Chatham Rabbits offers a glimpse into the life behind the glamor | The music


An old joke states that “practice, practice, practice” is the way musicians get to Carnegie Hall. For old-time musical duo Chatham Rabbits, a recent show in New York required parking the van in New Jersey and taking an Uber and then a bus to get closer to the venue before walking the rest of the way with their implements.

“What we do on stage is only a small percentage of what we actually do,” said banjo player and vocalist Sarah McCombie, who teams up on stage with her guitarist husband, Austin.

Fans who want a glimpse of life on the road for North Carolina-based musicians can check out “On the Road with Chatham Rabbits,” which airs May 7 on PBS-NC and streams nationwide. PBS app.

In the meantime, fans can hear Chatham Rabbits in person at 8 p.m. Friday at the Southern Café and Music Hall. Madeline Dierauf is also on the bill.

The five-episode first season of the new public television series captures a slice of the McCombies’ lives in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

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“We’ve seen the first two episodes and we’re really happy with how they went,” McCombie said. “Hopefully people like it and we’ll get a second season.”

One of McCombie’s pleasures was a refreshing opportunity to team up with other women. McCombie, who spends most of her time “surrounded by guys,” said working with the show’s producer, director and sound engineer “was really girly stuff. It was wonderful to work in this place. environment.

Friday’s stop at the Southern Café and Music Hall promises a good night of old-world Americana.

“Our music and live show is uplifting and fun,” McCombie said. “Our goal for our shows is for people to leave feeling better than when they arrived. It’s a really healthy and uplifting environment.

Audiences who enjoy listening to Watchhouse, I’m With Her, David Rawlings and Gillian Welch will find themselves in a comfort zone.

McCombie said she hopes Charlottesville listeners who attended the duo’s previous two shows at The Front Porch and her appearance at WTJU-FM Coffeehouse will follow them to The Southern, where there will be plenty of room for newcomers. arrivals.

Chatham Rabbits typically runs as a duo, but a changing cast of musical characters adds depth and nuance to different songs and provides the excitement of versatility. A drummer and electric guitarist often join the McCombies for festivals, and McCombie likes the addition of mandolin and double bass for a richer sound that stays close to the band’s ancient roots.

“The same people we perform with on stage are the people we record with,” she said. “They have been with us since the beginning of the songs.

“It’s really fun when we duet, and we get super comfortable playing duets. And when others join us, we look forward to it. It’s amazing what a bass can do, especially a double bass. It’s amazing what that bass sound can do.

Embracing versatility keeps songs as fresh and vibrant for performers as they are for their listeners.

“On a few songs, I put down my banjo and sang along with Austin on guitar,” McCombie said. “You have to keep it interesting to keep your audience interested night after night.”

McCombie relishes the feeling of being back in front of the audience, which seems to have a newfound appreciation for live music since the pandemic darkened so many stages.

“People are just screaming and screaming. They’re so excited to be there in person,” McCombie said. “People have found us online and are taking the risk of seeing us in person.”

The Chatham Rabbits’ next album, ‘If You See Me Riding By’, is due out June 3. If you’re hoping to get to grips with the band’s sound before the show, album options include “Live at Small Pond,” “The Yoke Is Easy, The Burden Is Full,” and “All I Want From You.”

Writing new music on the road isn’t easy when logistics get involved. Amid parking, walking and juggling logistics, “to be honest, it’s hard for us anyway to find the time and space to write songs,” she said. .

The band’s name was inspired by the thriving commercial culture of a rural community in the early 1900s, and an earlier factory-sponsored string band in Bynum, North Carolina that also used the name. The McCombies bought the mill by the River Haw several years later and loved learning all they could about the crowd-pleasing old string band, which had two fiddlers and two guitarists, plus banjo , mandolin and harp.

Tickets for Friday’s show are $15; they are $12 in advance. Learn more at


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