves from Nashville.

Starting this Sunday (Aug. 14), there’s another type of family show that will be broadcast over the local airwaves — “In the Spirit,” which will air from 8 to 11 a.m. every Sunday on WFIV-FM, i105. You can pick it up at 105.3 FM, and it’s the latest specialty show on a station dedicated to local music. And the best part — the two hosts are Blount County’s Americana royalty, Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle.

“Tony (Cox, the station’s general manager) wanted to do a bluegrass-gospel show on Sundays, but after we talked, we decided to expand and not put any limits on it,” Jeff told us this week. “It’s all just good, inspirational music — from Sam Bush to Sam Cooke, from Bob Marley to Bob Wills, from Loretta Lynn to Mahalia Jackson.”

“Basically, it’s what you would hear if you came to our house on Sunday mornings,” Sarah added. “It’s what you’re going to hear from our collection while we make you breakfast.”

For now, the couple will pre-record the program from their home in Walland’s Barb Hollow community. Plans are in the works to expand it to the noon hour, and given the company the couple keeps, there’s no telling who might show up for a live segment — Larry Cordle or any number of local players.

In the meantime, Barbra and Pirkle are hoping to have their forthcoming gospel CD ready to go in time for their set at the “Worship in the City” music festival taking place the last weekend of the month. The two will perform at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the festival.

For more information, check out the “In the Spirit” Facebook page.

Written by wildsmith

August 9th, 2011 at 11:24 am

Country music’s new Blount County home: 850 AM

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It’s no secret that Jeff Barbra is no fan of what’s considered mainstream country music these days.

He’s good buds with Larry Cordle, the man who wrote “Murder on Music Row,” about the death of traditional country music. His band, The Drunk Uncles, are standard bearers of the “Kill Nashville Pop” movement, a grassroots organization dedicated to bringing back “real” country music to Nashville. So it was with great joy when, roughly a year ago, he discovered a radio station right here in Blount County that made him grin.

“I grew up listening to this same old format,” Barbra told me of WKVL-AM 850, transmitting from a station that’s little more than a year old and located at 261 Gill St. in Alcoa. “It reminds me of the old WGAP from 30 years ago.”

The station was once owned by WIVK, who gave it to the University of Tennessee. UT sold it to local preacher J. Bazell Mull, who in turn sold it to Horne Radio. The current owners are Jim and Johnnie Sexton, former owners of Knox Air who share Barbra’s fondness for the country music of yesteryear. They discovered the station was for sale roughly 18 months ago and decided to pursue it.

“Jim’s retired from the airline business, and this little station came up for sale and was having transmitter problems,” Barbra said. “Jim’s the kind of guy who likes to tinker with things, and he loves country music. He aw this station as a way for him to go mess with the technical end of things and a way to put on traditional country music full time. So it’s a labor of love for him.”

Not long ago, Barbra was going over the state of the finances he and his wife, local music teacher and fiddler extraordinaire Sarah Pirkle, share in their Barb Hollow household. Playing music is a good gig if you can get it, obviously, but it doesn’t keep the lights on during lean times. He’d already been trumpeting the station’s old-school format, so he dropped Jim Sexton a line one night and got a reply the next afternoon. The two set up a meeting, and Barbra was brought on board to sell advertising and work the promotional angle for the fledgling outfit.

“I’m coming from a different perspective, from a musician’s standpoint, and I explained to those guys how many younger folks are listening to this station,” Barbra said. “They’ve gotten a lot of feedback from older folks, but there are a lot of younger folks tuning in. The only alternatives are the bigger stations playing the new country-pop, and they’re wanting the real deal.”

At 50,000 watts — the maximum allowed for an AM station by the Federal Communications Commission — WKVL stretches across East Tennessee and into the Carolinas, and Barbra said the Blount County station has the potential to serve as East Tennessee’s version of WSM-AM, the Nashville station that broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry.

“We have the same wattage that WSM puts out, and my vision is to make this the WSM of East Tennessee, which it can be,” he said. “This is where it all started anyway before they took it down to Nashville.”

Already, Barbra is bringing on board some sponsors who appreciate the music AM 850 plays. This week, Morelock’s Music owner Matt Morelock and local lit-rocker Phil Pollard are coming in to cut a commercial for Morelock’s downtown Knoxville music store, a 60-second spot the two wrote themselves.

“That’s what’s cool about this station — even the commercials are funny and good,” Barbra said. “This whole thing has a hometown feel, and that was a big selling point for me to contact them. I think that’s so important, man, to stay in touch with the hometown people.”

Soon, Barbra and Pirkle will launch their own show on the station. Tentatively titled “Jeff and Sarah Live,” it’ll be a one-hour program devoted to showcasing local musicians that will air at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays.

“For example, Sarah’s been teaching for a long time now and has students who are full-grown adults, out gigging and are just tremendous musicians, and we want to bring them in,” Barbra said. “There are a few people we have in mind who don’t fit on other stations because they might be too country. And we want to bring in some of the older guys from here in Blount County who just can’t make it Knoxville.”

