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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).

  • DescriptionRare Bird Farm in the mountains of Madison County is an agricultural arts center that hosts performing arts, classes, workshops, and community events, all centered around the ideas of creativity, connection, and collaboration. While not a commercial farm, Rare Bird also raises animals, medicinal plants, and food. We spent some time with Mitchell Davis and Farrah Hoffmire or Rare Bird to learn more
  • An intersection of the natural and musical heritage of WNC can be found in the high mountains. Red Spruce (picea rubens) is prominent at altitudes above 5,000 feet in the Southern Appalachians. It’s also one of the primary tonewoods used in traditional construction of mandolins and guitars. For this episode, we spent time with conservationist Marquette Crockett and luthier James Condino to learn more.
  • Traditional music in WNC is a cultural practice that expands into many ways to make a living. We most often think of performers, but for every live music event that takes place, there are folks behind the scenes crossing “I’s” and dotting “T’s” to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. One of the leaders in the event promotion industry is Claire Armbruster who owns and operates Planning Stages. We sat down recently with Claire to learn more about her, her experience, and the particulars of producing live music events.
  • Rhonda Gouge has done a lot. She’s been a fixture in the Mitchell County music scene since the 1970s, she can play at least a dozen instruments, she’s recorded multiple albums under her own name as well as with others, she’s performed with legendary musicians such as Red Wilson, she’s taught traditional music to more than 1,000 students, and in 2023 she was awarded the North Carolina Heritage Award. We sat down recently with Rhonda in her home teaching studio in the Ledger Community to talk about her musical journey and to do a little bit of pickin’!
  • In Season 1 of Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of NC, we introduced you to banjo stylist Charlie Poole. In Season 5, we’re excited to bring you a reading of Louise Wright Price’s children’s book, Charlie & His Banjo: The Story of Charlie Poole. Learn more about how to get a copy here.
  • What do you get when an MD and Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Surgery takes up the banjo? An expertly conducted survey of 32 WNC banjo players! Dr. William Allsbrook, Jr. turned his skills and attention to such a project when he noticed just how many great banjo players lived in Haywood County. His study resulted in a book, Making Music: The Banjo in a Southern Appalachian County. In this episode, we dig into some of what Allbrook’s book has to offer.
  • Western North Carolina musical icon Betty Smith passed away on December 1, 2023. Betty was a performer of ballads and traditional songs for decades, but to say only this would be falling short of her large and living legacy. Throughout the course of her life, Betty also took on roles as an educator, an activist, an author, a playwright, and honorary doctorate recipient, and more. This episode looks back on a life of impact on and dedication to the people and life and WNC.
  • Madison County is home to a centuries old ballad singing tradition which has attracted interest for over a century. In 1916, Englishman, Cecil Sharp traveled to Western North Carolina to hear the old ballads that were no longer being freely sung in England. A new album revives this Transatlantic connection. We sat down with Thomm Jutz, singer-songwriter and co-producer of Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry, to learn more about the album and the ballad singing tradition.
  • The “Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina” podcast highlights bluegrass and old-time music stories, performers, and traditions across the mountain and foothills counties of Western North Carolina. Hosted by Laura Boosinger and produced by Corrie Askew and Joe Kendrick of WNCW-FM, the podcast is a joint effort of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the North Carolina Arts Council, and WNCW-FM.
  • In Seasons 4 and 5, we’ve brought you stories of the Blue Ridge Music Trails’ Fine Tuned project. This mentorship and collaboration-based professional development project has sought to foster development in WNC’s traditional music ecosystem. This episode explores the musical partnerships and the music they created with insight into the groups and selections from the tracks on the album. It’s time to talk about the actual music of Fine Tuned: Volume One