Friday, January 13, 2012

Listen Up: Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight

It is great to see that Ronnie Hymes and Carolina Freight are already starting to get some attention for the new album they are working on. With the stout lineup in Carolina Freight this is gonna be one hell of an album for fans Real Country Music.

Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight in a North Carolina cotton field at sunset ©  Rusty Knuckles 2011
Ronnie Hymes - Unincorporated by RustyKnuckles

Whenever Ronnie Hymes listens to country music on the radio, he can't help but wonder what happened to good old-fashioned honky-tonk music.

Taking his cues from acts such as Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, the acoustic guitarist and vocalist has grounded his music in relatable, heartfelt country sounds. It's music that he and his band, Carolina Freight, pride themselves on.

"There's a genre for my kind of music, the kind of music that I'm putting out there," he said. "There's a movement."

Hymes and his band will perform Saturday at the Black Cat Lounge to share their love of honky-tonk music.

"It'll be a pretty high energy show, and it's going to be a lot of fun," he said. "We always play a lot of the classics, Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels. We always play crowd-pleasing songs."

For years, Hymes has performed as a solo act and released his first 5-song EP in 2009. A year later, he debuted a full-length project entitled "Unincorporated." He later teamed up with Frank Ehlinger on the doghouse bass and Buck Thrailkill on the banjo to complete his band. Hymes' efforts caught the attention of the indie label, Rusty Knuckles. He signed on to the label and is now working on a new album.

Hymes talked with the Weekender Street Edition about his love of honky-tonk and his perspective on country music in the local music scene.

Weekender: You moved to Fayetteville from West Virginia at the age of 10. How did your local upbringing contribute to your music?

Hymes: Me and my dad were real country. And I have four older brothers, and all four of them listened to different kinds of music. So I have a hard time separating rock and country and blues. If it's good music, I can appreciate all of it. But when I was playing in bands, in my teenage years, I was writing the same kind of songs back then that I'm writing now. And I guess with playing in Fayetteville, you get so many different sounds, it just adds to the mixing pot. It definitely helped form my style of playing.

Weekender: You're a big advocate for all things honky-tonk, but what is your take on the current brand of country music these days?

Hymes: That's a loaded question.(laughs).Let's take country music radio, corporate country. They have writers that come in and write songs and gear them for a certain market. Today's market is teenage girls. Country music used to be, when I was growing up, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. They talked about the hard times, things that everybody can relate to, not being able to pay your bills, drinking, whatever it might be. And today's country music is just bubbly and great.

We're just a three-piece band - acoustic guitar, stand up bass. But whether it be a banjo or fiddle or steel guitar, we're a back-to-basics kind of band.

Weekender: What have been the challenges for your band in regards to the local music scene?

Hymes: You can go to an open-mic on Monday night, and you'll see these five people playing. You'll go on a Tuesday night at a different bar, and you'll see the same five people playing. And then on Friday and Saturday nights when you're wanting to book a show, if you're not in that loop, the same five people will be playing Friday and Saturday night.

Then there's another side to that. There's Fayetteville music. Basically, you got military rock 'n' roll, these teenage hard-core rock 'n' roll sounds, then you got your folk artists. There's really not a country scene in Fayetteville. There's not really a market for it, which is one of the reasons why we play out of town.

Weekender: What's next for Ronnie Hymes and Carolina Freight?

Hymes: We're hoping to have the record done by February. And we're looking at May for a release. I'm pretty excited about it, especially to have Rusty Knuckles pushing us. That's going to be big. There's no name for it yet, but there are several songs on the record that are dealing with home, like "Home State Lines" and another song about longing for home and missing home. So it's kind of leaning that way, but we haven't really made up our minds yet. One song could change everything.

Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight

When: Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.

Where: The Black Cat Lounge, 2918 Fort Bragg Road

Want more? Search for the band on Facebook or go to

Correspondent Jessica De Vault can be reached at
Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight featured in Fayetteville Observer