The 11 a.m. time is designed to compliment, not compete with, WDVX-FM, the grassroots radio station broadcasting out of Knoxville with whom Barbra, Pirkle and most traditional country, Americana and bluegrass musicians throughout East Tennessee have had a great working relationship for years.

“I do realize how much and appreciate how much WDVX has done for me and Sarah,” he said. “They’re the reason we have a career today. We want people to be able to tune in to ‘The Blue Plate Special’ at noon every day, but the hour before on Tuesdays, they can tune us in. There’s no competition whatsoever. We just want to do something different and put our show on before they go on the air; that way people can enjoy both.”

When he’s not playing Don Draper for the station, Barbra has his hands full with a number of other projects. The Uncles have roughly 85 percent of their new album finished, he said, and hope to finish recording sessions at Music Row of Maryville before the band performs at September’s Rhythm and Roots Festival in Bristol. A gospel record that he and Pirkle have been working on for several months is 95 percent complete, he estimated, and he’s crossing his fingers that several of their songs getting cut by higher-profile artists will lead to discovery of their songwriting talents by more and more people.

“Off our gospel record, there’s a song Darrell Webb and I wrote that Rhonda Vincent is putting on her live gospel DVD that she’s going to be recording at the end of this month, and Dale Ann Bradley just cut Sarah’s ‘Come Home Good Boy’ for her new album, which is coming out in the fall on Compass Records,” he said.

Written by wildsmith

June 14th, 2011 at 7:50 am

Sarah Pirkle sets release date for solo CD

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All hail the Duchess of Barb Hollow! That’s how we affectionately refer to Sarah Pirkle, that honey-voiced, fiddle-playing sweetheart from Walland who’s been a fixture in the East Tennessee music scene for several years.

She’s performed with her husband, Jeff Barbra (”The Duke”) … with the Maid Rite String Band … with The Naughty Knots … and on any number of local recordings. However, she’s often done so at the expense of her own music, which is every bit as divine as her collaborations might suggest.

Finally, she’s putting out her first solo album — “Walking Tall Through High Weeds.” It’s set for release on July 9, the same day as the CD release show, which will be held at Music Row of Maryville, 2808 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. No word yet on a cover charge, but you can have a CD waiting for you at the door if you pre-order it on Sarah’s website through Paypal. Heck, for $20, you can even get your name in the credits.

Check out Jeff and Sarah’s Myspace page for a video of a performance of the title track.

Written by wildsmith

May 27th, 2010 at 8:47 am

Sarah Pirkle, Naughty Knots, Jay Clark and more help out a good cause

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There are few ladies in music these days more gracious, kind and equally talented as Blount County fiddler Sarah Pirkle. A member of The Naughty Knots, the Maid Rite String Band and a frequent collaborator with her husband, singer-songwriter Jeff Barbra of The Drunk Uncles, she’s the real deal — big-hearted, super-cool and amazing to hear sing and play.

So when she throws her weight behind a benefit show that’s close to her heart, I can’t help but urge you to attend, help out and do what you can.

Here are the details:

Hearts For Hunter Benefit Concert and Chili Supper

6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20

Deane Hill Community Center, 7400 Deane Hill Drive, Knoxville

Pirkle writes that Hunter Graham, her cousin, “is a precious 17-month-old baby boy, who has a potentially life threatening disease, Menkes disease. On Feb 20, 2010 there will be a benefit concert at Dean Hill Community Center to help raise funds to send him and his mom and dad to the Family Hope Center in Philadelphia for treatment. Performers will be Andy & Sarah Pirkle, Jeff Barbra, Jay Clark, Van Eaton and the Naughty Knots. Suggested donation for adults $10.”

Coming Friday: “The K-Town Country Carnival”!

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If you’re over Knoxville way, you won’t find too many shows on Friday night with more of a Blount County connection.

For one thing, Jeff Barbra and his wife, Sarah Pirkle (a member of The Naughty Knots), call Walland home. Jay Clark … well, he’s played here so much that he might as well have a home here. Keith Nixon, playing with J.C. and the Dirty Smokers, stayed here for a while before deciding to give Nashville another go.

We highly recommend this show. And as a little enticement, our pal Mr. Clark has decided to allow us to offer the title track to his most recent album — “I’m Confused,” released last year — as a free download for a limited time only!

Here’s some info on the performers. Click the links, then come back here and get that song. It’s cleverly subtitled “A Christian’s Lament of How the Right Wing of the Republican Party Has Distorted My Faith.”

The Naughty Knots on Myspace

J.C. and The Dirty Smokers on Myspace

Jeff Barbra: Click here to read a cover story we did on him a couple of years ago

Keith Nixon: Click here to read last September’s interview with him

Jay Clark: Click here to read last October’s interview/story on the “I’m Confused” album release

Download “I’m Confused,” by Jay Clark: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)

Buy “I’m Confused”: Click here