2010 ends on a tragic note as we say goodbye to one of the best singer/songwriters in the Tri-Cities region – Allun Cormier.

On Wednesday morning, December 29th, 2010 Allun and his girlfriend Lucy Jennings died from smoke inhalation in a house fire in Bristol, VA. The word came early across the social networks and even though the wound cuts deep into the fabric family, friends and musicians, Allun left an indelible legacy of personal songs touching thousands in the region.

Allun Cormier
Allun Cormier

It’s with great regret I share these words about an inspirational friend who I’ve been following for a number of years now. I’m sure he knew how I felt, but If there was ever an artist who had the potential to stand alone as a national recording artist, Cormier was at the top of my list. His music native as the mountains of East Tennessee seemed to echo every moment.

Known by his closest friends as a free spirit, he was performing most every night of the week across the Tri-Cities. From songwriter groups in Bristol and Kingsport, to living room house parties, there was never a day where he wasn’t singing a new song.

Although fate has closed the book on his life and the success which he so deserved, Allun has left a treasure trove of recordings and memories that speak volumes of about his short life. There’s nothing contrived in these performances either. As you listen, you’ll find a depth and an essence that lends itself to an important chapter in the musical heritage of our region.

Ricky Allun Cormier joined his current band Folk Soul Revival a couple of years ago. Since then, he and his band of brothers have been building loyal fans throughout the South as one of Americana’s shining new success stories. Performances at Bristol Rhythm Roots, Floydfest and 80 shows in 2010, along with a new CD (Words off A Toungue) had positioned them for a incredible year too as they had plans to tour and continue their meteoric success story.

Folk Soul Revival has plenty of talented voices in the band, but Allun’s songs had a way of exalting the soul of this region and the intimate moments in an organic homegrown personna few artists ever achieve. Although he cited several for inspiration, his music came forth with a humble, original spirit that seemed to breathe the air of the mountains in which we live.

With his acoustic guitar always in hand, Allun’s raspy voice and touching lyrics always seemed to come from the deepest and darkest recesses of his heart. You could see his body wreathing with emotion as he performed on stages across the region.

Allun battled plenty of demons in his short life and those struggles made their way into his music and it was through tender, breathy lyrics you could feel the tears, loneliness and joy of every moment.

This past summer, the guys in Folk Soul Revival gave me an advance copy of their newest CD and the words would catch me over and over again with songs you can’t seem to get out of your head. I’d find myself even in the quietest moments reciting the lyrics – “Me and my baby got the whole thing down – from the Hudson River down to Chinatown.”

He never slowed down either performing more than any other musician in the area. With his disheveled curly hair and dark beard that seemed to grow almost overnight, Allun hosted songwriters nights at O’Mainnans and Machivelli’s in Bristol as well as The Bus Pit in Kingsport. He held a summer job at The Shack in Colonial Heights and when there wasn’t a band, he was always on the microphone amazing his friends and fans over barbecue and beer.

When I first met, Allun, he was working with Clay Prewitt with These Undowners at Lakeshore Marina on Boone Lake. His voice and worn-out Bean Blossom guitar was a constant companion and it was there I recognized an outstanding voice that kept me a fan for many years. Not so much for the pleasure for listening to his music, but the depth of his lyric and the center from which they came.

This fall, we interviewed Cormier and his band in Johnson City and I asked him what was one of the most important questions I’d been thinking about through the summer – that being – Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?”

There was no hesitation with his answer either. He said, “Most of my songs come while sitting on the banks of the river.”

He specifically talked about sitting on the shores of the Nolichucky river and while the water rushed by, these moments with Nature before him melted his heart and his memories gushed forth with some powerful, enduring music.

Even though Allun was taken in the headlines of a tragic news story, his music like all great writers are eternal and some say that written words are immortal and Allun achieved in my heart – a great achievement and lived every moment like it was his last. For that merit, there’s no greater virtue.

My voice doesn’t deserve all the songs that it sings
My heart was never worth all the pain that it will bring
My life doesn’t mean anything, but this is me – Take me now.
This is me – take me now

From: Tired of Being Here
Allun Cormier 1978-2010