The Crooked Road
One Heartwood Circle
Abingdon, VA 24210
Various $2,500 - $5,000
Throughout the year
Professional quality sound and lighting, qualified sound and light technician (will be provided if needed). Stage size minimum 20’ wide by 10’ deep and surface suitable for dance. Projector and large screen for showing introductory video requested.
The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail concert celebrates the traditional music that has been kept by families and communities of Southwest Virginia since colonial times. Settlers of this mountainous region since the 1700’s have brought various ingredients – a cappella gospel music from German tradition that lives in the Old Regular Baptist churches today; spirituals, emotive singing and a musical gourd we now call a banjo from African tradition; and ballads and fiddles brought by the Scots-Irish and English. Mixed together, these ingredients have produced one of the richest musical traditions on earth. This region produced the Carter Family, the first family of Country Music; Jim and Jesse, Grand Ole Opry stars and one of the most innovative bluegrass groups of the golden era of bluegrass; Ralph & Carter Stanley, who took their home place and its mountains and distilled their very essence down into songs we can all sing. But the real heart and soul of The Crooked Road are the everyday folks who keep this music in their homes, country stores, in churches, and in weekly jam sessions. The variety of it is amazing - old time string bands, a cappella gospel, blues, 300 year-old ballads, bluegrass, and more! It is a music tradition that is as vibrant today as it has ever been.
The Crooked Road On Tour is a concert program of exemplary artists of The Crooked Road region who are steeped in heritage music traditions.
Concerts / Performances
To give audiences a sense of the diversity present in Southwest Virginia’s heritage music, each Crooked Road On Tour concert includes several artists (typically 2-3 artists) showcasing a number of aspects of heritage music such as old time, bluegrass, gospel, traditional singing, and dance. Concerts are woven together by this common heritage of music and by a Master of Ceremonies who provides context for the artists, their music and their place in the larger community of musicians and performers, many of whom represent generations of music making in specific families. A short video entitled “The Homeplace of America’s Music” at the start of the concert also provides an excellent context for the live performance that follows. Presenters may also reserve and display museum quality exhibits (approximately 6’ tall x 3’ wide vinyl banner style) about the music of The Crooked Road region for up to a month prior to the concert to help promote the event in their community.
Crooked Road On Tour Artists
Adam McPeak & Mountain Thunder – In the 1970s, the McPeak Brothers from Wytheville left a lasting mark with their recordings of contemporary material in a bluegrass format. In a great example of what heritage music is all about, young mandolinist Adam McPeak is carrying forward the family tradition with his own band. Mike McPeak now plays the proud papa in his son’s band, and the music is as dynamic as ever, featuring excellent harmony vocals and interesting repertoire that fans have always associated with the family’s music.
Billy Baker – Fiddlin’ Billy Baker grew up in Pound, Virginia, and helped forge the sounds of the genre we know today as bluegrass music. The list of influential groups and artists he has played with includes luminaries such as Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys, Del McCoury, Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley, Jim & Jesse, and many others. Billy’s fiddling is a strong as ever, and is rich in the stylings and repertoire from Bluegrass’ golden era. Like most of Bill Monroe’s sidemen, Billy has the stamp of a consummate professional and his bandmates better be ready to dig in and hold on whenever Billy starts a song or tune.
The Bluegrass Kinsmen have been playing traditional Bluegrass music dating back to 1971 when the band was formed by brothers Shelby and Ebby Jewell of Southwest Virginia. Upon the retirement of Shelby in 2012, Ebby’s wife Teresa stepped in to assist Ebby in keeping the tradition going. The band, which writes much of their own material, offers considerable variety in their shows that feature Teresa in addition to 3 other lead singers on songs that run the gambit from traditional bluegrass to folk to gospel music. They also have great harmony and tight picking led by Ebby’s virtuosity on multiple instruments, especially the banjo. Other members of the band include Ervin Compton, Ricky Kennedy, Ryan Lester, Dean Jackson and sometimes special guest and first generation bluegrass fiddler, Billy Baker.
Elizabeth LaPrelle – Elizabeth LaPrelle has been performing Appalachian ballads and old-time songs since she was eleven. Her magnificent voice, her respect for the songs, and her authentic mountain sound and style brought her to the attention of first Ginny Hawker and then Sheila Kay Adams, both renowned bearers of Appalachian ballad tradition. Raised in Rural Retreat, Virginia, Elizabeth attended old time fiddler’s conventions and sang harmonies with her family, who taught her traditional singing styles and encouraged her to sing their own favorite American folk music. She received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary with a major in Southern Appalachian Traditional Performance, and now tours the US regularly both performing and teaching, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion radio program.
