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music: Appalachian Soul

Like many raised in the Great Smoky Mountains, Harmon came to music through family. His great-great-great-grandfather first settled in the mountains, bringing with him traditional "Jack tales" from England. These were passed from generation to generation, and Harmon tuned into the story-song idea as a youngster many years later, and drawn to the guitar, he began his musical search.

"I'd sit out there and pick with my uncle and everybody and bug the hell out of 'em 'til they showed me something," Harmon recalls.

Those early days were filled with bluegrass, gospel and even a little Southern rock in his teen years. Moving along different musical paths over time, Harmon's songwriting horizons broadened after hearing the music of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

Family obligations took much of Harmon's time for many years, but about three years back, he decided to cast his fate with his twin loves of music and storytelling. Since that time he has released two independent CDs, visited schools and libraries entertaining listeners with his stories, has and played at Merlefest, the annual bluegrass and roots-music festival in Wilkesboro, N.C. Harmon also runs a regular club circuit in Georgia, Tennessee and along the mid-Atlantic. His third CD nears completion.

Harmon says he's been writing more than ever recently and is enjoying his new musical career challenge. "It's keeping beans on the table but paying for itself," Harmon concludes with a deep mountain drawl. "I feel blessed. At least I'm giving it my best shot." — Ames Arnold

Jerry Harmon plays Poe's Pub, Thursday, June 27, at 8 p.m. Cover is $3. Call 648-2120 for information.

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