Now hear this!: The Welfare Liners’ ‘High on a Hilltop’ not your typical bluegrass


“High on a Hilltop” marked my first sample of The Welfare Liners. And still, no bitter aftertaste.

I was immediately intrigued by the album art; very simple, yet not quite plain. The artwork came courtesy of Skillet Gilmore, the former drummer of Whiskeytown. My interest was piqued; I popped in my headphones and gave the CD a spin.

There is no evidence of gaudy over production. No drums. Just pure, classic Appalachian bluegrass.

Bluegrass and folk music’s recent comeback doesn’t seem to influence this band’s sound. The Welfare Liners do not strike me as a bandwagon group. Their songs are rooted in something real. “High on a Hilltop” is a testament to the beautiful and innocent side of southern tradition. It is hauntingly simple, with just the right balance of polish and rust to make it authentic and pleasing. And all mastered right here in Athens, by Bright Eyes bassist Andy LeMaster.

The album rises and falls, falls and rises. Most albums do. But at times the songs just get silly. Making the first track “Easy on the Eyes” was a mistake. The song is essentially about a stupid, stubborn girl who also happens to be pretty — pretty derivative. It takes away from the impact of the majority of the rest of the record. I feel like people expect bluegrass to be silly, at least lyrically. But why submit to the stereotype?

The album tends toward repetitive, and has it’s share of low brow songs. Still, these are minor substantial complaints amidst greater music. Songs like “Trouble Comes to Me,” “I Can Hear the Reaper Calling” and “Farewell to All the Angels” are stand-outs. If The Welfare Liners continue in the vein of songs like those, I predict a very warm and rewarding sophomore album.

Out of the plethora of bands in Athens, this one appears to be doing something special. The Welfare Liners are worth watching, for now at least.


Friends market goods for the Garden


For Beverly Morton, the Friends of the Garden annual flea market has an origin close to heart.

“Eunice Robertson, who was on the original Friends board, and I were talking one day about the fact that my husband and I go to the flea markets and we find all these neat things,” said Morton, membership services coordinator for Friends of the Garden. “And, we thought we ought to have one at the garden so the Friends got together and we did it.”

Friends, a charitable, nonprofit organization formed in 1972, holds its annual flea market to benefit the State Botanical Garden. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year, mostly due to the effort of Friends associates.
And the work is endless.

“When this flea market ends on Saturday, we’ll start talking about next year’s flea market,” Morton said. “We first solicit to Friends members who donate things and then they tell their friends and they donate things.”

Planning the event is a group affair, pulling work from Friends members and volunteers alike. One volunteer in particular, B.J. Garrett, teamed up with Morton after Robertson retired.

“Beverly and I work so well together, it just seems we think alike and things get done in a hurry,” Garrett said.

The Friends’ flea market raises $5,000 to $6,000 just in the one day event, with all proceeds from the donated goods directly benefiting the Botanical Garden. The market boasts a wide selection of items including antiques, jewelry, luggage, gardening tools, toys, electronics and books.

While Garrett doesn’t have a favorite item to donate, she loves seeing what other people buy.

“Things you think will not sell are the first things to be bought,” Garrett said. “It’s fun to watch.”

They don’t take clothing donations, but other big sellers continue to be furniture and linens. Morton encourages students looking to decorate to stop by.

“A student could come in here and furnish an apartment easily,” Morton said. “For students coming back in the fall this is a great place to come.”

The flea market is a bazaar of eclectic items that will appeal to everyone. But, it’s Friends and the volunteers at the heart of the event who really bring it to life.

“The same people have worked with Beverly and me for most of the sales,” Garrett said. “We have fun and laugh a lot. Our workers are the greatest.”

All donations can be dropped off Aug. 13 to 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Botanical Garden.

What: Friends of the Garden’s 8th Annual Flea Market
When: August 18, 8 am to 1 pm
Where: The Botanical Garden’s Visitor Center
Price: Free
Contact: 706-542-1244