Bluff City's Duty Free performing at The Bristol Hotel Wine and Unwind Wednesday Music Series.

The Cleverlys

Starbursts take to the skies and the stage from coast to American coast today for the Fourth of July.

In Bristol, that means fireworks to the air by night during Bristol’s Star-Spangled Celebration. On stage at Cumberland Square Park in Bristol, Virginia, lovers of music can wave a flag to bluegrass’ Cleverlys.

Presented by Believe in Bristol as part of the 20th Annual Border Bash, The Cleverlys toe a line between serious musicianship and plain ole fun. They’re the real-life hillbilly equivalent to heavy metal’s fictional Spinal Tap.

“I promise you,” said Paul Harris, aka Digger Cleverly, “that you’ll laugh your bluegrass off.”

If You Go

When: Thursday, July 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cumberland Square Park, Bristol, Va.

Info: 423-573-2201

Web, audio and video:

Sammy Guns Band

Drop a needle into the grooves of Sammy Guns’ “A Place for Us.” Find a lonesome-drenched fella in a smoky Southern honky-tonk.

Line up at the Down Home in Johnson City for The Sammy Guns Band on Friday. Johnson City’s Jesse Lewis’ Country Club fills the opening slot. Each, like scratchy records on a tilted roadhouse jukebox, resonate tales of hard-worn truth.

Twang thrives deep inside the sound and the soul of Guns. It’s not party music; it’s tears-in-your-beer country. Sip “You Can’t Honky Tonk (To Heal Your Heart).” As a steel cries alongside, taste palpable strains of hurt through Guns’ plaintive voice. Deeper still, he calls upon his inner Haggard for “Surrounded by Stone,” a murder ballad that leads to a “cold and lonely prison.” Sad stuff that’ll make a country-loving heart happy, it’s a nod to the genre’s backbone.

If You Go

When: Friday, July 5, at 8 p.m.

Where: Down Home, 300 W. Main St., Johnson City

Admission: $12

Info: 423-929-9822

Web, audio and video:

Roman Riot

Metal lines many a roof and the occasional band throughout the Tri-Cities.

Take Kingsport’s Roman Riot. They’re neither Augustus nor Caesar, but the five-piece attacking band brings a barrage of heavy metal to Capone’s in Johnson City on Saturday. Johnson City’s 1134 open the night of concrete hard rock.

Roman Riot arose nine years ago. Lead vocals and screams shared by Tony Ragle and Bram Sword, Roman Riot meander from strong melodies to atom-smashing metal. So it goes with dramatic odes “A Different Ending” and “Home is Where You Make It.” Rage chimes with reflection. Together, Roman Riot pleases while it pulverizes.

If You Go

When: Saturday, July 6, at 9 p.m.

Where: Capone’s, 227 E. Main St., Johnson City

Info: 423-928-2295

Web, audio and video:

Music Notes

Bristol’s music scene sparkles like the rhinestones on Porter Wagoner’s Nudie suit. During any given week on any given night, myriad shades of spotlights dazzle in carousels of country and rock, blues and bluegrass, to pop and popular from today to years gone by.

Take last week.

Newly born Allman Betts Band leveled a sold-out crowd on Tuesday, June 25 at the Paramount. Culled largely from the band’s new and unadulterated album, “Down to the River,” their show looked forth into the future of rock with an array of new tunes that included standouts “Shinin’” and “Autumn Breeze.” Led by Devon Allman and Duane Betts, sons of rock legends Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, they provided several nods to The Allman Brothers Band via scintillating turns of “Blue Sky” and “Jessica.”

Elsewhere, the Allman Betts Band electrified Delta blues’ John Lee Hooker with “Dimples” and late rocker Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” during their entertaining 14-song set.

One night later and atop The Bristol Hotel at the Lumac Rooftop Bar, Bluff City’s Duty Free registered as the first bluegrass during the Wine & Unwind Wednesday Music Series. Charlie Powers and Bobby Love handled most of the lead vocals.

Duty Free drew from likely and unlikely sources. For instance, they ladled Bill Monroe’s moving “With Body and Soul” from bluegrass’ rich well, took a swim in country’s deepened waters for Tom T. Hall’s “Fox on the Run,” and strolled through Detroit’s Motown trove for The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

Then at the Paramount on Friday, June 28, Theatre Bristol’s ambitious undertaking of “The Wizard of Oz” presented mind-and-imagination boggling combinations of acting and music. Simply superb. Cast members, including first-time actor Jacob Mangrum as The Lion, sang as if they were on Broadway.

For two hours, Dorothy and The Tin Man returned to life alongside The Lion and Scarecrow. Munchkins flourished. The Wicked Witch of the West, portrayed marvelously by Mary Beth Rainero, bedeviled as perfectly as could be imagined.

Indeed, as if from somewhere over the rainbow, Theatre Bristol’s “The Wizard of Oz” enchanted all who packed the Paramount.

Wisconsin’s Lo Marie provides a swath of neo-soul during this week’s free MP3 downloads. Reference Find a four-track exploration of Marie’s urban touch with jazz and soul, including a cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”

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Tom Netherland is a freelance writer. He may be reached at

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