Collective Soul, Delbert McClinton, Nanci Griffith, Edwin McCain to headline WCU festival

CULLOWHEE – Organizers of Western Carolina University’s second annual CulloWHEE! ArtsFest have announced a slate of headline performers featuring chart-topping rock ‘n’ roll band Collective Soul, legendary bluesman Delbert McClinton, folkabilly queen Nanci Griffith and popular acoustic rock guitarist Edwin McCain.

artsfestlogo03Also on the bill for the two-day festival is Western North Carolina’s own Acoustic Syndicate, an explosive “newgrass” quartet from the Shelby area.

The outdoor festival, set for Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21, will be held on Western’s campus on intramural sports fields near the Ramsey Regional Activity Center. The CulloWHEE! ArtsFest is a major component of Western’s efforts to provide the type of music, theatre, dance and fine arts programming sought by much of the traveling population.

Last year’s inaugural event attracted approximately 3,000 people over two days to hear live jazz music by The Manhattan Transfer, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Bio Ritmo and several other musicians from across the nation.

“For this year’s festival, we decided to broaden the musical horizons,” said Bill Clarke, chairman of the CulloWHEE! ArtsFest committee. “We feel that by adding blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, adult contemporary and other types of music into the mix, our festival will appeal to a wider cross-section of people. We think we truly have something for everybody.”

The festival also will feature national, regional and local musicians and other entertainers performing both on the main stage and on a second stage within the WRGC Arts Village, a large tented area where festival-goers can relax in the shade, enjoy a variety of food and beverage items, and view and purchase arts and crafts.

A juried exhibit and sale will feature a variety of fine art and craft media, including ceramics, glass, wood, fiber, metal, jewelry, baskets, handmade paper, iron, book arts, sculpture, photography and painting. Also on site will be a special children’s area, with games, “yard toys,” train rides, and a “make and take” crafts area.

Saturday night’s headliner, the Georgia-based band Collective Soul, is known for a distinctive sound that critics have called “a compelling mix of shimmering melodies and driving rock.” The five-man band hit it big in 1994 with the single “Shine,” a No. 1 hit that was named Billboard magazine’s album rock song of the year. The group’s debut recording, “Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid” became a multi-platinum seller, as did its self-titled follow-up, chalking up more than 3 million copies. That album spawned the single “December,” another Billboard album rock song of the year winner (making Collective Soul the first band to win the prize two years in a row), and the No. 1 hit “The World I Know.” The 1997 album “Disciplined Breakdown” contained two No. 1 rock radio singles – “Precious Declarations” and “Listen” – while the 1999 effort “Dosage” produced the hit “Run,” also featured on the soundtrack for the movie “Varsity Blues.”

Delbert McClinton, the Friday night headliner, is a Grammy Award-winning blues singer and harmonica player with nearly two dozen albums to his credit in a career spanning some 30 years. McClinton is critically acclaimed for combining country, blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll into one Texas-flavored, honky-tonk mix. He first garnered mainstream attention in 1980, when his album “The Jealous Kind” produced the Top 40 hit “Givin’ It Up for Your Love.” He won a Grammy for his duo with Bonnie Raitt on 1991’s “Good Man, Good Woman,” and his 1992 album “Never Been Rocked Enough” spawned another hit single, “Everytime I Roll the Dice.” Another duet, “Tell Me About It,” with Tanya Tucker, hit No. 1 on the country charts in 1993. McClinton’s scored his second Grammy in 2001 for best contemporary blues album with “Nothing Personal,” and his latest release, “Room to Breath” has been called by the Washington Post “…one of McClinton’s finest efforts ever.”

artsfestgroupOpening for McClinton will be Nanci Griffith, a longtime critics’ darling for her ability to straddle the boundaries between folk and country music. Griffith has written some of country music’s most enduring compositions, including Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson’s “Gulf Coast Highway,” Kathy Mattea’s “Love at the Five and Dime” and “Listen to the Radio,” and Suzy Bogguss’ “Outbound Plane.” Since debuting in the late 1970s, she has earned five Grammy nominations, winning the award in 1993 for her recording “Other Voices, Other Rooms.”

Edwin McCain, among Saturday’s featured artists, hails from South Carolina, where his career began with solo acoustic shows on the resort island of Hilton Head. He formed the Edwin McCain Band in 1993, and released the album “Solitude,” which featured the hit title track song. His album “Honor Among Thieves” in 1995 was followed by the 1997 breakthrough album “Misguided Roses” and the top 10 smash “I’ll Be.” In 1999 came “The Messenger,” with the Dianne Warren-written top 40 hit “I Could Not Ask for More,” also heard in the film “Message in a Bottle.” His latest effort, “The Austin Sessions,” features an intriguing selection of covers.

Also performing on the mainstage Saturday afternoon is Acoustic Syndicate, a four-man band that fuses acoustic roots music, bluegrass, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll to create what critics praise as “a powerful and unique blend of acoustic Americana.” The band, known for tight instrumentation and “high-lonesome harmonies,” has played at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Farm Aid, MerleFest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and is a listener favorite on WNCW-FM, the public radio station in Spindale.

Several other acts will perform during the festival, including the Laura Blackley Band with old-time acoustic blues and the Deborah Coleman Band with hard-driving blues. Western’s own Catamount Chamber Singers and Technology Ensemble also will take center stage, along with vignettes from a new summer theater season opening in June and a performance of dance and choreography.

Advance two-day tickets for the festival are $50, with children age 13 and younger admitted free of charge with a paying adult. Discounts tickets at $40 each are available for groups of 10 or more, and single-day passes may be purchased for either Friday or Saturday.

For information, contact Western Carolina’s Ramsey Center at (828) 227-7722, toll free at (866) WCU-FEST, or click on Tickets may be purchased at the Ramsey Center ticket office, online via (, or toll-free at (888) 332-5200, or at the Jackson County and Maggie Valley chambers of commerce.