When: Fri., Feb. 20, 9 p.m. 2015
JOSH OLIVER | FRIDAY, FEB. 20
THE ARTSCENTER, CARRBORO—When Josh Oliver returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, last year after a short European tour, his home was almost empty. His guitars and banjo, his albums and amplifiers—a burglar had taken nearly all of it. But the soft-spoken Smoky Mountains flat-picker says the stolen goods were frivolous things, anyway.
"The guy kind of did me a favor," he says with a laugh. "I had so much gear I wasn't using, and it was just sitting around. Most of the amps he took didn't even work."
Oliver echoes that complacency over the robbery on his latest album, Part of Life—it's a "part of livin' and dyin,'" he sings on the title track. With a pittance of insurance cash, he bought a vintage Martin guitar from Mipso's Joseph Terrell. The instrument became a keystone for his thriving relationship with the Triangle.
Before Terrell, the guitar belonged to Jerry Brown, owner of Chapel Hill's Rubber Room recording studio. Hand-me-down in tow, Oliver entered Brown's studio to record Part of Life with Mandolin Orange's Andrew Marlin, another close North Carolina compatriot. The two first met at the Shakori Hills festival in 2010; he's since opened for them and accompanied the duo of Marlin and Emily Frantz on piano many times. When he comes to Carrboro this week, they'll back him.
"Every time I get to hang out with Andrew and Emily, I get to do more playing for fun than with most of my musician friends," he says. "It is always refreshing to sit around with them and play for hours and hours."
Oliver was once a shy solo performer. Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, he heard old hymns and traditional songs every week, but he was afraid to sing with the congregation. While attending East Tennessee State University, he finally started to play in public.
A good thing, as Part of Life demonstrates. Though polished with subtle banjo and soft piano, the heart of the record remains the intimate relationship between his deep, reverberating twang and that six-string Martin. It's as if Oliver invites you to join him in his Tennessee home and take the space that was once wasted on idle instruments. Josh Moore opens. 9 p.m., $8–$12, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, 919-929-2787, artscenterlive.org. —Charlie Shelton