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Mountains of Music Homecoming begins this weekend

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Celebration includes HoustonFest in Galax

Staff Report

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Tributes to icons of Appalachian music, concerts on floating stages, and dancers equipped with motion sensors are all part of The Crooked Road’s 5th Annual Mountains of Music Homecoming, June 7-15.

This nine-day celebration of Southwest Virginia communities includes 18 Crooked Road marquee concerts and 89 cultural events in over 40 communities across the region, from Norton to Rocky Mount, and Cedar Bluff to Galax — including local events like HoustonFest in Galax on June 7-8, a special show at Blue Ridge Music Center on June 14 and the Wayne Henderson Festival in Grayson County on June 15.

The Homecoming highlights all aspects of Southwest Virginia culture, history, arts and craft, cuisine, outdoor activities and of course, the music.

The Homecoming’s 2019 theme is “Let the Music Move You” and several of the concerts and cultural events explore the deep-rooted connections between traditional dance and music. Attendees will have plenty of chances to learn traditional dance steps they can use when they hit the dance floor in flatfoot workshops and square dances.

If your mantra is “I don’t dance,” don’t worry, because one of The Crooked Road concerts will feature over 30 of America’s finest traditional dancers in action, including National Heritage Award winning buck dancer Thomas Maupin, Junious Brickhouse and the famed Green Grass Cloggers.

Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center will conduct an experiment in dance, when their partners at the Institute for Creativity, Technology and the Arts will attach motion sensors to the square dancers for real time display of their movements within the space at the Arts Center known as “The Cube.”

Concerts

The lineup for the Crooked Road concerts include masters of traditional Appalachian dance music like the Whitetop Mountain Band, Little Stony Nighthawks, Wolfe Brothers, Stone Mountain Serenaders and the Empty Bottle String Band. The Steel Wheels, a band that completed one of their music tours traveling by bicycle, will make their first appearance at the Homecoming. Fiddlin’ Carson Peters and guitarist Presley Barker are barely in their teens, but will bring the skills they have honed on the Grand Ole Opry and other storied stages to the McGlothlin Arts Center at Emory & Henry College. Seven past winners of the “Best All-Around Performer” award, the most coveted prize at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, will perform together at the Reynolds Homestead.

Two concerts by the Sons of Bluegrass will include Influential banjo player Butch Robins along with more former Blue Grass Boys performing the bluegrass music they helped Bill Monroe create, a sound that is unmistakably from the early days of bluegrass. They will perform June 14 at the Blue Ridge Music Center, on the Parkway near Galax.

Bassist T. Michael Coleman and guitarist Jack Lawrence, who toured for many years with Doc Watson will be joined in concert by Doc’s good friends Wayne Henderson on guitar and Jeff Little on piano to share the music and memories of the legendary Arthel “Doc” Watson. The mountain music of the Stanley Brothers will ring out from the Floyd Country Store when an All Star Stanley Brothers band led by Ralph Stanley II takes the stage.

Closing out the series of concert tributes to the icons will be three shows by mandolinist Doyle Lawson in celebration of the 40th anniversary of his influential band Quicksilver with an all-gospel concert at Slate Mountain Church and two more solid bluegrass shows featuring former Quicksilver members Jamie Dailey, Russell Moore, Terry Baucom and Jim VanCleve as special guests.

Many of the concerts have extra pre-concert activities. Butch Robins and Tom Ewing will both discuss their books about their time performing with Bill Monroe, while other events include lessons on square dancing, and youth performances by the next generation of musicians from the region’s JAM programs.

Festivals

The Homecoming includes five music festivals over the nine-days, including HoustonFest in Galax’s Felts Park, with performances by Dailey & Vincent, Dori Freeman and legendary country group Shenandoah. Also playing at HoustonFest are EmiSunshine, Stephanie Adlington, Carson Peters & Iron Mountain Band, Wayne Henderson & the Virginia Luthier Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, Loose Strings, Sideline, Mountain Highway, ShadowGrass, HogSlop String Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, Larry Sigmon & Martha Spencer, Jeff Little Trio, One Fret Over, Shannon Slaughter & County Clare, White Top Mountain Band, Silas Powell Family Band, Willard Gayheart & Family, Wolfe Brothers String Band, Wyld Fern, Mountain Park Old Time Band, The Jones Sisters, New River JAM Band, Changing Lanes, Houston’s Bluegrass Kids, Karlie Keepfer & Smokey Holler and Houston Caldwell Scholarship Performers.

This year’s festival includes “Houston’s Bluegrass Boot Camp” with lessons for young musicians; a silent auction; four stages of live music; the “instrument petting zoo” for people to try out banjos, fiddles, mandolins and more; youth scholarships; a dance pavilion and many food and craft vendors.

The 25th Annual Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition on June 15 is a signature event for scenic Grayson Highlands State Park.

The event, established in 1995, is named for National Heritage Award recipient Wayne C. Henderson, a local musician and luthier whose performs each year at the festival, along with other bluegrass and old-time artists throughout the day. This year’s lineup includes Darren and Brooke Aldridge, The Harris Brothers, Sea Cruisers, Bill Kirchen & Redd Volkaert, Wayne Henderson & Friends and Shadowgrass.

The Henry Reed Memorial Fiddlers Convention has two days of bluegrass and old time music, and the Damascus Old Mill Music Fest, a new event at the Damascus Old Mill Inn, will host two days of food, crafts, craft brews, and music by Balsam Range and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. Primland resort in Patrick County will feature their 3rd annual Crooked Road music festival from June 7-9.

Food & Culture

For folks who want a taste of the region’s cuisine, there are three culinary-based Feastival Series events in the towns of Big Stone Gap, Marion and Christiansburg. The Feastivals combine great chefs, local food and master musicians for a special dinner experience mixed with the music and for this year, a calorie-burning opportunity with the Blacksburg Square Dance.

Attendees will find some of their most memorable experiences at the 89 cultural events, including a traditional music concert on a floating stage in Philpott Lake you watch while paddling your canoe, a guided bird hike along Peak Creek in Pulaski, a community meal and bluegrass music at Boozy Creek Community Center and plenty of jam sessions like the Hicks Friday Night Jam in Nickelsville, where the music is passed along from friend to friend.

The Homecoming is one of the best times to travel The Crooked Road and become immersed in the vibrant culture of the region and its communities. As Crooked Road executive director Jack Hinshelwood notes, “The goal of the Homecoming is to provide attendees with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the fascinating history and culture of Southwest Virginia.”

The Mountains of Music Homecoming is sponsored by Virginia Tobacco Commission, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development, Appalachian Regional Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Blue Ridge Beverage and Food City.

For more information and tickets, visit mtnsofmusic.com or call The Crooked Road at (276) 492-2409.