As the weather warms up across the state, it’s fun to start thinking more about outdoor activities to look forward to in the spring and summer. Along those lines the North Carolina Museum of Art just announced its 20th Anniversary Summer Concert Series. After a couple of decades of hosting people with blankets and picnic baskets on the lawn, this lineup at the outdoor amphitheater does not disappoint. Featuring several notable artists who got their start right here in North Carolina, you’ll likely want to grab a few tickets and start wishing it was summer already. Mipso, with River WhylessSaturday, May 6This indie folk group coalesced at UNC Chapel Hill and became a campus favorite. Not long after, they began selling out shows at Cat’s Cradle and appearing throughout the Triangle and beyond. Their 2015 album, “Old Time Reverie” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart, and The Guardian newspaper called it one of the best records of the year. Mipso’s first NCMA appearance celebrates the release of a new album, “Coming Down the Mountain.” KaleoTuesday, June 13This skyrocketing indie-rock band from near Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik ironically takes its name from a native Hawaiian word that means “the sound.” Inspired by American blues and folk, the band relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 after becoming a sensation in its homeland.The single “All the Pretty Girls” released in 2014 helped propel Kaleo to international fame. Last year Rolling Stone magazine named Kaleo first in a listing of “10 New Artists You Need to Know.” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, with Amanda ShiresSunday, June 18Singer-songwriter Jason Isbell comes from Alabama and is closely tied to the fabled Southern musical enclave of Muscle Shoals, whose studios produced some of the most enduring popular music of the 1960s and ’70s. Isbell learned to play multiple instruments as a boy, and at age 22 he joined the Southern rock band Drive-by Truckers. Six years later he embarked on a solo career. His breakthrough recording “Southeastern” won Album of the Year at the 2014 Americana Music Awards. His follow-up record, “Something More Than Free” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s rock, folk, and country music charts and earned him two Grammy Awards.Mandolin Orange, with Joe PugSaturday, July 22Mandolin Orange formed in 2009 in Chapel Hill around the talents of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin and violinist-guitarist Emily Frantz. The duo made a couple of highly regarded albums before signing with North Carolina-based Yep Roc Records, which yielded the 2013 release of “This Side of Jordan,” which NPR Music called one of the year’s top 10 folk and Americana albums. Now comes “Blindfaller,” which features a full band sound. No Depression, the Journal of Roots Music, says, “It’s really once in a lifetime that a band comes around like Mandolin Orange.”Rhiannon GiddensWednesday, August 9North Carolina native Rhiannon Giddens continues to develop her extraordinary talent and career. A co-founder of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens recorded her first solo album “Tomorrow Is My Turn” with the aid of producer T-Bone Burnett. New York Times music critic Jon Pareles says, “The album is a showcase for Ms. Giddens’s glorious voice, which merges an opera singer’s detail and a deep connection to Southern roots. She can summon the power of a field holler, Celtic quavers, girlish innocence, bluesy sensuality, gospel exaltation, or the pain of slavery. For all her technical control, her voice is a perpetually soulful marvel.”Giddens’s follow-up record “Freedom Highway,” released in February, features nine songs she wrote herself. Giddens received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year in 2016 and won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. Giddens and friends will be pulling out all the stops for this special North Carolina homecoming show, and you won’t want to miss it.
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