For nine days in June, more than 30 communities throughout Southwest Virginia will be hopping with musicians performing the traditional music for which the region is famous. But, that’s not all. The communities along The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail will also be popping with cultural events, artisan demonstrations, history walks, workshops, community meals, scenic drives, and outdoor adventures.
The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming, June 12–20, will pull it all together in what organizers call “the ultimate road trip.” The goal is for the siren call of the concerts to lure you to explore localities you might never have thought of visiting. Once there, you will be “seeing places in Southwest Virginia and experiencing things those places have to offer,” according to the festival’s Jack Hinshelwood.
In a nutshell, the festival is “a celebration of the communities of the region,” says Hinshelwood.
This is the first-ever region-wide festival sponsored by The Crooked Road and organizers hope it will become an annual event. The entire driving trail spans 19 counties, four cities, 50 towns, and 330 miles. Within that area are nine major venues and more than 60 affiliated venues and festivals that fill the calendar year-round.
Some 200 regional artists are expected to participate in the Mountains of Music festival. Some are well known, but others may not be familiar names nor even professional musicians, according to Hinshelwood. He explains that traditional music, passed down through families, “is part of everyday life” in the Crooked Road region. Therefore, some people may have jobs in other fields but will pick up their fiddles and banjos and join in the fun at the festival.
There will be two to four concerts each night in different communities to choose from, and a variety of styles of old-timey, bluegrass, and gospel music. Venues include arts centers, theaters, colleges, and state parks.
On June 12, the first day, Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys, Wayne Henderson and Jeff Little, Frank Newsome, and Joe Wilson will perform at the Carter Fold in Hiltons, while Roni Stoneman, the Church Sisters, and Stevie Barr & the Mastertones will give a concert at the Rex Theater in Galax.
The new Harvester Performance Center in downtown Rocky Mount will host two concerts: one features Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition, The Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show, and Fiddlin’ Billy Hurt; the other concert will have John McCutcheon and Lost & Found.
Other examples of performers and venues include the Bluegrass Kinsmen, New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, and Fiddlin’ Billy Baker at Heartwood in Abingdon; Nothin’ Fancy and Raisin’ Cain at the Floyd Country Store in Floyd; and the Seldom Scene and Tyler Hughes at the Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield.
Besides the signature events, you’ll find music at various venues, such as wineries, roadhouses, town parks, and farms. Floyd County is planning a Friday Night Jamboree, bluegrass music at Wildwood Farm, an old-style Floyd Radio Show, a school battle of the bands, and Music at Lunch, among other events.
Check the festival website (mtnsofmusic.com) for concert dates, venues, ticket information, and other events. Some events are ticketed and some are free. To help visitors focus their trip strategy, the region will be divided into eastern, central, and western zones.
Many things to do
The Barter Theatre is Abingdon is hosting two plays featuring music at The Tent on Barter Square: Keep on the Sunny Side — The Songs & Story of the Original Carter Family and Stonewall Country.
The second tells the story of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson through the music of songwriters Robin and Linda Williams.
Seven performances will be given around the region. The theater also will have regular productions available of Mary Poppins and Southern Fried Nuptials.
The list of non-musical events for the festival is extensive.
Franklin County, the eastern gateway to The Crooked Road, is planning a number of events. Rocky Mount Court Days showcases live music, arts, crafts, home tours, and food vendors. Antique Farm Days has live bluegrass music, a tractor pull, demonstrations, and displays of early farm machinery.
A Juneteenth celebration at the Booker T. Washington National Monument features an outdoor gospel concert and living-history reenactments.
A Fun Festival gets going with music, flat-footing, dancing, games, and contests. And, for auto enthusiasts, there’s the Boones Mill Car Show.
Floyd County has a host of events, including an Artisan Trail tour; bus tours to five historic rock churches and water-powered mills; a farm tour; a daylily and gardening seminar and tour; and a guitar- and fiddle-making studio tour.
Bristol will have a film festival, and a special exhibit on American roots music will be at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Whatever your fancy, you’re sure to find your rhythm somewhere in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
What: The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Festival
When: June 12–20
Where: The Crooked Road region of Southwest Virginia