Multi-instrumentalist, Appalachian musician to perform at Niles Gallery

By: Adrienne Braudis

Ron Pen, a professor of musicology and director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at UK, invites a musician to play at UK every Friday as a part of Appalachia in the Bluegrass. This week he has invited Cari Norris.

Norris is a native of Kentucky and comes from a family of musicians. She plays multiple instruments — the banjo (“claw and hammer”style), the guitar, piano, the Appalacian dulcimer and vocals — in the Bluegrass tradition.

Norris said many Appalachian musicians have influenced her — Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Rich Kirby, Lee Sexton, Jean Ritchie and Sue Massek — but the most influential person in her life and musical career has been her grandmother, Lily Mae Ledford, she said.

Norris remembers Ledford as a lover of music. She was only 15 when her grandmother died, and Norris said this is when she got serious about music.

“Music was a way to stay connected to her,” Norris said about her grandmother, who supported her and came to see her when she played.

Norris, who loves to play in the Niles Gallery, said that it is important for people in urban areas to realize their rich musical heritage.

Pen said Norris is unique and “authentic” because she’s been “steeped” in the Appalachian lifestyle and culture.

“When she does a traditional song, she tends to bend the melody a little bit, but it’s always in an interesting way,” Pen said of her musical style.

UK student Rebecca Douglass has been to an Appalachia in the Bluegrass show and said that she would recommend others to go to see one.

Douglass said that the music series is important because it helps to get rid of stereotypes.

“It opens up that type of music to other people.”

Norris has three completed solo projects and is working on a fourth. She currently teaches music and art.

If you go

What: Appalachia in the Bluegrass

When: Friday at noon

Where: John Jacob Niles Center, Lucille Little Fine Arts Library

Admission: Free