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Bishop and GrayHarr refuse to be defined by traditional genres

July 3rd, 2013 4:14 pm by Amanda Marsh

Bishop and GrayHarr refuse to be defined by traditional genres

When Dwight Bishop and Cyndee GrayHarr merged their musical talents, the duo made an important decision.

It didn’t involve contracts or payout. They agreed that their music wouldn’t be defined by a genre, other than the one they created for themselves.

That’s how “Humacana” was born.

“We could try to fit our music in Folk and Americana, but not really,” Bishop said. “We decided it was about humans. Humacana exists within the same song, taking a non-traditional instrument and lyrics from another genre and keeping the human element in it.”

A winding road of life experiences and countless performances with other groups and bands gave Bishop and GrayHarr the fuel they needed to write and record songs and develop their niche – Humacana. The duo are locals who forged a friendship about 25 years ago when their worlds collided at the Scott County Virginia Fair where GrayHarr was a host and Bishop was playing with a house dance band.

They produced a recording of GrayHarr’s orginal songs and shortly after went their separate ways to work and raise families, but each continued to play music. GrayHarr ventured on as a vocalist living in Blountville, while Bishop settled in Duffield, Va., playing bass guitar in various groups.

They kept in touch along the way, but reunited their music partnership about four years ago. They became a duo – Bishop and GrayHarr – and began writing songs together and independently.

With no genre borders holding them back, their first Humacana album, “Being Human” was able to take shape.

“We were determined to keep our personalities in it and not try to sound like anyone but us,” Bishop said.

The album has 11 original songs and two covers. From start to end, the recording is a journey through genres with themes that range from funny critters to painful memories.  

“You Might be a Critter” sums up Bishop’s personality and it’s one of those 'you either get it or you don’t' songs, GrayHarr said. Nevertheless, it’s got an upbeat tempo that’s fun to sing along to. The same can be said for the tongue-in-cheek track, “I Don’t Need to Look Good When I’m Gone.”

The song that sparked the entire album was “Two Choices” and the duo dearly admires “The Right Thing to Do” and calls it their Appalachian opera. It was supposed to be an old-time song, but the music quickly became theatrical, GrayHarr said.

“Being Human” has touches of Celtic, country, a little bit of classic music, and old time, all blended in together.

Bishop and GrayHarr reaped success from their material even before its official release. “My Heart Might Break” won the songwriting contest at the Gathering in the Gap Festival.

“Sometimes all our writing is done on the telephone,” GrayHarr said. “One of us has got an idea or has verses that lost its way. They mix and become a song.”

The duo has gotten a warm reception in Nashville and their album release show in Kingsport was their first time playing live in the Tri-Cities. They agree that it’s easier to play for strangers, but love the direction their music is headed.

“The songs that we’re writing now is something that we’re proud to leave to our kids and grandkids,” GrayHarr said. “It’s so honest and we’re challenging ourselves.”

Bishop and GrayHarr’s debut album, “Being Human,” is available for preview and download at http://www.reverbnation.com/bishopgrayharr.

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