Twin peaks - master musicians David Holt and Josh Goforth

Black Mountain News

Grammy-winning recording artist, master acoustic musician and storyteller, folklorist, TV and radio personality. All these describe the multi-talented David Holt, who along with gifted young picker Josh Goforth will entertain the crowd at White Horse Black Mountain at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21. Tickets are $18 advance, $20 at the door.

David Holt, left, and Josh Goforth are keeping interest alive in old-time music from the Appalachian Mountains.

So thoroughly has Holt absorbed the traditional culture of the Southeast that it’s hard to believe he’s not a native. Born in Texas, Holt and his family moved to California when he was in junior high. But after college his growing love of traditional music brought him to the Appalachian Mountains, where his passion to become an old-time banjo player led him to remote communities searching for the best traditional musicians. His sources shared a treasure trove of mountain songs, tunes and stories, and Holt became proficient on multiple stringed instruments, as well as some more esoteric ones like mouth bow, bones and even paper bag.

In 1975 he founded the Appalachian Studies program at Warren Wilson College while simultaneously establishing himself as a dynamic solo performer. Holt has recorded and performed with many of his musical heroes and mentors, including Doc Watson, Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins. His folksy, charismatic style and eclectic knowledge also made him a natural on-air personality, and Holt has numerous radio and TV credits with NPR, PBS, UNC-TV, and TNN. He was also a regular guest on “Hee-Haw” and made a cameo musical appearance in the movie "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” In addition to his solo work, he performs with David Holt and the Lightning Bolts and Sutton, Holt and Coleman.

Goforth, a next-generation "string wizard," is descended from some of the same mountain musicians that Holt learned from. A performance at his middle school by Holt and Goforth cousin Sheila Kay Adams got him thinking about his Madison County musical heritage. Over the next few years he was inspired to learn 10 instruments by ear, absorbing tunes and styles from local traditional music masters. He got his formal musical education at East Tennessee State University, where he was part of the school’s renowned bluegrass and country music program.

Goforth's talents were quickly recognized, and in 2000 he appeared as a fiddler in the movie "Songcatcher." He’s a three-time winner at the Fiddler’s Grove festival, the youngest ever to earn that distinction, as well as the title “Master Fiddler.” He’s gone on to play concerts in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and is a member of David Holt and the Lightning Bolts and bluegrass band Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road.

Although his fiddling brought him early acclaim, Goforth’s guitar work is equally impressive in both flat picking and fingerpicking mode. He’s said that one of the main goals of his career is to get young people interested in traditional music.

“In all the years I’ve been playing traditional and old-time music, I’ve always said that if people could really see and hear it live they’d fall in love with it," he said.