Like Big Bill Broonzy, Andy Cohen is just plain folk

Staff reports

A self-described “guitar picking fool,” Andy Cohen grew up in a house with a piano, a cornet, and lots of Dixieland jazz. But at age 15 he got bitten by the folk music bug.

In performers like Big Bill Broonzy and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band he heard a connection to the music he grew up with. A year later, seeing South Carolina native and New York resident Rev. Gary Davis play his powerful, bluesy sacred music set Cohen on his current musical path, studying, performing and promoting the deep music of the Southeast.

He’ll bring those sounds and more to his appearance at the White Horse Black Mountain at 8 p.m. Friday, April 29. Asheville-based songwriter, theater artist and humanitarian clown Ash Devine opens. Tickets are $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Cohen describes his approach as sort of “Country Blues 101,” incorporating material from pre-war acoustic blues through the ’50s. He performs songs from the heartland of the blues, including material from Rev. Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, Gus Cannon, Memphis Minnie, Bukka White, Charlie Patton and other blues people, well-known and obscure.

He’s well versed in the guitar styles of his musical heroes, has toured with many of them, and has been described as a “walking, talking folk-blues-roots music encyclopedia.” Cohen is also a proponent of the rare Dolceola, a sort of miniature tabletop piano that he said he never leaves home without. He has a number of recordings to his credit, showcasing his way with blues from the Delta to the Piedmont, from Memphis to Chicago, as well as ragtime, sacred and original tunes.

Ash Devine is a pillar of the Asheville folk community, one whose highly individualistic musical style connect immediately with audiences. The multi-instrumentalist cites Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco and Bob Dylan as influences. She also draws inspiration from traditional Appalachian music and blues.

Devine began clowning after studying with Dr. Patch Adams and Gesundheit! Institute and now travels extensively to perform in medical facilities, orphanages and schools.