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International Blues Competition first stop for Reidsville guitarist

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This also ran on The Huffington Post here and on Halfway South here.

MADISON, N.C. — Seth Williams went from playing the blues on Madison’s Market Street to Memphis’ famed Beale Street at the 32nd International Blues Challenge Jan. 26-30. If the fans reaction is any indication, it won’t be this young musician’s last trip to the home of the blues and the birth place of rock ‘n roll.

“I think he did really well,” says T.L Lineberry, operations director for the Carolina Blues Festival. “He’s young and has a lot of talent.”

Williams, a 17-year-old native of Reidsville, North Carolina, was among the talent performing in the Blues Challenge Youth Showcase along with blues musicians from around the world who competed for cash, prizes and industry recognition. Williams earned a spot on one of the storied stages by winning the youth competition in October at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“My friend Terry Vuncannon — he’s with the band Lawyers, Guns and Money — encouraged me to try out for the competition, and I won that and that was my ticket to go to Memphis,” Williams said.

“To be able to play on the stages that some of the greatest music legends of all time have played on was an honor and an experience I will never forget. I met some of the best people you could ever meet and saw firsthand the talent people have is amazing. I learned I need to step up my game. I want to especially thank The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society for seeing something in me and allowing me to represent them at the 2016 International Blues Challenge.

Terry VunCannon, who plays guitar and lap steel for Lawyers Guns & Money, says, “I am very proud of this young man. We are already hearing from friends in Memphis that Seth Williams ‘killed it’ in the IBC Youth Showcase. He represents the new generation of blues music, North Carolina, and the PBPS…and gives hope that the blues will be alive for a long time to come.”

Williams will open the Carolina Blues Festival, the longest-running blues festival in the Southeastern United States on Saturday, May 21, in Greensboro’s Barber Park for its 30th anniversary. Artists include 2015 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Elvin Bishop with Bob Margolin, Samantha Fish and returning from his recent stint at the National Folk Festival, Marquise Knox. Also on stage will be The Dangerous Gentlemens and Blind Dog Gatewood, among others, Lineberry said.

“This is the first year we offered a blues challenge for youth (younger than 21) and he was selected to meet the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society Challenge. Seth’s dedication and commitment to his music made him a good choice. We opened up the competition to youth because part of our mission is to preserve the blues.”

Williams has been playing guitar for about four years and singing for about two. When you hear him pick the guitar, however, you would guess he has been playing much longer.

“He is such a humble musician.” Vuncannon says. “What you see is what you get. I get the feeling that with a player like Seth, the blues will be around for a long time. He, and other young players like him, are the future of the blues.”

A musical fixture at The Mad Bean — a coffee house turned restaurant turned concert venue — since it opened a year ago, Williams forms half of the duo dubbed Chrysocolla, which plays Americana, blues and ’60s and ’70s rock with a little bluegrass thrown into the mix. Madi Heath rounds out the duo that also writes its own songs.

“Madi and I play ’60s and ’70s stuff and blues fits right with what we do,” William explains. “But my passion is blues.”

Think the Eagles meets B.B. King.

The pair’s unlikely meeting two years ago could form the lyrics of one of their original songs.

“We met at the Antique Mall in Madison and started playing together. We both knew ‘Summer Breeze,’ and someone came by and said you all sound great. How long have you been playing together? We said, about 20 minutes,” Heath said with a laugh. “Then they asked us to play at their restaurant.”

Heath is originally from Patrick County, Virginia, but now hails from Madison. She’s a junior at Appalachian State University, where she’s majoring in English.

Heath, whose deep, sultry voice belies her age of 19, sounds like what you would get if you took Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstandt, Rhonda Vincent and LeAnn Rimes and threw their voices into a Salad Shooter. “I started playing bluegrass when I was 9,” she says. “But I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil.”

Chrysocolla is working with Sound Lab in Greensboro to create an EP of six original songs in hopes of releasing a CD later this year, according to Williams.

“As for the future, (Chrysocolla) Madi Heath and I plan to continue to work on our first CD, write new songs and do as many shows as we can to get our name out there as much as possible.”

What’s a Chrysocolla? “We were a three-piece band and we went to two, just me and Madi,” Williams explained. “We were looking for a name and going through birthstones one day and she showed me chrysocolla, and I said there’s the name right there. It’s really unique. It’s the musician stone. It gives you courage and confidence to play.

Heath went to Memphis with Williams to support him and in hopes of landing a couple of gigs as Chrysocolla while they are in town.

You can catch them on Saturday, Feb. 13, at their familiar haunt The Mad Bean and Friday, Feb. 22, at the Muddy Creek Music Hall.

Follow Williams’ music page on Facebook and Instagram at Chrysocolla Music.

 

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