Art Works Blog

On the (Crooked) Road

April 19, 2010
Washington, DC

(l to r) Jacob Eller, Duane Compton, Wayne Henderson (sitting), Elizabeth LaPrelle, and Amber Collins perform at The Music of Crooked Road. Photo by Michael G. Stewart, courtesy of the National Council for the Traditional Arts

"I was lost almost from the first note, and the pleasant room faded from sight; the singer only a voice. I saw again the long road over which we had come, the dark hills, the rocky streams bordered by tall hemlocks and hollies, the lonely cabins distinguishable at night only by the firelight flaring from their chimneys. Then these, too, faded, and I seemed to be borne along into a still more dim and distant past, of which I myself was a part. " ---Folklorist Olive Dame Campbell on ballad singer Ada Smith

Reading this statement in the program before last Friday?s Music of the Crooked Road concert I thought it a lovely sentiment, but these words really hit home when young ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle took the stage and filled it with her soulful, honest, a cappella rendition of an old mountain ballad.

This quiet moment quickly gave way to a rollicking and even rambunctious evening with Whitetop Mountain Band?s Martha Spencer running on stage to flatfoot dance to the bluegrass music of Kirk Sutphin and Eddie Bond, and NEA National Heritage Fellow Wayne Henderson pausing in his performance to tell stories about living and working in Rugby, Virginia, population seven.

It was similar to what I experience every year at the NEA?s National Heritage Fellowships concert---I left full of excitement for music I knew little about before that evening, eager to get home and search the Internet for albums by these musicians.

Most of us have heard of the Carter Family and Ralph Stanley, some of Southwestern Virginia?s most famous musicians, but the Music of the Crooked Road tour proves that this region?s musical culture is not in the past, but is instead surviving and even thriving.

The tour continues through April 25. Check out the National Council for Traditional Arts? website for more information. You can also see a backstage look into the tour here.

Have you attended one of the Music of the Crooked Road concerts or visited the Crooked Road yourself? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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