Radio show features Spence’s Rye
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 01:02
Looking for a way to unwind after a long day full of classes and work?
U92, West Virginia University’s student-run radio station, provides a unique but widely unknown option for Monday evenings that has been around since the mid-1980s – the Morgantown Sound radio show.
Morgantown Sound airs live on 91.7 U92-FM and at http://u92.wvu.edu and features an up-and-coming local artist every Monday night live in the Gluck Theatre of the Mountainlair at 8 p.m. This provides a great opportunity for students to hear new music and relax for free.
Monday night, Morgantown Sound featured Spence’s Rye, a solo banjo project by artist Gary Copeland.
While bluegrass isn’t my preferred music genre, but Copeland’s style is something top which I truly enjoy listening. His deep voice mixed with the twangy banjo sound reminds me of music I heard at family reunions as a child, which was strangely comforting on a Monday evening.
Copeland, a Clarksburg, W.Va., native, has been playing guitar for years and still plays acoustic guitar from time to time, but the banjo is where his signature sound is displayed.
As Copeland began to play, his fingers strummed along the strings quickly creating a bluegrass, folk style that is soothing and easy to listen to.
Although Copeland sounds as if he learned to play the banjo decades ago, it has only been two short years, according to the artist. Copeland learned to play the banjo through a West Virginia Folk Art Apprenticeship Program administered by the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College.
"I’ve played the guitar for years, but it got to a point where the guitar playing was kind of flat," Copeland said. "I was just chucking out chords with a pick. The claw hammer style that I play on the banjo is a very old style that adds a completely different dynamic to the strumming."
Spence’s Rye played through familiar tunes such as "Oh! Susanna" while also mixing in his own songs that he writes himself, including "Every Dog Has Its Day."
Although Copeland seemed surprised to hear he is known for his storytelling lyrics, the lyrics in all of Copeland’s songs convey sincerity in his music and share stories from Appalachia. Copeland’s favorite song he wrote is "Highland Grave."
"‘Highland Grave’ is about a witch’s grave in a cemetery in the direct vicinity of where I grew up," Copeland said.
About three or four songs into the set, Spence’s Rye showcased Copeland’s strong vocal skills as he relaxed on stage. Copeland’s voice, which is deep and comparable to Johnny Cash, is definitely a highlight of Spence’s Rye.
Copeland played a wide variety of songs, from ones with a quick beat and strong bluegrass feel to songs with a slower beat and a bluesy feel. The laid-back vibe is definitely present through all of his songs.
Copeland performs throughout Clarksburg and Fairmont and often performs at Black Bear Burritos in Morgantown, as well as many other locations across the city. Spence’s Rye is set to release a new EP this spring.
While watching Spence’s Rye perform, it’s easy to tell Copeland enjoys what he does. I believe that’s an aspect about live music that cannot be replaced – the emotion and soul conveyed by the artist.
Although the artists enjoy getting recorded, the Gluck Theatre is open for the public to watch the radio show live every Monday evening. Only a couple of people mingled in during the performance to listen live due to lack of awareness of the show. But according to the Morgantown Sound crew, they are trying to get the word out.
"The station is 30 years old, and I’d say the show is roughly 20 or more years old," said Alec Berry, director of Morgantown Sound. "In terms of this crew and myself doing it, though, we’ve only been doing it for about a year since last January."
Berry works alongside John Casey and Corey Zinn, as well as many other students on Morgantown Sound. Berry believes the show is a great way to get students involved.
"The show is promoting the local music scene and putting it on the air, but it’s also a great learning experience for students to learn to set up equipment like this, interact with different people and learn organizational skills and how to put on a live radio show," Berry said. "We, as students, do it entirely ourselves."
The show used to be broadcast live at 123 Pleasant Street in the 1990s, which was the last time Copeland played on Morgantown Sound. After that, it was broadcast in U92 studios until the Gluck Theatre was obtained.
"The Gluck Theatre is a fairly new thing that we got about three years ago," Berry said. "The show kind of waxed and waned. Then, last January, we took it over and have put a little different spin on it."
To learn more about Morgantown Sound, hear a podcast of the show and view pictures, visit http://morgantownsound.wordpress.com.
Morgantown Sound airs every Monday 8-10 p.m.
To listen to Spence’s Rye and learn more about Gary Copeland, visit spencesrye.wordpress.com.
In the interest of full disclosue, Alec Berry is the web editor for The Daily Athenaeum.