Concert series to feature the Harris Brothers

Duo to share the stage with Balsam Range
By Stina Sieg | Feb 01, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo Ryan, left, and Reggie Harris are the Harris Brothers, coming to Balsam Range's Winter Concert Series this Saturday.

Music is Reggie Harris’ life, but he’s not about to brag on himself or his brother, Ryan. Together, they’re the Harris Brothers, a Lenoir-based duo that has created quite a following with a stripped-down, mostly acoustic style and broad range of Americana tunes.

Reggie, however, prefers to call them “just regular dudes.”

“There’s a realness to what we do,” he said, explaining that their music isn’t a hobby. “It’s the real McCoy for us. It’s how we make our living and feed our families.”

It’s not, however, just a job. Reggie and Ryan have been cultivating their style and finding their way musically almost all their adult lives. While duos may be getting more popular these days, you’d be hard pressed to find one quite like the Harris Brothers. They haven’t got a back-up band, drum machine or synthesizers. What they do have is simple, satisfying music that would be pretty meaty for any group, let alone such a bare-bones crew.

“People like the fact that when we play we kind of put our heart into it,” Reggie said, simply.

Their unique sound is why the pair was invited to make their second appearance at Balsam Range’s Winter Concert Series, which will hold its February show this Saturday night at Canton’s Colonial Theatre.

The Harris Brothers’ songs — which run the gamut from Piedmont blues and traditional country to bluegrass, rock and whatever else they can’t get out of their heads — have a down-home comfort to them. Often created with just their two voices, Reggie’s guitar, Ryan’s bass and an old suitcase Reggie likes to use as a kick drum, their songs often sound both old and new. Sometimes the music is traditional and sometimes it’s original, but it’s always done with audible soul.

“You’ve got to make it count when it’s just two people,” Reggie said. “You’ve got to make it full.”

So they do. It’s undoubtedly why the duo has done so well. 

Though they have made their biggest splash in their current incarnation, for years they were part of a more traditional rock outfit. Based in the Boone area, Black Market did jam band tunes with a full array of musicians behind them. When Black Market started to disband, as most groups eventually do, Reggie and Ryan weren’t content to let their musical identities go with it. Having been raised in a musical family with traditional songs, they ended going back to their roots and discovering new life in Americana.

In the beginning, Ryan was still finding his confidence in his voice and bass, and Reggie was pounding out beats on the floor with his foot, but they still knew they were onto something that mattered. Like Doc Watson and even the Grateful Dead, they were taking all kinds of traditional songs and infusing them with their own energy. This mash-up of the past and present began sometime in the mid-1990s, and they’ve kept at it ever since.

“We don’t want to get pigeon-holed into one style,” Reggie explained. “We kind of like everything.”

This is never more evident than at their shows, which are filled with improvisation and never stick to any one genre. At any given performance, they might lay down a high-speed county song, a swing tune, a bluesy number and/or a rock favorite. It all depends on how they read the audience — and each other. Often, they can both feel what song to do next. No set list needed.

“We read each other’s minds,” Reggie said. “We’re tight like that.”

This precious cohesion is part of why they’ve stayed a two-man group for more than 15 years, and aren’t looking to recruit new members any time soon. Sharing the stage with like-minded musicians is still a treat, however. This week, when they bring their still-undermined mix of music to the Colonial, they’ll be honored to be on the same bill as Balsam Range, Reggie stressed. As he sees it, they’re all on the same page and all making music out of love and not some desire for fame. Reggie explained that fans of the Harris Brothers appreciate their talent and their down-to-earth nature, and he and Ryan see the same thing in their Balsam Range buddies.

“They walk the walk and talk the talk. That’s the kind of people we respect,” Reggie said. “We understand them. I think they understand us.”

In his low-key way, he added that he and his brother are excited to be in Canton once more, as last year’s show was fun and had an audience full of friendly folks. At this upcoming concert, they hope to interact with the crowd again, to connect with them, and show them a good time. Their goal is to entertain people, Reggie went on, and hopefully even make the audience feel better about themselves.

“Music can kind of be something you can lean into and escape into,” he said.

It wasn’t clear then whether he was talking about himself or his audience. And it doesn’t matter.