Erynn Marshall & Carl Jones
Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones present the vibrant history of old time mountain music through engaging performances. Carl and Erynn draw from centuries of rural musical traditions. Carl is an old time mandolin, banjo and guitar player who was once part of the Rising Fawn ensemble with Norman and Nancy Blake. Carl is widely respected for his fine musicianship on many stringed instruments, warm personality, and ability to write original songs about the moment-to-moment joys and surprises of day-to-day life. Erynn Marshall has played fiddle since she was a young girl. She learned much of her music from 80- and 90-year-old Southern fiddlers, and now travels nationally and internationally sharing that music through performing and teaching.
Five Mile Mountain Road is a Franklin County, VA-based old time, bluegrass, and classic country band with an emphasis on music for dancing. Members include Billy Hurt, fiddle; Seth Boyd, banjo/guitar; Brennen Ernst, guitar/banjo; and Steven Dowdy, upright bass. Influences include Clark Kessinger, Charlie Poole, Fiddlin Arthur Smith, Flatt & Scruggs, Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Ray Price, Bob Wills, Reno & Smiley, and Webb Pierce. Known for their show-stealing performances, their music emanates dynamic energy and extensive variety.
Gayheart and Freeman - Willard Gayheart and Scott Freeman are consummate musicians, storytellers, teachers, songwriters and tunesmiths, and to say they are versatile would be an impressive understatement. Though grounded in old-time tradition, their music is adventurous and ready to roam the edges for new sounds and songs that fit within the tradition. Scott Freeman plays mandolin, guitar, and fiddle and has a smooth baritone vocal style that he uses to great effect on his own songs as well as those of others. Willard, a renowned pencil artist, is a hugely gifted songwriter that captures Appalachian life in song like a firefly in a jar for all to marvel at.
The Glorylanders of New River Valley hail from Radford, Virginia, and have been making stirring a capella gospel music for decades. They have performed in churches and at festivals throughout the region, as well as making recordings. Their latest recording is "Jesus Be A Fence" on Hitching Post Records. The group’s members include Tony Conner, Billy Hubbard, Richard Law, David Morton, and Odell Palmer.
Julie Shepherd-Powell – An award-winning flatfoot dancer and clawhammer style banjo player, Julie has made Appalachian music and dance a lifelong study. Julie has taught old time banjo playing to aspiring youth at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and calls square dances from Knoxville to New York. She also performs with the Railsplitters, a high-energy Appalachian old time string band. Photo Credit: Jenrette Romberg.
New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters
The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters are an old time band from the Galax, Virginia area that plays Appalachian mountain music for square dances, as well as concerts and festivals. The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters took their name, in part from the original Bogtrotters of the 1930's also because band leader Dennis Hall lives on Ballards Branch. Dennis' home is very close to the home of Uncle Eck Dunford who played fiddle in the original band. The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters continue to play in the traditional Appalachian string-band style often playing for square dances around the region. Rounding out the Bogtrotters lineup are: Eddie Bond on Fiddle, Dennis Hall on Guitar, Josh Ellis with Clawhammer Banjo, Jesse Morris on Bass and Leon Frost on Mandolin. The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters remain a driving force in carrying the traditional music of the Virginia/Carolina Blue Ridge into the new millennium.
Ron Mullennex, of Tazewell County, Virginia, grew up in an area that maintained a strong music and dance tradition. He began playing traditional music at age 14 with family and friends. He performs on banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, but is especially known for his old-time banjo playing and songs associated with the old-time banjo styles. His music is influenced most heavily by the older traditional musicians that he sought out in the Southwest Virginia and eastern West Virginia region. He has performed at concerts and festivals throughout the Appalachian area and the eastern US, and is a champion multi-instrumentalist, with first place awards from The Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia State Folk Festival, and numerous fiddler’s conventions and more local venues.
Wolfe Bros. String Band is an old time group from the Elk Creek Valley of Grayson County, Virginia. While the band cherishes the rich tradition of tunes and songs that's been handed down by former musicians, they also believe in adding their own songs and arrangements to this living old time tradition. Band members include Jerry Correll on fiddle; Dale Morris on banjo and vocals; Casey Hash with guitar and vocals; and Donna Correll on bass and vocals. The group has recorded five projects since their formation in the mid-1990s, and they have played at many festivals within the Crooked Road region and beyond.
