Two separate folk bands will take the stage Friday and Saturday at the Carroll Arts Center, with each group honoring a different folk tradition. Molasses Creek hails from the small town of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina — the final resting place of the pirate Blackbeard — while the Paul McKenna Band represents the Celtic heritage of traditional Scottish music.
First is Molasses Creek, performing as part of the Carroll County Arts Council's yearly concert series. The band features acoustic music on traditional instruments from the fiddle to the mandolin, and a quirky sense of humor.
Fiddle player Dave Tweedie said the group formed based on a communal love of vocal harmonies and instrumental music.
"I grew up playing the classical violin. It wasn't until I went to college in North Carolina, which was a hotbed of old-time and bluegrass music, that I started to expand my interest," Tweedie said. "I traveled for a year, studying Celtic music around the world."
Tweedie said his passion for traditional music hearkens back to the honesty of the genre of music.
"It all runs back to the communities that we still hold dear," Tweedie said. "It's about the personal relationships of a small town, where everybody knows each other, and you're sitting on the porch and telling stories, contemporary stories as well as ones that are passed down through the ages."
Molasses Creek recently released their 15th album, "Waterbound" and their last two releases have reached numbers four and five on the national folk charts. When not touring, the group operates Deepwater Theater in Ocracoke, bringing traditional music to their hometown.
Tweedie said though they enjoy spreading their music with their recordings, it's live performances that make up the soul of the band.
"We love to travel and get to know the people and places where we're going," Tweedie said. "It's a bit of a cultural exchange. When you're up on stage, you're exchanging musical spirits with the audience."
The Paul McKenna band, performing Saturday as a part of Common Ground on the Hill's Westminster concert series, has been a part of a unique cultural exchange, as they finish up a year-long residence as Disney World's EPCOT Center's official band of Scotland.
According to lead singer McKenna, the call to perform at the theme park came out of the blue, after the band established themselves as a touring folk band throughout Europe.
"It has been a little strange, and certainly a lot different to what we are used to," McKenna wrote in an email. "We've been there now for 10 months, and we all miss the road. We can't wait to be back out on tour after this is over."
McKenna said it's important to the band to keep the traditional Celtic sound alive. The dialogue between Scottish and American folk is one that has been going on for generations.
"Much of the old Appalachian music was influenced from Scottish and Irish music," McKenna said. "Many of the people who came from Scotland through Northern Ireland went onto Southern Appalachia and brought with them their music and songs."
The band first met at the Girvan Folk Festival. McKenna said it was the love of traditional folk music that brought them together.
"We all started playing this music, because we love it, and as long as young people keep playing, the tradition will be safe," McKenna said. "We want to draw from our rich musical tradition and move forward. One of the best ways to keep it alive is to move it forward."