Series Showcases the South’s Musical Heritage

The Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South, is partnering with Duke Performances for a five-day music festival Dec. 4-8 in downtown Durham.

Music Maker, based in Hillsborough, N.C., directly supports unheralded musicians, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. The organization works to give future generations access to this heritage through documentation and performances that build knowledge and appreciation of America’s roots music traditions.

Music Maker 25 celebrates the nonprofit’s work with a lineup of partner artists and friends representing the roots of American music — from zydeco to gospel, experimental to deep blues.

All performances are at The Fruit, 305 S. Dillard St., Durham. Details and ticketing information can be found at

The schedule for Music Maker 25:

“Pickers & Storytellers: Dom Flemons, “Blind Boy” Paxton, Jake Xerxes Fussell and Gail Caesar,” Wednesday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m. Founding Carolina Chocolate Drops member Dom Flemons pulls from repertoire covering more than a century of American musical tradition. Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “virtually the only music-maker of his generation playing guitar, banjo, piano and violin to fully assimilate the blues idiom.” Durham-based Jake Xerxes Fussell and Pittsville, Va.-based Gail Caesar — further demonstrate that the future of the music is in good hands.

“Southern Voices,” Thursday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. Multidisciplinary visual artist and improvisational musician Lonnie Holley and Southwest Virginia mountain native and roots musician Alexa Rose perform individual sets.

“Zydeco,” Friday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m.  A veteran of Buckwheat Zydeco and Rockin’ Dopsie’s groups, accordion virtuoso Major Handy captures the potency and eclecticism of the zydeco genre. Buckwheat Zydeco heir Buckwheat Zydeco, Jr. and his band Ils Sont Partis join Handy for an evening-length zydeco dance party heavy with accordion and rub board.

“Native American,” Saturday, Dec. 7, 1 p.m. An intergenerational mix of performers from the U.S. and Canada demonstrates the extraordinary range of sounds and musical styles being advanced by Native American artists.

“Blues Revue,” Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. Music Maker founder Timothy Duffy directs the house band for Saturday evening’s “Music Maker Blues Revue,” the organization’s signature traveling showcase.

“Gospel,” Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. The Branchettes are a Johnston County duo comprised of vocalist Lena Mae Perry and pianist Wilbur Tharpe. Having previously tapped Perry for his own Southland Revue shows and in other collaborative efforts, gospel’s influence on Phil Cook’s inimitable vocal delivery is unmistakable.

“Gospel,” Sunday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m. Music Maker 25 closes out Sunday evening with a gospel set featuring The Glorifying Vines Sisters. The Glorifying Vines represent a divine musical tradition, one that dates back to the singing quartets of the 1930s.

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