The annual Roots 5 Concert took the stage of Lovett Auditorium Tuesday, entertaining its audience with the sounds of bluegrass and country music.
There was a large turnout at the historic theater, where the audience was treated to performances from Newton and Thomas, Chris Scruggs and the Stone Fox Five and guitarist Kenny Vaughn.
The concert was sponsored by Murray State’s history department and the English and philosophy department.
Ted Belue, coordinator of the Roots concert, said the music played at the concert are ancient tones that underlie a majority of today’s American Music.
Each year Belue hosts this concert with genres ranging from bluegrass, jazz, swing, country and blues. He said roots music led to today’s sounds.
Belue teaches a class on “American Music Roots History” at the University and brings these artists here to demonstrate those Roots kind of sounds.
“Our music is traditionally based Roots wise, but we deliver it in a contemporary fashion,” said Mark Newton, part of the Newton and Thomas duo.
Mark Newton and Steve Thomas were first to perform, playing songs off their album “Reborn.” They also threw in some gospel music, and even brought in some Scottish folk music, and had someone play bag pipes for one song.
The duo has a Grammy Nomination, a CMA nomination and several International Bluegrass Music Awards under their belt and have been together for almost three years.
They ended their set with their most successful song “Old McDonald Sold the Farm.”
“It’s sort of a play-off of ‘Old McDonald’ in this day and time not being able to keep his farm and having to sell it for development,” Newton said. “So it has a little serious content to it, but it’s fun at the same time. It stayed No. 1 for about four or five months on the Bluegrass charts, and the video we had for it went No. 1 too, so we’ve had a lot of success with it.”
The second band to play was Chris Scruggs and the Stone Fox Five. Chris Scruggs, grandson of Bluegrass musician Earl Scruggs, was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn.
He has played with musicians arraying from George Jones to Zooey Deschanel.
He also took part in many Grammy-nominated projects and movie soundtracks like Cormac McCarthy’s “All The Pretty Horses.” When he is in his hometown of Nashville, he plays every Sunday at the Stone Fox night club with his band.
Scruggs said he and his band have the “pre Elvis sound,” the way country music sounded before it was affected by the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll.
“The country music we play was more the style that was popular in the ’40s and ’50s, like honky-tonk style,” Scruggs said. “After Elvis happened and rock ‘n’ roll became big, they started changing the sound of country music to keep up with the times. So the music we play is after World War II and before the rock ‘n’ roll craze happened.”
The concert focused on letting the audience, especially the younger generation present, and experience the Roots music sound.
“One of the special things about music in the last 100 years is that we have the ability to record music,” Scruggs said. “So once a performance is captured, it’s there forever. And that’s wonderful, but there is a different experience when you hear something live. Especially roots music, be it country, bluegrass, jazz, blues, or rock ‘n’ roll for that matter. It’s a different experience to be in a room with those players when they’re performing.”
“There’s less and less of the kind of country we play,” Scruggs said. “So I think it’s very important that young people who are interested in this kind of music to take it on, learn about it, emerce themselves in it and share it with younger generations to come.”
Story by Taylor Inman, Staff writer