Elation Center for the Arts presents “Adam Hurt, North Carolina Banjo Virtuoso,” in concert at 7 p.m. Monday, April 20, at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse.
“There are sounds that only Adam can get,” says Marcy Marxer. Marxer is a pillar of the American old-time music community and one of the top female flatpickers in the music business. I asked Marxer to give me her perspective on Adam Hurt.
“I see talented people all the time,” she said, “but every once in a while, someone is just over the top in terms of talent and what they choose to do with their talent, intellect and intuition and all those things put together - intuition is a big one - and they come out with something that is just so remarkable and beautiful that it’s amazing, it leaves me almost speechless. Adam Hurt is such a talent.”
Deemed a “banjo virtuoso” by the Washington Post, Hurt plays a style of old-time American mountain music known as “clawhammer.” Characterized by subtle rhythmic and melodic ornamentation, clawhammer banjo takes on an extraordinary elegance in the hands of a masterful banjoist, and Hurt’s playing really brings out the richness of this ancient musical tradition.
“Adam really approaches the banjo as a full-spectrum instrument,” says Marxer. “He’s playing well thought out and beautiful melodic arrangements. He has a beautiful use of melody and harmony with embellishments. I think he’s a very thoughtful banjo player.”
Coaxing exquisite tones out of his banjo, Hurt is renowned for his elegantly innovative clawhammer banjo style. At age 25, he has already won many major competitions and state banjo championships. Besides being highly in demand as a performer, Hurt is a gifted and respected teacher who conducts banjo workshops throughout the US.
“For years,” continues Marxer, “the whole thrust of old-time banjo was to play it just like somebody else did. That was the definition of great; it still is, of course, in traditional music. If you can go back and you’re well versed in the classics and the great players, that’s a wonderful thing. What Adam did, was he went back and studied all that stuff and then he took it to a whole new level.”
In 2006, he released his second CD, “Insight,” which draws on diverse musical influences from the North Carolina Piedmont, the mountains of Central West Virginia, the Ohio River Valley and beyond.
“Adam has got his own unique style and he has spurred on a whole bunch of younger players,” says Marxer. “You hear these young banjo players and you know that they’ve been listening to Adam. So, what’s happening is that while other players are aiming for that, they’re developing their own style. They’re aiming at something that is really unique to Adam, but in doing that they’re pushing the envelope, they’re growing like crazy — coming up with new things. It’s a very exciting time for old-time traditional banjo music and Adam Hurt is one of the big reasons why.”
Hurt’s Pagosa Springs concert will go from the archaic modal sounds of West Virginia to the rambunctious, driving Round Peak music of Northwestern North Carolina, to the complex and technical tunes of Eastern Kentucky. Sprinkled throughout this traditional 5-string banjo concert will be a few of Hurt’s renditions of early American mountain music on his fiddle.
Listen to some of his music online at http://cdbaby.com/cd/adamhurt
The next three stories for the PREVIEW about the upcoming concert, “Adam Hurt, North Carolina Banjo Virtuoso,” will feature information from my interviews with the artist.
Advance tickets for $12 are available online at elationarts.org and at the Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Tickets at the door are $15. Young people 18 and under will be admitted free of charge.
Please help us continue the tradition of sharing a dessert at the concert intermission social.
Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave. in the Vista subdivision of Pagosa Lakes. Take U.S. 160 to Vista Boulevard; turn north on Vista, then left on Port. The clubhouse is at the end of Port in the PLPOA complex.
Elation Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides cultural arts programs to the community of Pagosa Springs. For more information, call 731-3117.