By Jaymie Baxley
"Like many military veterans, Buck Thrailkill has endured several grueling deployments. And, like many veterans, he's quick to identify the thing that got him through.
"This instrument saved my life," he explained, patting the round body of his glossy-black banjo. "It was, sometimes, just my love of music and playing music that brought me home safe."
Ronnie Hymes and Carolina Freight are a Raeford-based trio centered around singer/songwriter Ronnie Hymes. The "Freight" refers to Thrailkill and upright bass player Frank Ehlinger, an active-duty Army medical officer.
Though they classify themselves as a honky-tonk act, the group's sound actually draws from a diverse stable of Southern genres and movements, most notably bluegrass, alt-country and 1950s rockabilly music. The trio have built their local reputation on a string of fiery live performances at venues such as The Black Cat Lounge on Fort Bragg Road.
Before forming the band in 2011, Hymes was a solo artist. The singer's output during this period was considerably darker in tone, and his lyrics were influenced by his experiences as a factory worker.
"You never see the sunlight working in the factory, especially in the winter. You go to work and it's dark. You get off and it's dark," Hymes said.
|Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight - Photo By Raul Rubiera Jr.|
According to Hymes, the material on his band's forthcoming debut release, "Songs for the Working Man," is decidedly more optimistic. He feels this tonal shift is due in part to the close friendship and musical chemistry that developed during the group's recording sessions.
Ehlinger is the other half of Carolina Freight. Like Thrailkill, he has used music as a means of coping through deployments. Language barriers would often prevent him from communicating with locals in the faraway areas where he was stationed. So, the bass player became fluent in one language everyone understands.
"Music transcends certain boundaries," he said. "I've found myself playing places in front of people who couldn't understand what I was saying, but they were getting into it."
Music as a survival tool is a theme for the band.
"When you're younger, you might do different things when you're upset, like dent walls or whatever," Ehlinger said. "You can always grab that instrument and you can play it as hard as you want and you can beat the crap out of it, but you're making something happen."
|Elite Magazine article featuring Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight|