A! Magazine for the Arts

Crooked Road sets stage for 2nd Mountains of Music Homecoming

April 4, 2016

ABINGDON, VA - Last year, 64 communities in Southwest Virginia participated in The Crooked Road's first Mountains of Music Homecoming with more than 30 Crooked Road concerts and hundreds of cultural experiences enjoyed by visitors from across the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The second annual homecoming takes place June 10-18, with another stellar set of regional concerts highlighting the area's rich traditional music. Performers include the region's many artists who keep alive the musical traditions that The Crooked Road is known for worldwide and many well-known groups like Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, Lonesome River Band and the Seldom Scene.

"This is an opportunity for visitors to The Crooked Road to connect with Southwest Virginia's unique culture in a very personal and memorable way," said Crooked Road Executive Director Jack Hinshelwood. "The Homecoming is about a sense of discovery, whether it's discovering what's around the next bend of The Crooked Road, or discovering a local fiddler you've never heard of before that can 'fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine'. We really want visitors to feel they have become a part of this special place and want to return as often as possible. And no matter when they come during the Homecoming, the music will be here waiting for them at nine major venues and over 60 affiliated venues and local festivals."

"The music that is indigenous to Southwest Virginia provides a rich and authentic Virginia experience," said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. "It can be heard at general stores, small town theaters, events and sporadically throughout the region, and visitors can often interact with the musicians, some of whom are direct descendants of some of the most famous names in the genre. The Mountains of Music Homecoming provides the opportunity for the region to collaborate and share the music heritage experience with travelers to the area and our great state of Virginia."

"For those of us who live here, the Homecoming is also a great chance to get to know the place we call home on a deeper level," said John Kilgore, Crooked Road president. "It's an opportunity for locals to discover parts of Southwest Virginia they have never taken the time to visit or explore but have always wanted to. And of course it is a great time for folks who have left the region to come back home and enjoy the Homecoming with their friends and family."

Experiencing The Crooked Road in Southwest Virginia

In addition to heritage music concerts, the many cultural experiences provide an opportunity for communities to showcase those things they are most proud of, whether it is their outdoor environment, cultural amenities, historical sites or other assets. "Last year, the communities hosted music and flatfoot dance workshops, farm to table cooking demonstrations and local wine tastings, instrument and quilt making demonstrations, historic homeplace and church tours, music documentary film showings, canoe and kayak trips, community storytelling, community meals, an Appalachian writers symposium and lots of jam sessions where locals and visitors shared songs and played tunes together," said Hinshelwood. "The cultural experiences presented in the communities are where the Homecoming spirit really shines the brightest."

2016 Homecoming Highlights

The Crooked Road has added some new elements to this year's event. Just for the 2016 Homecoming, five of the finest bluegrass artists from Southwest Virginia are coming together to play three concerts as The Crooked Road All Star Bluegrass Band – banjoist Sammy Shelor of the Lonesome River Band, guitarist and singer Junior Sisk of Ramblers Choice, former Bill Monroe fiddler Billy Baker, and Blue Highway members Wayne Taylor on bass and Shawn Lane on mandolin. The Crooked Road All Star Bluegrass Band performs Sunday, June 12 at 2 p.m. at the Country Cabin in Norton; on Monday, June 13 at 7 p.m. at the Reynolds Homestead Center in Critz; and on Tuesday, June 14 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia. "This will be a historic gathering of these artists, who have all reached the top of the bluegrass field with their separate careers," said Kilgore. "It's an honor to have them perform together at the Homecoming."

HoustonFest, one of the region's premiere bluegrass and old-time music festivals, is part of the 2016 Homecoming and has a lineup including Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Wayne Henderson and Virginia Luthiers, Blue Highway, New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters and many more on June 10 and 11. "HoustonFest is delighted to be part of The Crooked Road's Mountains of Music Homecoming," says Debbie Robinson, HoustonFest director. "This year we're paying tribute to over 80 years of the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention and performances by legendary Galax artists each day of the festival."

"The Montgomery Museum in Christiansburg is also a new partner we are delighted to have this year," says Hinshelwood. Museum Director Sue Farrar says "We are thrilled to be presenting a daylong Homecoming celebration on our Main Street downtown on June 18 with great heritage music artists including a closing performance by the legendary Seldom Scene. This will be a true Homecoming for brothers Ronnie and Rickie Simpkins, who are Christiansburg High School graduates and now both members of the Scene."

Every year, The Crooked Road also presents authentic artists at the Homecoming that come from some other music tradition like last year's music of Cape Breton. For 2016, the Homecoming features the music of Ireland when the John Doyle Trio performs June 14 at the Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount and June 15 at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts at Emory & Henry College. "Dublin, Ireland-born John Doyle would be on most anyone's list of the foremost Irish guitarists on the planet," says Hinshelwood. "Of course, Irish music is one of the key ingredients in Appalachian music, and it would be hard to find a better group than the John Doyle Trio to demonstrate those connections."

The Crooked Road is also providing 2016 Homecoming attendees a taste of the region with a new signature Appalachian local food event in Abingdon. The event, designed and coordinated by Jean Haskell of Appalachian Highlands Consulting and Katie Hoffman of Appalworks, includes a reception at the William King Museum, followed by a special dinner and concert at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway. "This special event will incorporate local food, music, culture, and arts in a way that highlights the innovative, creative spirit so characteristic of Appalachia," says Haskell. According to Hoffman, "There's a reason why food magazines are paying attention to Appalachia. The menu is designed to demonstrate the kinds of fresh and imaginative thinking that is drawing culinary tourists and notice. Of course, Southwest-Virginia-grown and Southwest-Virginia-made food will be at the heart of the meal." Speakers for the event include some of the region's most inventive artists, artisans, and writers as well as a performance featuring the distinctive harmonies of the Church Sisters.

"Blue Ridge Beverage Company is a proud sponsor of The Crooked Road and pleased to partner with others in presenting the second annual Mountains of Music Homecoming," says Jim Archer, company president. "We hope everyone comes and enjoys the best of our region's rich and unique heritage."

"To say we're excited about the 2016 Homecoming would be quite an understatement," says Hinshelwood. "It's the one time of the year when every community in Southwest Virginia is in the spotlight and has a chance to share what makes them special."

"As a local Southwest Virginia company, Food City is proud to call this region our home," says Steve Smith, President. "We're also proud to once again be a part of the Homecoming, an event that showcases many of the tremendous talents and skills our region is so well known for."

"We hope everyone who attends the 2016 Homecoming has the kind of experiences described by visitors in 2015," says Kilgore. One wrote, "Your country is so beautiful and people so friendly. Thank you for your warm welcome." Another said, "We rode motorcycles from Kansas to partake in The Crooked Road – it was a great experience."

For more information about The Crooked Road's Mountains of Music Homecoming, call (276) 492-2409 or search "mtnsofmusic" on Facebook or Twitter. Tickets for some of The Crooked Road concerts are already available at www.mtnsofmusic.com.