TCR Guitar Masters – This celebration of Southwest Virginia guitar traditions will feature some of the most respected guitarists living in The Crooked Road region. It is expected that presenters will typically select three of the 6 guitar masters for an evening concert.
Photo, Richard Boyd of Boyd Photography Roanoke, VA
Willis, Virginia-resident Mac Traynham, a builder of cabinets and banjos plays several instruments, including the guitar. A teacher of mountain music at music workshops nationwide, Traynham has recorded and released several albums.
Originally from the Virginia coalfields, Jim Lloyd now lives in Rural Retreat, where he operates Lloyd’s Barber Shop and plays guitar solo and with others (he was the longtime guitarist for the old-time string band the Konnarock Critters).
Photo, Hans BrunstromMac Traynham VA
Will Jones has been frightening older guitarists since he was a mere child with his power guitar playing. The Cana Ramblers, Will’s family’s bluegrass band, provided him an early forum to develop his skills and he now fronts the Will Jones Band playing bluegrass and country to delighted audiences.
Unlike his famous banjo-playing father, Ralph Stanley II embraced the guitar, inspired by the legacy of his guitar-playing uncle, Carter Stanley. After playing guitar in his father’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, Ralph II went solo, and has thus far recorded six albums.
Wyatt Rice, Photo
Photo, Jim Sledge, Johnson City, TN
Fans of acoustic guitar music should be well acquainted with the name of Wyatt Rice. Wyatt was first spotlighted as an original member of the Tony Rice Unit, where he was featured on numerous recordings, videos, and performances. Wyatt has recorded or performed with players such as David Grisman, JD Crowe, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, Rickie Simpkins, Ronnie Bowman, Lee Ann Womack, The Lonesome River Band, Sierra Hull, Ricky Skaggs, as well as his brothers Larry, Tony and Ronnie.
Photo, Kristy Woodall
Claiborne Woodall performs bluegrass and Americana material with equal facility as well as being an excellent singer. He brings a knack for nice arrangements and tasteful solos that comes as much from knowing what notes to leave out as what notes to put in. He has performed at The Smithsonian Institution, Floydfest, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, The Down Home, and acoustic venues throughout the East.
Butch Robins & The Bluegrass Band
An admired master of the 5-string banjo, Butch Robins has been playing and composing for over 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down! One of the longest tenured banjoists for Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys, Butch has established himself as an instrumental innovator and explorer. His banjo playing techniques have enabled him to share the sound of that instrument, and enhance the music of an extremely diverse range of musical styles and genres. Robins was inducted into the Bill Monroe Hall of Fame in 2016 and he is a serious chronicler of Monroe’s career and life as the Father of Blue Grass Music. Backed by seasoned pros Ryan Blevins (mandolin & vocals), Kevin Jackson (fiddle), Jeanette Williams (bass & vocals) & Johnny Williams (guitar & vocals), Butch Robins & The Bluegrass Band is sure to inform and inspire audiences wherever they perform.
Earl White String Band
Fiddling Earl White has been a mainstay in the old time, folk and dance community for more 45 years. An original and founding member of the famed Green Grass Cloggers, he is one of few Black Americans preserving and playing Appalachian old time string band music, which was once an intricate part of Black communities and formed the foundation of American music of today. He has delighted audiences from Common Ground On The Hill, to the Scotland National Folk Festival, and many other festivals and camps throughout the US. Earl White is well known for his extensive repertoire of tunes, and his heartfelt, syncopated, driving style. His mentors have been Tommy Jarrell, The Crooked Road On Tour – Artist & Management Bios Page 2 of 4 Judy Hymen (Horseflies) and Andy Williams (Plank Road String band), to name a few. He has played in numerous old time string bands, and currently leads the "Earl White String Band", featuring Mark Olitsky (banjo), Adrienne Davis (guitar), and Stephanie Wolf (bass).
Larry Sigmon & Martha Spencer
Larry Sigmon & Martha Spencer are an old time duo who carry their unique sound of the mountains around the country with them. Featuring Larry’s driving clawhammer banjo and Martha’s slapping bass, along with lots of singing and flatfoot dancing, they are a dance crowd favorite. Larry played many years with the late Barbara Poole until her passing, drawing a big following and playing such venues as the Grand Ole Opry, Carter Family Fold, and bluegrass festivals throughout the Southeast. Martha Spencer was raised in a mountain musical family in Whitetop, VA and performs with many groups and tours across the USA and many international festivals as well. Larry and Martha began playing together in 2014 for the Albert Hash Memorial Festival and haven’t looked back since.
More Information: www.thecrookedroad.org