For John Westmoreland of the band, Westmoreland, song writing is a process “to feel into what life is — what life is all about.”
This exploration of feelings can be heard on “Cast Fire,” the band’s first CD.
A CD release party will be at 8 p.m. Friday at the Haw River Ballroom, 1711 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd., Saxapahaw. Doors open at 7 p.m.
In addition to Westmoreland, the studio musicians included Kobie Watkins on drums; Lance Scott on bass; Kevin Timmons on keyboard; Diali Cissokho on Kora and percussion; Will Ridenour on Kora and percussion; and Daniel Chambo on Bansuri.
The band performing on Friday will include Westmoreland; Watkins; Ridenour; Chambo and Timmons, along with Charly Lowry and Tamisha Waden, both on vocals; 2018 NC Heritage Award honoree Tony Williamson on mandolin; and Gabriele Pelli on violin.
“There will be an incredible amount of talent on that stage,” he said.
The music of “Cast Fire” also can be heard on the award-winning documentary, “Staring Down Fate,” a film about Chris Lucash, a red wolf biologist who was diagnosed with ALS in 2015.
Westmoreland came to know Lucash because he was “looking for a soundscape of music for his massage therapy sessions.”
Lucash, during the filming of the documentary, was “coming to grips with his terminal illness and acknowledged that this was his life.”
″ ‘Land of the Living,’ the third track, was one of his favorite songs and is featured in the film,” Westmoreland said. “He was touched by this song and I was moved by that.”
Lucash died in June 2016.
Westmoreland is a firm believer that music not only “can help soothe us, but it calms the nervous system down and feels good for the soul.”
In addition to performing not only solo and with the band, he also works with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients through UNC Hospital’s Door to Door music program.
“I believe that music has a profound effect on us all,” he said. “People connect with it on a deep level.”
Westmoreland, a Pittsboro native, has been performing professionally for more than a decade. He started playing blues, rock and folk music as a teenager and went on to study jazz and classical composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He is a founding member and guitarist for the West-African fusion band, Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba.
After doing some research on his ancestry last year, Westmoreland discovered that his great-grandmother’s older brother was T-Bone Slim, a songwriter and columnist for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
“This really inspired me and got me thinking about ancestry and how we should honor our ancestors,” he said. “We are connected to our ancestors, whether we acknowledge it or not. There’s this sense of life and death and we’re here, so we should honor them.”
Westmoreland hopes his next project will pay homage to the music and poetry of T-Bone Slim.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 the day of the show. For more details, visit www.hawriverballroom.com or call 336-525-2314.