Fans & friends gather for coffee & music
Something’s brewing in Garner – and it’s more than just java.
Part coffeehouse, part music venue, that something is Lorraine’s, a unique concept that’s drawing crowds even from beyond the Triangle.
“I’ve always wanted a place where you could bring a date, or the family,” said Lorraine Jordan, mandolin-playing bluegrass great, founder of the Carolina Road band, and the creator of Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music.
“At a certain age, you outgrow the club scene. And some people, like me, just want a laid-back, family-style place.”
Autographed photos paper the walls at Lorraine’s, many of them from nationally-known performers whom Jordan befriended during her 20-plus years on the road.
Set in a former drugstore in the town that raised up country singer Scotty McCreery and serves as home to renowned jazz trumpeter Tom Browne, Lorraine’s is an alcohol-free concert hall offering live music three nights a week, free jam sessions, a songwriters’ circle, and workshops with professional musicians. It opened in July 2014.
Bluegrass is queen here, but jazz, country, blues, gospel and classic rock acts also grace Lorraine’s stage. Many of these performers are friends Jordan’s made during her 20-plus years on the road, including national names like Marty Raybon and Shenandoah and The Grascals, mentored by Dolly Parton.
Besides the music, the menu for evening concert-goers — and daytime guests — features specialty coffees, deli sandwiches and salads, soups, pastries and cheesecake by local business Cheesecakes Plus.
On this concert night, anticipation vibrates through the chatty crowd, as the crew makes final sound checks on the 17-foot stage, under truss lighting. The setting is intimate, with capacity for 156 people.
Finally the lights dim — it’s show time, and the band Salt & Light of Graham, N.C., emerges from the green room to take the stage. Guest emcee this night is longtime bluegrass broadcaster Buddy Michaels, host of the Hometown Festival Radio Show.
In the audience, toes begin to tap and heads bob as the family band twangs three-part bluegrass harmonies. This is pickin’ and grinnin’ at its best.
“We’ve passed by, and I wanted to know what goes on in here,” said Lorraine’s first-timer Sara Rogers, in attendance with her husband, Dock. “I had to talk him into it!”
Friends’ recommendations boosted their curiosity, Dock says, and he’s glad they came. The couple lives just outside of Cary.
“Not many people put in the hours that Lorraine does. This is a whole different approach to entertainment,” noted Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams, a Lorraine’s regular with his wife, Betsy.“And if you’re not a bluegrass fan, you will be by your third time here.”
“We love the music, and we love the people. It’s a great atmosphere,” added Paula Anderson. “It’s like sitting in your living room, hearing live music. A lot of our friends come here and hang out, and women can even come by themselves and feel safe.”
Anderson and her husband, Earl, have become such regulars at Lorraine’s that Anderson is now offering music-minded bus trips and cruises via her firm, Southern Cruise & Travel, in partnership with Jordan. It’s another local business connection.
Upcoming trips include July’s Bluegrass & Buggies, to hear Carolina Road perform at a festival in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, and December’s Jordan-produced Christmas in the Smokies excursion to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Stephanie Cherryholmes, left, and Susanna Langdon serve up coffee, deli sandwiches, salads, soup, pastries and locally-made cheesecake.
Mingling with Jordan in the crowd at Lorraine’s is Steve Dilling, a Cary High grad who holds 11 International Bluegrass Music Association awards in his own right. A longtime member of IIIrd Tyme Out, Dilling currently performs with the band Sideline. As manager of Jordan Entertainment, he books Carolina Road and hires entertainment for the coffeehouse.
Between them, Jordan and Dilling have 53 years on the road as musicians.
Dilling says Lorraine’s free Tuesday night jams, often led by Jordan’s husband, Tom Langdon, draw the venue’s largest crowds.
On the second Monday of each month Lorraine’s hosts a songwriters’ circle, he says, and one-day workshops begun this spring are led by premier bluegrass musicians, on their specific instruments.
A first-anniversary party for Lorraine’s is being planned for July, and this fall the venue will host a luncheon of artists and worldwide radio DJs in town for World of Bluegrass, the IBMA’s annual conference, set for Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 in downtown Raleigh.
“What’s also exciting is that Bluegrass Jamboree Internet Radio (thebluegrassjamboree.com) is now broadcasting live from Lorraine’s every Friday night, worldwide. That’s helping us draw bigger bands touring with new releases,” Dilling said.
Lorraine’s proximity to I-95 and I-540 works well for these band pickup dates, he adds, as the venue becomes part of the overall Triangle music scene.
Meanwhile, Jordan jokes that each time she considers retiring from travel, Carolina Road lands another No. 1 song that spurs her on.
Fresh from recording the Country Grass CD with artists like Crystal Gale, Lee Greenwood and Willow Spring’s Tim Cifers, who performed on TV’s The X Factor, Jordan says even in her road trip absences, Lorraine’s is meeting her goals as a community center.
She’s created 15 jobs, welcomes groups from softball teams to the high school drama club, and recommends local hotels for Lorraine’s regulars traveling in from Halifax.
Lorraine’s serves as a site for private parties, rents its conference room, and is even home to Just Jesus, a contemporary praise service on Sundays, featuring Jordan on bass.
“Steve calls this ‘Garner’s gathering place,’ and that’s what it’s become,” Jordan said. “The fans, the friendship — it’s a family.”
Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music
101 Timber Pointe Lane, Garner
Female Vocalist of the Year, Traditional: Lorraine Jordan
Song of the Year: “That’s Kentucky”
by Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road
Banjo Performer of the Year:
Ben Greene of Carolina Road
Presented by Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, February 2015
Fun Facts About Lorraine
- Drove a school bus to pay her way through college
- Founded Jordan Driving School with one car and one instructor
- Furry friends: Maltese pups J.D and Polly
- Hobbies: Riding her motorcycle and watching Panthers football
- Coffee, her way: Decaf, skinny, no sugar
- Live from Lorraine’s
- We Love! May 2015
- Mentor Me
- Thrift 2 Gift
- Restaurant Profile: Banana Leaf
- Fresh, Local, Convenient
- All in the Details
- A World of Welcome
- M is for MMMM
- The 3-Hour Makeover
- All in the Details
- Enter Our Mother’s Day Contest!
- Exclusive Dish: The Mandolin’s Wilted Spinach
- Rock Your World
- Glory, Glory