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Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails

Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina features Laura Boosinger, celebrated musician, folklorist and storyteller, as host. In each segment, she highlights bluegrass and old-time music stories, performers and musical traditions across the 29 mountain and foothills counties included in the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina footprint. Learn more at .

Episodes air every other week on at about 8:50 am on Tuesday mornings (at the end of NPR's Morning Edition).

Latest Episodes
  • Donna Ray Norton is no stranger to the musical community of Western North Carolina. She’s an 8th generation ballad singer who grew up in the legendary Sodom community of Madison County, a county which folklorist Cecil Sharp likened to “a nest of singing birds.” Her grandfather was Byard Ray, a fiddler, and singer who took his style of mountain music across the globe. Her mother, Lena Jean Ray, carried on the Ray musical legacy. We sat down with Donna Ray to learn more about her new album, her background, and what the music means to her.
  • Earl Scruggs hailed from Flint Hill in rural Cleveland County. In his decades long career he helped define bluegrass music as we know it today. The Earl Scruggs Center, in partnership with WNCW, the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and Come Hear North Carolina, will present the inaugural Earl Scruggs Music Festival in September 2022. The Blue Ridge Music Trails paid a visit to the Scruggs Center in Shelby, where we spent some time with Executive Director, Mary Beth Martin, and JT Scruggs, nephew of Earl, to learn a little more about the festival. JT shared a little about the musical Scruggs family.
  • The 51st Smoky Mountain Folk Festival returns to the shores of Lake Junaluska in Haywood County this August. Now in its 6th decade, the festival coincides with a time when communities would gather at harvest time to share music and dance. The festival welcomes an outstanding array of the region’s finest traditional performers including fiddlers, banjo players, string bands, ballad singers, buck dancers, and fabulous square teams as well as the unique sounds of dulcimer, harmonica, mouth harp, bagpipes, and even spoons.
  • If well-constructed and properly cared for, an instrument will outlive generations of musicians that play it. Many of the instruments that have influenced our music still sing long after their owners have gone on. The Southern Appalachian Archives in the Ramsey Center for Appalachian Studies at Mars Hill University hold some of the most well-known instruments from our musical past. Take a listen.
  • Carl Sandburg dedicated the American Songbag, “To those unknown singers – who made songs – out of love, fun, grief – and to those many other singers – who kept those songs as living things of the heart and mind–out of love, fun, grief.” It is fitting that so many carried on this important work begun by the old troubadour and poet of the people.
  • 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.
  • The imprint of Western North Carolina’s vibrant musical tradition can be seen and heard time and again as our music has worked its way into the arena of popular culture. From the moment Jed Clampett spotted that bubbling crude through the current decade, the soundtrack of the mountains and foothills has been the soundtrack for countless television, movie, and radio programs.
  • 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.
  • The Happy Valley community lies between Lenoir and Blowing Rock along the Yadkin River. This fertile valley is so scenic and peaceful that early settlers gave it the name “Happy Valley.” The valley was home to General William Lenoir, for whom the Caldwell County seat of Lenoir was named. His home, Fort Defiance, is on the National Register of Historic Places, open regularly to visitors, and also hosts several public events a year.
  • Bobby McMillon passed away on November 28, 2021. His passing leaves a great void in the traditional music and Appalachian cultural landscape. Throughout the course of his life, Bobby took this awareness he gained from his grandfather’s passing and turned it into a legacy of collecting, performing, and friendships.