Different music moves us in different ways, you know? Club music’s all about making you groove on the dance floor. Psychedelic Rock? It’s like you’re spinning on a musical journey through space. Hard rock? Well, they say it’s for banging your head to the beat. And then there’s bluegrass – that’s the one that you feel in your toes.
“It’s toe tapping, swing your partner round and round, family friendly music,” said rhythm guitarist Frank Sellers . “It’s the kind of music where we can sit and play at an old timey general store in the mountains, or play in front of an audience .”
Frank is one of the founding members of The General Assembly, Wilmington’s newest bluegrass collective. “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a number of years, but the timing just wasn’t quite right.”
This is a story about stickin’ with your passion no matter what. We all dream of doing something special, but how often do we hit a roadblock and just give up? Well, folks like Frank know that if you really love something, you gotta ride the ups and downs, ’cause that’s all part of the creative process.
“I’ve got a hunch that music is in your DNA,” says Frank. “Some folks are wired for rock ‘n’ roll. Others are made for country, jazz, or classical. But you see, bluegrass breaks all of those molds. It is in all of our DNA. It is woven into the fabric of who we are as people. Its origins can be traced into the mountains of Appalachia, but before it was there, its history goes back to Europe, where the fiddle and pipe made sounds that rippled through the soul and stirred the hearts of people.”
Now, let’s talk history. Bluegrass and roots music in general has evolved greatly over the last 75 years. Many songs of today are remakes of old songs from yesteryear. Nowadays, even electric guitars have joined the bluegrass party. But through all the changes, that friendly, heart-string-tuggin’ core of bluegrass is still as real as ever.
And that’s the magic Frank Sellers and his friends are bringing to Wilmington.
The origins of his group General Assembly started a few years ago at the Satellite Bar and Lounge. Sellers is a regular performer at the tavern’s weekly Sunday night blue grass jam session. That’s where he met bass player Landon Lush and mandolinist Tom Craven. But at this point, the idea of the band was simply that…an idea.
“I decided one day to post an ad on Craigslist asking if there was anyone out there that wanted to start a roots / Americana / bluegrass type of band.” It was Bobby Lloyd, banjo and electric guitarist of The General Assembly who answered that ad. The two of them decided to get together and play some tunes. “We both really enjoy this kind of music”, said Lloyd in a phone interview. They contacted another friend, Morgan Brendle, who also was interested in starting up a project. They even held a couple of practices. Everything was sounding great, and then Covid hit and the practices stopped. The dream was shelved and during the pandemic, Brendle moved to Idaho.
“It was downright frustrating,” Frank chuckles. “But there was no need to force the concept if the timing was wrong.” So the idea continued to sit tight on the shelf until the time was right for the founding member to try again.
You know what they say, dreams don’t just die; sometimes they just go into hibernation. And sometimes, all it takes to wake ’em up is being in the right time at the right place.
“Two years ago, in 2021, my wife and I were having dinner at a Mayfaire restaurant and I heard a voice,” recalls Sellers. “It was a woman singing 80’s and 90’s R&B, with some Fleetwood Mac and Dixie Chicks thrown into the set. It was a beautiful voice with lots of flexibility and a wide range. She could hit these low soulful notes and her high end range was incredible. I knew that voice would be perfect for bluegrass.”
That voice belonged to Emily Burdette, a well known local performer who also runs a songwriters’ showcase called, “Voice and the Pen”. Sellers approached Burdette that evening and paid her a nice compliment. He got her card and kept it on the night stand for a solid year before getting the nerve to call her and pitch the idea of her singing some bluegrass. But history was made and Burdette agreed. In November of 2022, the General Assembly met for their first practice. The group is made up of :
- Frank Sellers: Lead Vocals and Rhythm Guitar
- Emily Burdette: Lead Vocals
- Bobby Lloyd: Banjo and Electric Guitar, Vocals
- Landon Lush: Upright Bass
- Tom Craven: Mandolin
- Lori Adams: Scheduled to join on Fiddle this fall
They all come from different backgrounds. Sellers is a captain with New Hanover County Fire Rescue. Bobby Lloyd works as a planner for the City of Wilmington. Landon Lush is a licensed massage therapist and avid surfer. Tom Craven is a retired electrical engineer. Only Burdette makes her living exclusively through music.
“I probably like bluegrass more than the rest of the band,” joked Sellers. “But we all love music, we love playing, we love harmonizing, we like to play a good lead lick, and have a good time in each other’s company. We really have no other higher ambitions…but are wide open to whatever the possibilities are.”
Since April The General Assembly has played six shows throughout the region. Their next scheduled performance is October 31st at Fermental. They cover a wide variety of popular bluegrass and roots music with one original song and they hope to write more original music in the future.
So there you have it, folks. That’s The General Assembly for ya. Time to kick back, tap those toes, and let that bluegrass breeze whisk you away! Don’t believe me? Check out these jams: