by Luke Osteen
Cashiers resident and internationally-recognized banjoist Mary Z. Cox has just released her latest CD, the sublime “Carolina Banjo.”
This joyful collection is Cox’s Valentine to the music that was born in this part of the Appalachians, and she collaborates with an entire suite of storied mountain musicians – Tim Gardner on fiddle and guitar, and bass; Cindy Neal Carpenter on harmony vocals; and Darren Nicholson on mandolin and guitar.
The finished product is shaped with passion and a playfulness that’s darn near irresistible. Some of the songs are Cox’s original compositions – “Got No Use For A Banjo Man” recounts her friendship and falling out with the tattooed man who loaned her a baritone banjo – and some are as old and revered as “Foggy Mountain Clawhammer.” Some even stretch to the mist-shrouded origins of Bluegrass – “Hop High Ladies/Dunsmore Lasses” is clearly the product of the rolling countryside of Ireland and Scotland (just try to stop your toes from tapping).
Whatever the tune, they’re all infused with Cox’s reverence for the source and her determination to push Bluegrass in new directions. She’s been a banjoist since 12 and has performed at venues across the United States. Her work has been featured in documentaries and Hollywood blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” series.
Local audiences have seen her perform with her 16 banjos, three guitars, two ukuleles, and eight mountain dulcimers at Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library, where she draws large and enthusiastic crowds. She’s also a four-time champion of the Transylvania (NC) Old Time Music Competition and first place winner at the Uncle Dave Macon Days in Tennessee.
Cox’s CDs are available at her website, maryzcox.com, and her music can be streamed at most digital outlets, including Apple and Amazon.