“The working title for 'Earl in Vienna' was ‘Baroque Banjo,'” Smith said. “I came up with this whole image of traveling back in time to Vienna in the 1700s and crashing baroque dance parties.”
The band is about to release their third album — a live album — and is working on music for a fourth, coming out soon.
“I am actually very interested in some of our new material that we haven’t played on stage yet,” Kinlaw said. “We probably have 10 tunes that we’re grinding out, and it’s always an exciting process.”
If the crowd is lucky, the band might premiere one of those new songs on Saturday.
“We’re shooting for it,” Smith said of the song’s possible premiere. “We just have to get everybody together beforehand and run it a couple times.”
Lead by director Russell Johnson, the Carolina Bluegrass Band will open for Hank, Pattie & The Current, showcasing students from all majors and musical backgrounds.
Like Kinlaw, Waverly Leonard, a sophomore who plays fiddle, grew up playing classical violin before falling in love with bluegrass. Leonard is also taking banjo lessons from Smith.
For Leonard, bluegrass’s beauty comes from its contradictions.
“One interesting thing about it musically is that a lot of the time, the subject matter is very dark and sad, but the music itself is very uptempo and in major keys,” Leonard said. “It’s the music of lived experience.”
As well as sharing the stage this weekend, Hank, Pattie & The Current and Carolina Bluegrass Band are connected through a common love for North Carolina, UNC, music education and innovation.
Smith teaches banjo through UNC’s Bluegrass Initiative, and Kinlaw teaches classical and American music to students ages four to 66 at her studio. The educators also co-founded a music outreach program, the American Music Foundation of North Carolina, that is dedicated to outreach and music innovation in young people. They hope to encourage students to continue to pursue a life-long love of music.
The Carolina Bluegrass Band officially practices every Tuesday from 6 - 8 p.m., but the close-knit nature of the band keeps them jamming whenever they have the chance.
“We’re so tight,” Leonard said of the band. “Everyone’s friends, and they’re all such incredible musicians.”
Tickets for Saturday’s show are on sale now. Patrons can buy them for $7 in advance or $10 at the door.