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Willie Nelson's Luck Reunion meets High Water Festival



College of Charleston


Willie Nelson's Luck Reunion meets High Water Festival

We found some soul in a church on Sunday morning, but not how you might think

Thomas Sanders


It was one of those spaces with pitch perfect acoustics. The smooth arches in the ceiling, the soft paint on the walls, the old wood in the pews, all culminating into a harmony generations in the making.

What we were heard was a collaboration of the twangy, Western sounds of relatively new Charleston band Shovels and Rope and the generations-old Gullah inspired melodies of Ranky Tanky, blended quite appropriately in the halls of the "Eternal Father of the Sea" church at High Water Festival.

The show itself was relatively secret, unadvertised by the festival with a crowd of under 100 people.

We were about to be a part of a live recording session for a project endorsed by the American singer, songwriter, activist, and poet Willie Nelson, Luck Reunion.

Willie Nelson lives on a vast ranch in the small town of Luck, Texas. In the true spirit of legend Nelson’s life and legacy, his property became home to a new host of musicians, industry leaders, and super-fans when the Luck Reunion music festival began five years ago as a highly exclusive celebration of artists who exemplify and continue to honor American musical roots. Luck’s mission is to showcase “outlaws and outliers” who commit to advancing their craft among the legacy of trailblazers like Nelson while also establishing themselves as uniquely worthy of carefully curated praise.

News of Luck Reunion’s dynamic celebratory experience covered the country, inspiring the organization to expand their efforts to recording sessions of uncompromisingly authentic musicians in perfectly unconventional locations. Tapping into Luck Reunion’s family-like industry network, they continue to travel the States looking to acknowledge unflinchingly bona fide artists for what they call “Luck Reunion Sessions.”

Luck Reunion featured the festival as a part of SXSW in Austin, Texas for their first five years, and recently expanded it to include a recording session in Nashville, Tenn. as well as at High Water in Charleston, S.C.

For partner and founder Matt Bizer, Luck Reunion is more than a festival; it's about finding the essence of music.

“Music's true form is people getting together and sharing that love and passion for music, so we're really trying to challenge people to go beyond the record labels, the managers, the agency and really try to make something and we'll figure out the rest behind it. We just really want to inspire that collaboration,” said Bizer.

Naturally, the infectiously charismatic and endlessly engaging Cary Ann Hearst is a part of Luck Reunion’s musical family network. As half of the Charleston-based duo Shovels and Rope, Hearst approached Luck Reunion to be a part of their flawlessly curated High Water Festival experience, adjacent to the festival grounds in the “Eternal Father of the Sea” Chapel. It was there that Luck Reunion facilitated several “Sessions” with some of Charleston’s most iconic, soulful musicians in a setting fit for the mission of both Luck Reunion and the High Water Festival.

There were four "Sessions" at High Water this past weekend. American folk artist David Ramirez performed for the first session on day one of the festival, followed by the Gullah-inspired musical group Ranky Tanky in that evening.

Day two opened with Shovels and Rope, the curators of the new festival, once again alongside Ranky Tanky. The collaborative group performed one of Ranky Tanky’s new songs from their upcoming album along with their own song, “Ohio.”

The performance was nothing short of chilling. It became the perfect blend of the sounds of heritage and modern culture.

Later that evening, the Americana star Langhorne Slim also performed with Ranky Tanky for the Luck Reunion sessions, once again, playing two scheduled songs with an unscheduled encore. Slim's bold musicality matched the fire and brimstone history of the church that made his fervor-filled voice to dance from wall to wall.

As the final notes of the Luck Reunion Session vibrated throughout the chapel pews, every audience member sprung to their feet. It was in that moment that we truly understood the mission of both Luck Reunion and the High Water Festival: to bring people together to engage with and be moved by purely, authentically, and honestly made music.