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Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman Are a Good Old Time at Nashville's City Winery

by Rich and Laura Lynch

In the city that is widely credited with giving birth to traditional bluegrass in the 1940's, it took a precocious young woman from Brooklyn, New York of all places to remind Nashville of the "old time music" genre of folk that preceded it when Nora Brown along with her collaborator Stephanie Coleman played two sold out sets at The Loft at the City Winery on December 28, 2023.

Nora Brown breathed new life into Old Time music in Nashville.

As a teenager, Nora Brown like Coleman was drawn to different music. Nora traveled to study with folk music legends including John Cohen and Lee Sexton. Brown plays old time music on banjo and guitar, often accompanied by a fiddle and devoid of solos or flowery harmonies. Brown learned it just as generations before her did - directly from other musicians.

First brought together by Brooklyn's tight-knit old-time music community in 2017, Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman share a unique partnership that belies their 20-year age difference. Nora has already released four albums although she is still only in her teens. Stephanie is a master fiddle player who has recorded and toured with Uncle Earl, Watchhouse's Andrew Marlin, and clawhammer banjo virtuoso Adam Hurt. Stephanie played on Nora's debut record Cinnamon Tree. Since then, they have performed as a duo in the US and beyond. Most recently they appeared together on NPR's Tiny Desk and have released a new EP called Lady of the Lake with the vinyl version now available.

It was a vinyl release party at the City Winery for Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman.

The pair's City Winery set-up was simple - just instruments and a few mics. The arrangements that Nora and Stephanie presented was from days gone by. Their voices blended well as they sang and strummed songs of hardships. Both ladies were proficient on their instruments. Between tunes they shared some of the origins of the works and in some cases how they discovered the song or who added innovations to it. Both were passionate about the history and the people who composed these traditional tunes. Each, especially Nora - are old souls living in the modern era. Yet, others are also drawn to this music thus the duo's popularity.

Highlights of their early set included "Now Is The Cool of the Day" and "Cowpoke" that was dedicated to Nora's family who were in attendance. During a break in the music Brown talked about nursing a pickleball injury from serving so well during a tournament that she won against her relations. Clearly, her talents know no bounds.

Virgil Anderson's "You've Been Gone So Long" was cited as one of Brown's favorites. "Copper Kettle" - a traditional folk song about making moonshine - was engaging as well. The duo mentioned the EP, which was available on vinyl, so the shows were sort of a hard copy release party. The title track Lady of the Lake was fluid with each player adding feeling to the historic piece. For their encore they went back to Nora's first record to close with a beguiling "Buck Creek Girls".

Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman were a good old time at Nashville's City Winery.

Elise Leavy took the stage around 6 p.m. Leavy was raised in California and currently living in Lafayette, Louisianna. Yet, during her set she mentioned living in a number of locations including Nashville and Paris. Elise reflective songs were filled with personal experiences paired with visual observations that were quite relatable. Since she was a lone singer strumming an acoustic guitar, she reminded us of Joni Mitchell with her contemplative compositions and sure enough she mentioned the artist and paid tribute to the songstress with a well-played "Both Sides Now". Leavy joined Nora and Stephanie for one song, adding guitar and vocals to the most up-tempo piece of the early City Winery show.

The City Winery was founded in New York City in 2008 by Michael Dorf who wanted to combine culinary and cultural experiences. The chain has a number of locations including the one in Nashville which operates as a restaurant, venue and wine bar. The City Winery can be booked for private events, and it hosts a wide range of concerts such as Nora Brown + Stephanie Coleman with Elise Leavy throughout their calendar year.

Opener Elise Leavy reminisced about her days living in East Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on NORA BROWN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Nora Brown | Stephanie Coleman | Elise Leavy | City Winery Nashville


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