White Horse celebrates eight-year ride

Paul Clark

Bob Hinkle had a pretty good life going for himself in New York City. The successful manager of top musical acts such as Etta James and the J. Geils Band, he started a record label for children and parlayed its success into a corporate job with mass media giant Bertelsmann.

But he wanted to come home. Born and raised in Asheville, he left New York City, his home for 40 years, to come to Black Mountain. He and his then-wife Kim Hughes didn’t know what they wanted to do here. But Hughs had had a vision of what was to come.

Sometime during their stay, Bob McMurray at the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce showed them a cluttered warehouse on Montreat Road. On a wall was a poster of six white horses galloping across a meadow – an image that recalled one Hughes had during a meditation days earlier.

“What’s a ‘White Horse Black Mountain?’” she’d asked Hinkle at the time.

He didn’t know then, but they knew once they saw the poster. White Horse Black Mountain was the music room they were destined to open, they decided. The room was perfect, with good acoustics.

Six months later, in November 2008, they opened White Horse Black Mountain. On Saturday, Dec. 3, Hinkle, now the majority owner (Hughes is no longer an owner) and the venue celebrate their eighth year.

Opened during the Great Recession, the club’s success is an odds-defying testament to the vision and tenacity of Hinkle and co-manager Don Talley. The intimate venue in the heart of Black Mountain continues to attract local, regional and national acts representing a broad palette of musical choices. The breadth and depth of the talent associated with the listening room is apparent in the artists who will perform Dec. 3.

The Belfast Boys, longtime White Horse favorites, are transplanted Ulstermen who serve up innovative arrangements of traditional Irish jigs, reels and songs. Virtuoso guitarist Alyn Mearns is also a songwriter of rare depth, while mandolinist Adrian Rice is a respected published poet.

North Dakota native Ian Ridenhour, who recently turned 16, makes assured and mature music that belies his age. His new album “Cry About It,” with its attendant creatively produced videos, is attracting wide attention. As the CD title suggests, Ian uses his music to explore and expiate personal demons, but the songs are wrapped in smart, piano-driven pop.

Veteran guitarist/vocalist Marcel Anton brings a shamanic intensity to his shows. The New Orleans native carries that city’s sense of spiritual depth and mystery, along with its matchless musical legacy.

Kevin Spears is considered by some as one of the world’s finest kalimba players. In Spears’ hands, the humble thumb piano morphs into an orchestra as the musician builds percussive electronic soundscapes onstage with live looping and brilliant improvisations.

Jay Brown hosts a monthly songwriter showcase at the White Horse, but for one of his frequent musical collaborators he needs look no farther than home. Brown’s wife, Adithi Sethi, accomplished in several musical traditions from her Indian homeland, provides vocals and harmonium in their Indian fusion group Shantavaani. Brown himself has studied Indian classical music, and performs as a founding member of the classic country swing band The Lazybirds when he isn’t pursuing a solo career steeped in American roots music.

Owning the stage has its perks if you’re also a performer, but Hinkle has earned that space. He gained national attention with his college band The Good Earth (Oliver of “Good Morning Starshine” fame was also a member) and released a solo album before gravitating to the business side of the entrainment industry. Over the years he’s amassed a catalog of original songs and poetry, many of which reflect Hinkle’s incisive dry wit, set off by his trademark lived-in vocal and guitar settings.

Eight bright candles

What: White Horse Eighth Anniversary Extravaganza

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $18 advance/$20 door