Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Another Metamorphosis! Work on a New Album! (And a Brief History of Molasses Creek)

Molasses Creek at the final performance of 2014, Mountain Spirit Coffeehouse in Asheville, NC.

2014 has been an exciting and dramatic year in many ways for Molasses Creek; lots of fun concerts around the country from Ocracoke Island to Pittsburgh and Hershey PA, Albany NY, Connecticut, New York City, Kansas City, Chicago, Richmond and Washington VA, Stillwater OK, Charlotte, Wilmington, Black Mountain, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Yadkinville, Winston Salem, Southern Pines, Raleigh, Hatteras, and Swan Quarter, NC! 

For the second year in a row we had an album in the top 5 on the national folk charts, the biggest crowds ever at our Ocrafolk Festival, and even a hurricane on the 4th of July! After all this excitement, we end the year on a wistful note. Marcy and Lou have decided to leave Molasses Creek to make time to pursue other interests that had been put on the back burner for the past few years.  We've made some wonderful music together and we'll miss them, but certainly wish them well!

David and Gary have already begun work on a new CD coming out in the spring of 2015 with new songs including David's poignant ~"House on the Lane", Tommy Edward's tribute to NC barbecue ~"Holy Smoke", and Catesby Jones' beautiful ~"Weeping Willow Blues". We'll keep you posted as things develop!

And Now, a Look Back at 22 Years of Molasses Creek History

Gary and his wife Kitty began this journey in the early nineties performing as a duet at restaurants and bars on the island. Stefen Howard (Fiddler Dave's future brother-in-law) began to join Kitty and Gary at some gigs and suggested they call the trio "Molasses Creek" after one of the streams up the island. Meanwhile, Fiddler Dave, an Oklahoma native, was in college at Davidson in 1993 when he and Gary were both hired by director Cynthia Mitchell to provide musical accompaniment for a production of "Spoon River Anthology" in Goldsboro, NC.  The two hit it off, and Gary invited Dave to spend a summer at Ocracoke playing music together (the lure of beautiful bikini-clad women was also mentioned), and the young fiddler said ...."OK!" 
Molasses Creek from the first summer (Fiddler Dave & Gary sans facial hair!) photo by Ann Ehringhaus
After Stefen went on to follow love to the mountains of NC, Gary, Kitty and David performed together in the summer of 1993 and recorded their first album entitled "Ocracoke Island" including 7 of Gary's original songs, an original fiddle tune and song by Dave, and a couple of traditional tunes.
The following summer, the trio was joined by Wes Lassiter on banjo and mandolin and another album of mostly original songs, "Ocracoke Island II (the Sequel)" was released.  
In 1994 David was the recipient of a prestigious Watson Fellowship, and in late summer left for a year-long worldwide study of celtic fiddling styles. During David's absence Molasses Creek was joined by exceptional old-time fiddler Bill Hicks (of Red Clay Ramblers fame) and continued to perform regionally. After Dave's year abroad in Scotland, Ireland, the Shetland Islands and Cape Breton, he returned to Ocracoke Island and resumed his musical shenanigans with Gary, Kitty and Wes.

Photo by Ann Ehringhaus
Photo by Ann Ehringhaus
1996 brought a new album "Wildheart" (recorded in the Ocracoke Community Center) with special guests Martin Garrish, Libby Hicks, and Eric Booth.

Also that year the band's home base, Deepwater Theater, was born from an open-air aviary and rusted out single-wide trailer as a venue for cabaret theater, the Ocrafolk Opry, and Molasses Creek. From 1997 through 2000, David, Gary and Kitty were joined in concert off island by long time friends and college bandmates Louis Allen on mandolin and vocals and Stan Brown on banjo. This was a very exciting time for Molasses Creek with an appearance on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" at the Town Hall Theater in NYC, and a new album "Citybound" recorded in Nashville with special guests Vassar Clements, David Grier, and Gene Wooten.
This album was released internationally and reached #1 on the European Country Music charts!
Molasses Creek on the set of A Prairie Home Companion in NYC Town Hall
Molasses Creek with Garrison Keillor after the show (Stan Brown pictured on the right)

The year 2000 saw the realization of Gary's vision for an acoustic music festival on Ocracoke Island with the birth of the Ocrafolk Festival. It began as a small, ticketed one-day event held on the grounds of the Berkley Manor, and has grown to become the most in-demand weekend of the year for visitors to Ocracoke Island!

In contrast to this artistic birthing, the year 2000 also brought a dramatic health scare to Gary's family. After months of recurrent fevers and a 40 lb. weight loss, Gary was finally diagnosed with a heart valve infection (a result of wisdom tooth extraction) which triggered a brain aneurism requiring brain surgery. After multiple stroke symptoms and partial paralysis, he made a full recovery and was able to play guitar and sing again by Christmas of that year. (Thank you and bless you, wonderful doctors and nurses!)

Molasses Creek (w/Gerald Hampton) plays at the First in Flight Centennial Celebration in Kitty Hawk, NC

The early 2000s saw more changes as long-time friend and mandolin whiz Gerald Hampton began to join David, Kitty and Gary for shows. A "Best of Molasses Creek" CD was released in 2001,
the crazy "A Very Silly Travel Companion" in 2002,
and daughter Katy Mitchell joined in with many guest appearances and a song on the band's 10th anniversary CD "Deepwater" in 2003.
Mark Schimick's mandolin was an exciting addition to the summer shows in 2004, and in 2006 Lou Castro (dobro and guitar) began to lend his considerable talents to Molasses Creek shows at the newly renovated Deepwater Theater.   
Molasses Creek lineup with  Lou Castro and Gerald Hampton (photo Katy Wharton)
Lou and Jubal Creech (on percussion) joined Gary, Kitty, Dave and Gerald for the band's 8th album "Strangest Dream". 

There are some serious Bottled Water Tears going on here!

The lineup for the Ocrafolk Opry with Coyote (Lou & Marcy), Molasses Creek, and Gary & Kitty's daughter Katy
Molasses Creek got to open for Garrison Keillor again in Greenville, NC

2008 was a significant turning point for the band, with Kitty's decision that trying to teach public school full-time and play with Molasses Creek was just too much, so after 15 years she retired from the band (she now has a little more time for painting, which is her first love). 
Molasses Creek in concert at Tyro school NC
 In early 2009, Marcy Brenner (Lou's wife) joined Molasses Creek, bringing a variety of instrumental talents and songwriting skills. A new album "Follow the Heron Home" was released,
followed by "More Better Molasses Creek" (2010),
"An Island Out of Time" (2012),
and "Something Worth Having" (2014).

We've sure been blessed with many dear friends and lots of incredible music over the past 20+ years, and are very excited about the new adventures yet to come! Thanks so much to all of our wonderful bandmates, fans and friends for taking this ride with us.
Caricature of Molasses Creek by artist Lee Sauer