December 6, 2021

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Concert series kicks off Saturday with blues duo Roots and Dore | News

Coronavirus can’t stop the music.

Jammin’ in the Alley is proof as the concert series kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the alley adjacent to the Belmont Inn. Roots and Dore will kick off the free series, which will then move to Thursdays starting at 7 p.m. April 1.

Up to 15 acts have been scheduled for the series, said Mike Clary, director of community development for the city.

The series was established last year as a way to present music during the pandemic, he said. The goals for Jammin’ in the Alley, like all city events, are to create activity within the city, which will have a positive economic impact and improve the quality of life for residents.

Riyen Roots and Kenny Dore (pronounced Doe Ray as in “do re me fa so la ti do”) are not strangers to Abbeville. They performed at the Hogs & Hens Festival last fall.

The Asheville, N.C.-based duo was hired to do the festival and it went over well. “It seems like we’re getting a lot of love down in that area,” Roots said. “We’re gonna have a really good time. I would like to give thanks to Mike Elis of Artisan Entertainment for bringing us down there.”

The duo specializes in original acoustic-based blues and soul and Americana music. Its inspiration is 100 years of American roots music, Roots said. The group features music by Robert Johnson, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash and Carter family tunes. Mostly it’s all blues-based.

“He (Roots) and Dore are one of the most talented duos in the Carolinas. Their music is absolute gold,” said Elis, who is the CEO of Artisan Entertainment. He met the group around three years ago after it opened a show in Hendersonville, N.C. “Roots is a master of the old Memphis blues.”

It’s why they are both blues icons in the Asheville area, Elis said. “If people visit, they will be treated to a great day of music.”

The duo performs up to 200 shows a year and can play for any audience. “I always say we’ve never met an audience we couldn’t make happy,” said Roots, who plays the guitar while Dore plays the harmonica. When a third member is added, the group is called the Dore Band. “I’ve always been told I’m like a large Swiss Army knife of music.”

Roots’ favorite music includes Sam Cooke and Otis Redding tunes; he is a huge fan of Johnny Cash and Blaze Foley (a country music singer and songwriter). As far as blues, his favorite musicians are Blind Willie Johnson, BB King and Robert Johnson.

A proud moment for Roots is when he met King, who gave him some practical advice. King told me “To treat every show as though it’s the biggest show of my life whether it’s 3 or 300 people. That’s been the secret to my relative success.”

Roots assesses success by watching how the audience is interacting, getting them dancing or clapping or most important, people approaching them and saying, “Thanks so much, I needed that.”

Johnny Lee Hooker once said “Music is a healer,” Roots recalled. “I think blues is a healing music that is needed. That’s another reason we’re out and about.”

Given the pandemic, a lot of healing is needed. COVID-19 has been a tedious time, to say the least, Roots said.

Most of their shows are performed in a 90-mile radius of Asheville, what Roots calls “our daily bread shows.” The group also goes to New Orleans once a year, although COVID-19 has slowed down travel.

“It’s not easy to be a traveling musician, but we’re fortunate enough to find venues that have social distance rules and large open zones. It looks like things are starting to bounce back a little bit. I definitely see it getting busier, especially with the weathering improving.”

The band has about 12 breweries in a 90-mile radius that it plays consistently, Roots said, adding that he jokingly says: “Blues and brews, you can’t lose.” If there is barbecue there, that’s a plus.

“In my experience, I host two weekly open mics in Asheville and Black Mountain, N.C., and that’s to provide some consistency for artists who emotionally, very much need to get out and perform,” Roots said.

A lot of venues have opened up even with limited seating, Elis said. That’s why it is important for people to support local musicians.

“We lost a lot of that for so long,” he said. “My advice is to come out, enjoy a drink and a meal and enjoy the music.”

People also should support local businesses like Belmont. They go out of their way to bring entertainment to the city, Elis said.

While masking and social distancing are encouraged, Clary said masks are not required to attend the concert.

Contact staff writer Robert Jordan at 864-943-5650.

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