Two generations, one passion, traditional music

David Holt, left, and Joshj Goforth are helping to keep music traditional to Western North Carolina alive.

Grammy-winning recording artist, master acoustic musician. 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 on Saturday, Dec. 23. The performance marks Holt’s first concert as a recent North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductee.

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, 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 Holt founded the Appalachian Studies program at Warren Wilson College while simultaneously establishing himself as a dynamic solo performer. He 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 easy, folksy charisma and eclectic knowledge also made him an on-air personality (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, as well asSutton, Holt and Coleman. 

Next-generation string wizard Josh Goforth is descended from some of the same mountain musicians that Holt learned from. A performance at Goforth’s 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.

Goforth got his formal musical education at East Tennessee State University, where he was part school’s renowned bluegrass and country music program. His 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 concertize 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.

Traditionally yours

Who: David Holt and Josh Goforth

When: 8 pm. Dec. 23

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $22 advance, $25 door