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  • Carolina Gator Gumbo
    Carolina Gator Gumbo -- Friday, November 14, at 7:30 PM

    The next Charlotte Folk Society Gathering features Carolina Gator Gumbo, Charlotte's favorite Cajun and Creole band, in concert on Friday, November 14, at 7:30 PM in the Great Aunt Stella Center. Virginia Dunham and Glenn McElroy will join Gator Gumbo on stage to introduce the dances that accompany the vibrant and intoxicating music of southwest Louisiana.

    The Great Aunt Stella Center, a beloved downtown landmark located at 926 Elizabeth Avenue in the edge of downtown Charlotte, was originally designed as a church. The former sanctuary offers a warm and beautiful performance space with seats for 400. Free surface parking is available adjacent to the Stella Center, as well as in a nearby parking deck after 7 PM.

    Folk Society Gatherings are family-friendly, open to the public, and free. Donations, which support the series in part, are greatly appreciated. The hour-long concert will be followed by refreshments, a song circle, and slow and fast jams. Visitors are also invited to the Charlotte Appalachian Dulcimer Club meeting after the concert.

    Carolina Gator Gumbo is a well-seasoned Cajun and Creole band that's been bringing this festive music to the Carolinas for seventeen years now. This friendly mix of high-spirited musicians have sought out and studied Cajun/Creole music, dance, and culture with masters at various jams, festivals, and workshops throughout the Southeast. Gator Gumbo band members include Jean Prewitt, Don Cowan, Carole Outwater, Tom Eure, and Dave Conlin.

    Jean Prewitt plays Cajun button accordion and is the band's lead vocalist. Her energy and rapport with an audience make her a natural for taking center stage. She loves the Cajun and Creole cultures, music, dance, and food; she's an active power in passing on the music and traditions to people wherever she goes. Jean and husband, Don Cowan, have been visiting Louisiana for many years, broadening their experiences and understanding of the Cajun and Creole cultures. She has studied with many masters in their homes, jams, and more formally at the Augusta Heritage Center and Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week in Louisiana. Jean will tell you in a heartbeat that she "loves this music!"

    Playing guitar, Don Cowan is a driving force and anchor for the band's rhythm. A charter member of the Charlotte Folk Society, Don's involvement with music goes back many years and includes old-time and blues, as well as Cajun and Creole music. His expertise with various styles of Cajun and Creole rhythms is widely recognized and has been developed while riding on Cajun Mardi Gras wagons, on stage, and in living rooms playing with masters of the music. Don has studied formally with masters such as Christine Balfa, Ann Savoy, Kevin Berzas at the Augusta Heritage Center and has learned about the culture in workshops in Louisiana. Very handy for wife, Jean, he has studied accordion repair with master builder Larry Miller. Don has also spent many hours in the kitchen with Jackie Miller and he can cook a mean gumbo!

    Carole Outwater, part of the rhythm team, provides those pulsing low tones as the bass player for the band. She occasionally adds autoharp and vocals to the mix. Carole has been an active member of the Charlotte Folk Society since 1984. Like Jean and Don, Carole cites the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia as her training ground for the Cajun and Creole music. Carole's influences include Mark and Ann Savoy, Al Berard, Jesse Lege, Larry and Jackie Miller and their family members, Canray Fontenot, Bois Sec Ardoin, and non-Cajun friend, Lois Hornbostel, who is also deeply immersed in Louisiana music. An award-winning autoharp player on the regional and national level, Carole enjoys teaching a variety of workshops, but particularly on Cajun and Creole music with the autoharp.

    Tom Eure joined the band as fiddle player in the fall of 2006. This multi-instrumentalist and Americana singer/songwriter got his start in the music business in 1991 while living in the North Carolina mountains. There he played solo folk shows, hosted open mics, fronted bands ranging from psychedelic to pop rock, and played bluegrass and old-time music with friends on his off days. He has released four solo CDs and has worked as producer for several Charlotte area bands releases. Cajun and Creole sounds have proven to be a natural fit with Tom's fiddling style, but he credits fiddler Beth Brown Al-Rawi (retired from Gator Gumbo to raise twin boys) with helping him "find his way." It's been said that Tom adds a nice "swagger" to the band's sound. He always says that Gator Gumbo's music "sounds like a party," and he's having a blast playing it. Visit his website at www.tomeure.com.
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    Dave Conlin brings percussive flavor to the team of rhythm makers in the band. He can beat out rhythms on almost any drum put before him. In the band's work, however, he primarily uses bass and snare drums. Dave's rubboard playing catches everyone's eye! He began by playing in the band in late 1990s when his interest in Cajun music was catching fire. Dave grew up surrounded by a musical family. He learned to play drums in the second grade and continued playing in school marching bands. He developed an early love for the nonverbal communication that happens between musicians. Dave's skills strengthened considerably on various West African drums in study with Bolokada Conde, Tiani Tarr, Koto Ngum, and the Charlotte Community Drummers. Dave also plays mandolin and bass.

    Leona Had A Party, the band's most recent recording, has received great reviews, including one in the September issue of Dirty Linen magazine:

    When it came time to record their third album, Eure, who was also the producer, convinced his fellow Gumbos not to obsess over every note and chord, but go by which take felt the best. The resultant Leona Had a Party! (self-released CGG2007) bubbles with a much looser and more comfortable sound that finds 'em holding their own. Eure complements Prewitt's accordion playing with his blossoming fiddle and brightens up other tracks on mandolin. While Prewitt leans toward the Creole side of Louisiana French music, Eure tosses in a few New Orleans and rootsy selections that mix well with Don Conlin's shuffling beat. Yet it's the last track that's the most novel: Carole Outwater plays an autoharp, of all instruments, on Pa Janvier, Laisse-moi m'en Aller for a haunting Carter-Family-gets-Cajun interpretation.

    Carolina Gator Gumbo has been honored as Best Local Acoustic Band 2000 (Charlotte's Best Magazine), Ultra Extreme Best of Charlotte 2003 (Creative Loafing), and has received an Arts and Science Council Regional Artist Project Grant to study Cajun and Creole music in Louisiana.

    Charlotte Folk Society Gatherings are made possible, in part, through a Cultural Project Grant from the Arts & Science Council and the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council, a state agency.