Mountain music can, and should, be utterly terrifying to outsiders — at least in its traditional sense. Just imagine toothless hillbillies wearing overalls, rocking out on banjos and upright basses until they're drunk enough on moonshine to wear their coonskin caps without considering the fashion implications. Cue "Dueling Banjos." Take it from a writer whose family still lurks in the back hills of the Smoky Mountains — mountain music isn't to be taken lightly. That is, unless you can enjoy a lighter version of it. The McDowell Mountain Music Festival might struggle with multiple personality disorder, but at its core, the seven-year-old music and arts festival brings together the descendants of the original hill folk, blues rockers, and singer-songwriters for a watered-down version of their respective genres. This year's big acts include The Travelin' McCourys, the updated reincarnation of the most awarded band in bluegrass, the legendary Del McCoury Band. They'll have Keller Williams in tow to smooth out their pickin' with his relentless mellow-meets-country vibe. New Orleans rockers Galactic bring their funk-jam sound while Ozomatli mixes up Mexican, Jamaican, funk and hip-hop into one shockingly well-constructed hodgepodge. And don't forget about the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who explore the connection between traditional fiddle music and African roots. None of it — including the local rock bands on the Creamy Radio sidestage — is traditional mountain music, but, you know, that's okay. We'll save trips into the dark recesses of Appalachia for our nightmares.
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