By Rebekah Sanderlin
Music takes over Fayetteville for the 31st Annual Dogwood Festival
For a few days every spring, music bounces off Downtown Fayetteville’s buildings and people come from all around to enjoy the shows — and this year is no exception. With artists representing country, rock, R&B and hip hop, this year’s Dogwood Festival musical line-up promises something for everyone.
Local favorite Erik Smallwood kicks off the festival at 7 p.m. With a sound reminiscent of The Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and John Mayer, Smallwood’s music is catchy and has roots in both country and soul. He grew up in the musical hotbed of Muscle Shoals, Ala., playing drums and guitar in church, and then moved to Fayetteville in 2006. He’s worked with musicians linked to Bonnie Raitt, The Grateful Dead and the Drive-by Truckers, among others.
Friday night’s headliner, scheduled to take the stage around 9 p.m., is country music star Joe Diffie. Between 1990 and 2004, Diffie charted 35 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, including mega-hits “Home”, “If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets)”, “Third Rock from the Sun”, “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than the Beatles”. He also co-wrote songs for Holly Dunn, Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina and has recorded with Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones and Marty Stuart. In 2010, he released, “Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album”, a return to his roots, musically. Fans will likely hear Diffie’s well-known hits, as well as being treated to some of his bluegrass songs, sounds that will surely be right at home bouncing off the buildings downtown.
The party starts on Saturday with Fayetteville favorite Fahrenheit. The band’s five members, Greg Adair on drums and vocals; Les Williams on guitar; Mike Grady on keyboards and vocals; Richard Honeycutt on lead guitar and vocals; and Rick Lewis on bass guitar, play songs from classic rock to country, whatever it takes to get the crowd moving.
In the early 1970s a new form of music was being created in Jacksonville, Fla. Blending country, rock n’ roll and the blues, Southern Rock, as it came to be called, took over the Jacksonville music scene, spawning mega-artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, the Allman Brothers, and two artists who will perform at this year’s Dogwood Festival: Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet.
Rock n’ rollers Blackfoot will take the stage Saturday night after Fahrenheit. Though Blackfoot is primarily known for their harder rock sound, members of Blackfoot did play for a time with Lynyrd Skynyrd and other well known southern rockers. With hits like “The Highway Song” and “Teenage Idol”, Blackfoot cemented their place as one of the preeminent southern rock bands and fans continue to enjoy their music.
Saturday’s headliners Molly Hatchet also got their start in Jacksonville, Fla. in the 1970s and, no doubt, will enjoy the reunion with their long-time music-mates. The band named themselves after a 17th century axe murderess named Molly who beheaded her lovers with, you guessed it, a hatchet. Their self-titled debut album reached multi-platinum status in 1978 and they went on to tour with bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, and many more. Their second album, “Flirtin’ With Disaster” also went multi-platinum and yielded a hit in the song, “Flirtin’ With Disaster”.
The band continued to tour and release albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s, though the line-up changed some. Co-founding member Dave Hlubek rejoined the band in 2004 and long-time Molly Hatchet fans will likely be pleased to hear that the band rocks just as hard as ever.
On Sunday afternoon local and national pop, hip hop and R&B acts will own the stage, beginning with Fayetteville’s own 45 RPM at 1 p.m. The group of tween-and-teenaged girls is comprised of Katie Goulet on bass guitar and vocals; Tayler Morgan on keyboards and vocals; Teraasia Archer on percussion and vocals; and Alex Washington on guitar, keyboards and vocals. They have performed locally at the Cumberland County State Fair, the North Carolina Umoja Festival and at Crown Coliseum.
The young artist theme continues on Sunday as nationally-known hip hop and R&B performer B. Smyth takes the stage. The 19-year-old Ft. Lauderdale native is best known for his smooth voice and a sound that is reminiscent of old Motown and artists like a young Michael Jackson, Maxwell and Frank Ocean. His young listeners also appreciate his handsome face and charming smile. His new song, “Leggo”, is currently getting a lot of attention in the R&B world and many predict big things to come for B. Smyth.
Also taking the stage Sunday are Prince Nefew and Da Mil, an 11-year-old rapper originally from Chicago who performs with his brother T-Man, his sisters Moda and Libby, and his cousin, Lulu. Born “Michael King” in Chicago, the very young man realized at an even younger age that he had a gift for hip hop. The whole ensemble relocated to Atlanta and now their song “Bully” has become an anti-bullying anthem nationwide.
Sunday’s line-up is rounded out with Kayla Brianna, an 18-year-old R&B star whose talent and beauty have many saying that she’s destined for major success. She describes her sound as being influenced by artists like Brandy, Aaliyah and Keri Hilson, a fusion of classic pop, R&B and jazz. Her famous fans include George Lopez, Chris Rock, Ice Cube and Kobe Bryant — but when recruiting famous fans, it doesn’t hurt that Kayla Brianna’s dad is Kenny “the Jet” Smith, the former pro basketball player turned NBA analyst.