written by Pramela Thiagesan

Black Mountain Blues' artist curator, Melissa McKinney, embodies a successful Blues singer/songwriter career and is a passionate advocate for music education, driven by second chances and fresh starts. Her role aligns perfectly with Black Mountain Blues' mission to offer an authentic Blues experience that pays homage to the roots, soul, and historical importance of Blues Music through education, community, music, and a celebration of resilience.

Melissa, the 2024 Solo/Duo Finalist at The Blues Foundation’s 39th International Blues Challenge representing Charlotte Blues Society, resides in Asheville, NC. She has dedicated the past 20 years to owning Stages Music School and establishing The One Voice Project, an artist development program empowering young musicians through a mental health awareness concert tour.

What were the key elements you aimed to incorporate into the lineup while curating the artists for Black Mountain Blues?

A: Firstly, I prioritized ensuring women were well-represented in the lineup. Inspired by Melody Angel’s video on challenges faced by women of color in the Blues industry, I sought to empower and spotlight talented yet underrepresented female Blues musicians.

Secondly, I was mindful about showcasing the profound impact of Blues on Americana music by inviting artists who not only exhibited musical talent but also embodied the soul, history, and culture of the Blues. These musicians use their influence to encourage audiences to appreciate the music, history, and culture of Blues.

Thirdly, I want to provide a platform for local Blues musicians to perform alongside industry influencers to elevate the appreciation of Blues music in Western North Carolina.

How would you describe the Black Mountain Blues Line-up?

We are presenting a diverse range of Blues styles – Memphis, Delta, Texas, Chicago, Piedmont – through exceptional talent while preserving the spirit of the Blues. These musicians inspire a love for Blues music and promote the preservation of its history, soul, and essence.

The Black Mountain Blues lineup includes musicians of various ages, including young artists. What inspired this decision?

Encountering Nat Reese at a young age profoundly influenced my journey as a Blues musician. I understand firsthand how meeting a Blues musician early in life can foster a love for the music and its history. By featuring young musicians alongside seasoned Blues masters, I hope to inspire them to pursue their Blues careers and instill a love for Blues music in our youth.

What impact do you hope the Black Mountain Blues experience will have on attendees?

I aspire for every Black Mountain Blues attendee to leave with a renewed passion for the Blues, a deep appreciation for its history, and a list of new Blues artists to follow and love. Experiencing great music has a way of getting our “souls shined up” – I hope that Black Mountain Blues is a soul shining experience for everyone who is a part of it.