Queen of Bluegrass

Bluegrass is the word in the Triangle this week, as the International Bluegrass Music Association hosts its World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, a weeklong celebration that includes this weekend’s free Wide Open Bluegrass StreetFest.

(See the full 50-band lineup at wideopenbluegrass.com.)   

This much-heralded event is drawing music fans from across the nation, but long before the IBMA’s Triangle stop, Garner’s had its own bluegrass legend: The “Lady of Tradition,” Lorraine Jordan.

Jordan and her band Carolina Road are taking part in the fun this week, performing on Friday at 10 a.m., on the Raleigh Convention Main Stage; Saturday at 1 a.m., at the Lincoln Theatre; Saturday at 4 p.m., at the Bluegrass Pavilion at the Convention Center; and Sunday at 1 a.m. at the Long View Center.

Carolina Road has enjoyed more than a decade of success together, with albums earning critical acclaim and songs ranked No. 1 on bluegrass charts.  

“I like being the leader, knowing what music I want to do,” Jordan said. “It’s traditional, but with a fresh approach. When you hear Carolina Road, you’re gonna hear legendary standards, and fiddle, and banjo. I want to keep it going, and make a mark.”

A full-time performer for 20-plus years, Jordan is also the co-creator of the award-winning Daughters of Bluegrass project, a series of albums bringing together the best female pickers and singers in the genre.

“I just always loved music; even when I was little I wanted to sing and play,” Jordan said. “And by middle school, when all the other kids were at the skating rink, I just wanted an instrument in my hand.” 

The opening bars of rocker Rod Stewart’s song “Maggie May” introduced her to the sound of mandolin, and she’s since become known for her mandolin “chop.”

So what is a mandolin chop?

“It’s the offbeat,” Jordan said, “the snare drum of bluegrass. It’s exactly the opposite of the bass. It plays a very important role; without the chop you don’t have the drive of the music.” 

When she’s at home in Garner, Jordan enjoys riding her Honda 750 motorcycle, playing with her Maltese dogs, and watching Panthers football.

“I have a love for music. It’s in my blood,” Jordan said. “It’s fulfilling, and I want to give back to the people who appreciate it.”

Editor's note: Garner-based band IIIrd Time Out will also perform this week; see festival schedule for details.

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