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Tune in Friday for Live Performances From Tray Wellington and Ken Yates

This week on Finally Friday from Home we'll be bringing you performances from a North Carolina banjo player stretching his wings and a Canadian singer-songwriter exploring the meaning of death in deeply personal songs.

Trajan “Tray” Wellington is a rising star in the bluegrass scene, his debut full-length, Black Banjo, picked up raves in the Wall Street Journal, Bluegrass Today, and Folk Alley.

Hailing from Garner, NC, Wellington fell head over heels with the banjo before heading off to East Tennessee State University’s legendary Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country program.

After performing all over the place with Cane Mill Road, he picked up a 2019 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award, while the band won Momentum Band of the Year honors.

Wellington has led banjo workshops at Merlefest and Gray Fox festivals, performed on the IBMA’s 2020 World of Bluegrass Main Stage, and has appeared everywhere from David Holt’s PBS NC series to a BBC documentary series to being interviewed by W. Kamau Bell for his CNN series, United Shades of America.

On the other end of North America, we have Creemore, Ontario’s own Ken Yates, who said of his raw new album, Cerulean, “I used to go searching for the darkness, with this record, the darkness found me first. This is me finding my way out of it.”

Cerulean captured his most intimate moments as Yates grieved his dying mother, creating a window into a deeply personal, yet universal experience, the result is a transcendent record that surges with intimate energy. Yates grew in real time on this album -- he moved to the country, began therapy, and wrote the songs he needed to hear.

“This is the first time that I’ve made a record where I feel like the songs were going to be written whether I wanted to release an album or not,” Yates says. “I was writing because I needed to. I never would have described songwriting as a cathartic process in the past; it was just something I liked to do.”

Cerulean reunites Yates with producer Jim Bryson, which may lead you to hear inspiration from Big Thief, Andy Shauf, and The War On Drugs. "The record begins with a tone of paranoia facing the daily fear of what the world is becoming," he says. “As the album progresses, the songs begin to look more and more inward. Maybe I was trying to take a step back to remind myself of all the good things and the full spectrum of color in my life.”

Tune in this Friday at 12 PM CST to WMOT 89.5 to hear these performances or check out livesessions.npr.org to watch.

Rachel Hurley is the Content Manager for WMOT, managing their website content and social media feeds. She currently travels and lives in an RV with her two dogs. She calls home any place she can plug into shore power.