When Balsam Range hosted its CD release celebration for the album Five at The Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in Asheville, NC, a spectacular piece of original artwork adorned the stage. Artist, Nancy Hilliard Joyce (www.nancyjoycegallery.com) created the painting, titled “Moon over Memphis,” inspired by a song of the same name, which appears on the album. The artwork was commissioned for the album cover art.
The marriage of fine art and music, and showcasing both musical and visual artists of the region, has become a passion for the creative team at Mountain Home Music Company of North Carolina, an imprint of Crossroads Label Group.
“We were intrigued by the idea of combining fine art with our own music artists’ projects,” says Ty Gilpin, marketing director for Crossroads. “We love the idea of merging the creativeness between music and visual art. Nancy represents the fantastic, creative resource we have in the Western North Carolina community of visual artists, and she has been an inspired collaborator.”
It’s not the first time that Joyce, a South Carolina native, art historian and graduate of Wofford College, created an original work of art in collaboration with a music project. Previously, Joyce was tapped to design the album cover for Red June’s Ancient Dreams (Organic Records, the Americana imprint of Crossroads Label Group). More recently, Joyce created the cover art for Run Away Tonight, the most recent release from Chris Jones & The Night Drivers (Mountain Home Music Company).
“Moon Over Memphis” is a mixed-media piece primarily in shades of blue. Beginning with a graphite pencil sketch, Joyce then layered acrylics, and finally added touches of oil paint.
The artist was already a fan of bluegrass and acoustic music when the folks at Crossroads came calling. She listened to Tony Rice and others, and harbored a secret desire to play mandolin.
“I can’t paint without music and all five guys from Balsam Range took a real interest in the painting and how it was progressing,” Joyce says. “They came to my studio and played.” The musical inspiration clearly worked. Nancy finished the huge painting in just two weeks.
Both “Moon…” and Five spent multiple months at the #1 spot on both the Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited charts. As a result of fan inquiries, a limited run of high quality 10” X 20” prints of the “Moon over Memphis” artwork is now available at http://balsamrange.com/store/.
Five is nominated for Album of the Year in the upcoming IBMA awards, and “Moon over Memphis” picked up a nomination for IBMA Song of the Year. There is a stack of rocks on the album cover and in the painting, included for “Stacking Up the Rocks,” and inspiring song by Buddy Melton, which is performed a capella on the album. The song is nominated for a Dove award for Best Bluegrass Gospel Song.
See artist, Nancy Hilliard Joyce, in action as she began work on the Red June cover art painting: https://youtu.be/vOa3xrc6SFo.
The “fine art” of album art began decades ago. The Beatles’ Revolver cover featured Klaus Voorman illustrations and photograph by Robert Whitaker. Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, and more recently, Hip-Hop artists like Public Enemy have utilized original works of art for compelling album covers. Andy Warhol, Derek Riggs, Mati Klarwein, DC Comics artist Denys Cowan, Swiss artist H.R. Giger, English designer Roger Dean, and many other acclaimed artists have created stunning album art.
Mountain Home and Organic Records have breathed new life into the art of album art.
Tim Surrett of Balsam Range is thrilled with the pairing of fine art and music. A co-founder of the Mountain Home Music Co. label, Surrett serves on the label’s marketing committee. “I hope to see more and more collaborations between visual and music artists of our region. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one that brings back the art of the album cover, something we haven’t really been seeing in this digital age.”
PICTURED: The members of Balsam Range (L-R: Darren Nicholson, Buddy Melton, Caleb Smith, Tim Surrett, Marc Pruett) with visual artist Nancy Hilliard Joyce.