The Wake Forest Listening Room

The Piney Woods Boys

All Ages
Friday, March 28, 2025
Doors: 6:45pm Show: 7:30pm

The Piney Woods Boys are Jim Collier, Wayne Martin, Matt Haney, and Margaret Martin. Friends for upwards of fifty years, each of them can trace their early musical efforts to the inspiring music of the family and community of Doc Watson. Perhaps the heart of that music was the graceful fiddle and banjo of Doc’s father-in-law, Gaither Carlton. “His tunes awaken something in you from long ago,” says Jim Collier. “It’s something that’s part of your genetics. Playing them just sorta brings all that to the surface.”

 “One of the first records I bought as a kid was the Watson Family album,” says Jim. I listened to it endlessly. I was so taken with it that I wanted to learn the songs on it and meet the people that played and sang them.”
“I’m the new kid on the block,” laughs Matt Haney. “I’ve only been here 20 years.” 

“I grew up in Minnesota and my dad brought home a fiddle so we could all try it out.  In 1965 my parents took us to hear Doc Watson with Fred Price and Clint Howard, and later that year there was a banjo and a guitar under the Christmas tree.”

For Jim Collier, the connection to this music is deeply rooted in emotions and place. “I can remember hearing those tunes and songs for the first time and having a visceral connection to them.  They conjured up mental images and deep feelings that remain to this day.  This music speaks to the issues that everyone deals with: love found, lost or never gained, death and the afterlife, just the day-to-day trials and joys we all experience. The landscapes of ‘The House Carpenter and ‘Matty Groves,’ or the beauty of true love in ‘My Long Journey’–I can see those landscapes in my mind or feel that deep sorrow of losing one’s life’s partner.  It just speaks to me in a way that nothing else does.”

After decades of individually pursuing musical traditions from old-time fiddle to bluegrass to Cajun to blues, Jim, Wayne, Margaret and Matt formed the Piney Woods Boys to revisit the music of the Watsons. With the passing years, their relation to the music has changed, Wayne says. “As our own music matured, we wanted to present the qualities of the Watsons’ music that included, but also went beyond, the excitement of a flat-picked guitar tune. It is the directness, the spareness, and most of all the feeling, that we hear in their ballads, hymns and old-time fiddle tunes that made us want to return to this music and share it with others.”

While music has always been central in the lives of these musicians, all four worked in fields other than music. Jim is a retired engineer, Matt worked for Sears as a repair technician and Margaret retired from the state wildlife agency. Wayne was with the NC Arts Council for 34 years, the last 10 as its executive director. He now serves as the director of the N.C. Arts Foundation. He and Margaret helped found Raleigh’s traditional music organization, PineCone, in 1984.

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