Aug. 16--Don't get it twisted. Yarn is a northern jam band, but one that's steadily winding its way south.
"Virginia has been one of our best states," said singer and songwriter Blake Christiana.
"It's one of my favorites. It's been great," Christiana said. "That area, Hampton and Virginia Beach, just started coming around in the last few years. Before, we always passed over it for whatever reason. Now, we're hitting it on a regular basis. I love Virginia."
Yarn started in Brooklyn, but its style of improvisational acoustic music has been gaining converts far and wide, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. The group has become a regular at FloydFest in Southwest Virginia in recent years and Christiana now spends much of his time in Raleigh, N.C. His band was featured on a Chattanooga, Tenn., episode of "Music Voyager," a show on PBS.
Playing in Nashville, the band impressed Grammy-winning studio wizard Bil VornDick who went on to produce on the group's album "Almost Home," which was named one of the Top 100 Americana albums of 2012 by the Americana Music Association.
"This disc comes closest to capturing their blistering live shows and certainly is more electric than their previous releases," wrote a critic on the No Depression website. "The resignation theme that runs through Blake's lyrics carries a hopeful tone, though, with the sing-along choruses and stellar playing from a first-rate band."
That group features mandolin, upright bass and drums as well as electric guitar and Christiana's acoustic strumming.
Yarn will perform a free show at the Hampton Block Party on Saturday. Talking about the gig gave Christiana an excuse to recall his days as a college student at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk. He studied music there in the 1990s.
Christiana grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., but said he was ready to get away from home as a young man.
"It was pretty much the only school that took credits from community college and it was close to the beach," said the singer, laughing. "At first, I tried business and failed miserably. Then, I hooked up with the music department and they worked hard to get me out of there. So I have a lot of appreciation for them."
He ended up studying classical guitar with local master Sam Dorsey, who Christiana said he greatly admires. At the time, he lived in an apartment on Colley Avenue, in the Ghent section of Norfolk.
Christiana graduated in 1999 and moved to New York City in 2001. By 2007, he was making albums with Yarn.
The band has been winning friends and expanding its reach ever since.
"If it wasn't true, we wouldn't still be playing," the 37-year-old Christiana said. "It's a slow and steady build. Nothing's overnight. You've just got to work your butt off. I'd love to see it build faster. If I knew how to make that happen, I'd be a millionaire.
"I think people are just relating to the music, looking to have a good time ... As long as it's growing, we're going to keep doing it. We don't want to overstay our welcome."
Want to go?
What: Yarn in concert at the Hampton Block Party
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17. The event runs 6-11 p.m.
Where: Queens Way, Hampton
More information: hamptonblockparty.com
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