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Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails

  • The history of Western North Carolina has long been a subject of study for local and international scholars. Many of those efforts have been focused on only a portion of the culture and experience of the region. With its exhibit Jagged Path: The African Diaspora in Western North Carolina in Craft, Music, and Dance, the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, or BRAHM, is working to provide a fuller picture of creativity throughout the history of Appalachia.
  • Originally from Connecticut, Derek moved to Elk Park, NC in the spring of 2022 to continue exploring the singing traditions of the Bare family and the communities throughout Western North Carolina. With his work collecting and sharing these recordings, Derek is helping to shine a light on the stories and songs of a noteworthy community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
  • Of all the fiddlers in the fiddler-rich region of Western North Carolina, Arvil Freeman was a veritable North Star of Western North Carolina fiddling and traditional music as a whole. Arvil is likely the most heard “in-person” fiddler and likely the most influential. On October 21, 2021, Western North Carolina lost fiddling legend Arvil Freeman.
  • Across Western North Carolina, people looking to learn to play an instrument or musicians looking to step up their game can enjoy many opportunities to learn in immersive settings. Many camps offer week-long packages of music instruction, food, and lodging. The whole package provides a chance for the musician to spend a week completely focused on the music. How great is that?
  • The English folk song “The Cuckoo,” often sung as a round or canon, celebrated the arrival of summer, recalling the sights and sounds of English barnyards and meadows. Some scholars consider the song a parody and possibly too coarse for polite society. The manuscript in which it is preserved was copied between 1261 and 1264. The song evolved into a more poetic form and became part of the English folk song lexicon. Give a listen to this transitional version where “she never sings cuckoo ’til summer is near.” Now that’s old-time music!
  • The Bascom Lamar Lunsford Mountain Music Festival is the only one that Lunsford allowed to carry his name. In 1928, Lunsford started the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville as part of the annual Rhododendron Festival. The festival was such a hit that the local newspaper declared it should be an annual event. The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival is the oldest continuing festival in the nation and became a model for the National Folk Festival and other festivals that followed.
  • Do you know the legend of Tom Dooley? Do you know he was a real person and lived in Western North Carolina? Do you know he was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang? The ballad “Tom Dooley”, originally recorded by Frank Proffitt in the 1930’s or 1940’s became a nationwide success in 1958 when The Kingston Trio released their recording of the song.
  • Everybody and everything has a story. What is her story, what is his story? Did you ever wonder about the cautionary messages in the fairy tales? Folklorists will tell you that story plays a very important role in human culture. Stories were used to preserve history, to teach the young important cultural lessons, and to provide entertainment
  • As soon as the crops are canned, frozen and laid by for the fall, communities in Western North Carolina gather to sing shaped-notes from the Christian Harmony songbook. Now, over 129 years since the first shaped-notes were sung in the Dutch Cove, singers still gather to heist a tune and enjoy the riches of a D.O.G.
  • Step It Up & Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music was released by David Menconi in 2020. Taking its title from one of the signature songs of Durham blues artist Blind Boy Fuller, the book explores the musical history of the state and examines the impact North Carolina music has had on the rest of the world. Menconi writes that North Carolina “has only rarely been home to the biggest stars on the charts, and yet the contributions of North Carolina artists are deeply embedded in the DNA of some of the most important strands in American popular music. That is the story at the center of this book.”
  • Dance is an essential part of the musical traditions of Western North Carolina. Dancing and music go hand-in-hand, and for many years, dances with live music were a central meeting point for communities. One dance team that has been a fixture in Western North Carolina for almost 50 years is the Green Grass Cloggers. Clogging is a distinct form of dancing that borrows from the step dancing of the British Isles, the dance traditions of West Africa, and Native American dance. Clogging is a dynamic form, a dance that is alive, well, and evolving.