News Column

Zinc Kings bring old-time music to Musical Chairs

September 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 05--GRAHAM -- The Zinc Kings think of themselves as "tradition bearers."

Their goal, as musicians and educators, is to carry on the old-time music tradition.

"It's something we value," guitarist Mark Dillon said in a recent interview at the Times-News.

Mark Dillon, Dan Clouse and Christen Blanton met in 2008 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as part of a class, the Old Time Ensemble, led by Dr. Revell Carr. The class is still offered at the university. The band was formed in 2010.

The trio was on its way to Raleigh recently, where it performed music for the Bare Theatre's adaptation of William Shakespeare's "As You Like It." The musicians adapted Shakespeare's text into songs. The project was in collaboration with PineCone and was touted as "Shakespeare picks up a banjo." Artistic director Heather Strickland took audiences into the woods of Appalachia and The Zinc Kings became part of the performance, "blacking out" their teeth and wearing overalls.

Keeping old-time music alive is something Dillon, Clouse and Blanton are passionate about.

"There's a richness of music in this area," Dillon said. "And we have a healthy respect for it. We're dedicating ourselves to the genres that happen here. We feel there's an under-representation of the music from the Piedmont."

During the summer, they perform for a number of fiddle and music festivals throughout the Piedmont-Triad. The group will make its first appearance at the Musical Chairs countywide concert series as part of the First Fridays event from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at 104 East Elm St. Admission is free, but donations of children's art supplies for classes at the Alamance County Arts Council are appreciated; seating won't be provided, so be sure to bring a chair or blanket.

The band got its name from The Zinc Kings' washboard, a collector's item among music lovers that Clouse described as the "Stratovarius of washboards."

"I actually have one. It's the lingerie model, though," Clouse said with a laugh.

Dillon grew up going to music festivals. His grandfather and great-uncle, Edgar Jones and Lloyd Jones, were in the Lonestar Players in the 1930s. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and a music teacher.

Banjo player Clouse grew up in Michigan and went on to earn his master's degree in music theory and technology from the University of Tennessee, a Doctorate of Musical Arts from UNCG in performance and is a professional tuba player. While in Tennessee, he began researching and learning more about old-time music. Clouse bought a banjo and instructional book and began to play. He has played with numerous orchestras and chamber groups around the country and taught at a number of colleges. His full-time job is as a web programmer and software engineer with Sealy in High Point.

Blanton grew up in upstate New York. Her mother is an opera singer. Blanton is currently a Ph.D. student at UNCG, a freelance viola and violinist and a music teacher. She grew up studying northeast fiddle styles and performed for Contra dances. It wasn't until she earned a master's degree in viola performance that she discovered the southeast fiddle style through the Old Time Ensemble. After graduating, it was Carr who encouraged her to continue playing.

"I never feel as good as when I'm playing old-time with these guys," Blanton said with a smile.

Dillon described The Zinc Kings' music as "porch music."

"It takes you back to a simpler time," he added.

No matter where it plays, the band welcomes dancers to come out and dance the night away -- including Friday, too.

In case of rain, the concert will be canceled. For more details, call the Leisure Line at (336) 222-5147, visit www.artsalamance.com or call (336) 226-4495.

Upcoming concerts

--Sept. 13: Eric and The Chill Tones, Sunset Rhythms, Burlington City Park

--Sept. 20: The Franklin Street Band, Clay Street After Work, Mebane

--Sept. 27: The Lizzy Ross Band, Fridays On Front/Fourth Fridays, Burlington

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(c)2013 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)

Visit Times-News (Burlington, N.C.) at www.thetimesnews.com

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