Section: Arts

Celebrated bluegrass bands charm crowd at Ohiolina

Celebrated bluegrass bands charm crowd at Ohiolina

by Bailey Blaker

From the country stylings of Appalachia to the bluegrass roots of rural North Carolina, annual music festival Ohiolina brings the sounds of the Interstate 77 corridor to Mount Vernon.

Ohiolina is a celebration of the music, food and culture found along the I-77, a stretch of highway that connects Ohio’s rolling farmlands to the mountainous terrain spanning West Virginia and North Carolina.

Eleven artists ventured to the Ariel Foundation Park event center to entertain the crowd of about 50 spectators who had gathered this past Saturday. Musicians traveled as far as from North Carolina, but some, like Ted Rice, live as nearby as Mount Vernon.

Greg Dutton, Eric Sommer, Erika Hughes and The Well Mannered played the side stage. Main-stage performers included Columbus-based all-female group the Salty Caramels, the Wayfarers and Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle, as well as the Grammy-nominated roots band Yarn.

Yarn took the stage Saturday night and quickly charmed folk music enthusiasts in the audience. Their set was full of dark and broody ballads like “Bad Bad Man.” Their song “Turn the Light Off”  was a powerful blues-inspired anthem wrought with emotion. The band, lit by a fleet of blue spotlights, exhibited charisma and engaged with the audience throughout their performance.

Blake Christiana, the band’s lead vocalist, said the band’s extensive time spent on the road — especially on I-77 — was a major source of inspiration for their sound.

“We’re heavily influenced by the I-77 culture,” Christiana said. “We drive the I-77 on a regular basis. Our experiences inspire our music … and it’s a melting pot of music all around here.”

The band’s success in recent years may be attributed to its old-school sound. Rod Hohl, lead guitarist for Yarn, cited Johnny Cash as one of the band’s many influences. “You know if you live in America and you like songwriting then you’re bound to find these people, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson,” Hohl said. “They’re classic. … [If] you’ve got a good record collection, you’ll be drawn to good songs.”

This was Yarn’s first appearance at Ohiolina, but it’s unlikely to be their last. Yarn drummer Robert Bonhomme cited Ohiolina as important for the music culture of the region. “We tend to play more south along the 77, like near Charleston,” Bonhomme said. “I think we need more of these [festivals] in Ohio.”

The band is open to returning to the festival in the future. “We’re happy to come to Ohio as much as we can,” Christiana said. “We were in Ohio at the beginning of the summer and here we are again at the end. … It’s like a sandwich and Ohio’s the bread.”


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