Presenting: Whitetop Mountain Band and Reel World String Band
The Ralph Stanley Museum & Traditional Mountain Music Center will present the Roots of Appalachian Music: String Bands on Friday, May 9th at 7pm in Clintwood's Jettie Baker Center. Special guests for this event include the Reel World String Band and Whitetop Mountain Band. Reserve your tickets early for this rare opportunity to explore mountain music with some of the region's best performers!
The Reel World String Band is celebrating its 30th year of performing, and the fiddling and singing of the band has never been better. Their new CD, Live Music, has just been released. Originals of the band fill this CD with new found spirit. Bev Futrell's song about Bill Monroe and the environment “Where Kentucky's Blue Moon Rose” is a defining moment for this band so committed to the region, its music, and its
beauty. The creative edge of this new CD shows off a stylistic diversity. Keyboardist Elise Melrood's instrumental “Karsen's Reel” is highly arranged and ethereal. Sue Massek writes of Mother Jones' daughters in the union song “Cosby,” and Karen Jones swings with her playful lyrics in “Gone Camping”.
Not only has the band been in the studio for this latest release, but Reel World continues to perform throughout the region, collaborating with writers, activists, and other singer songwriters. The band is revered as a Kentucky historical treasure having been featured in Kentucky Women: Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit and Vision, along with musicians Loretta Lynn and Helen Humes and numerous other Kentucky celebrities, giving credence to the band's longevity and contribution to the rich musical heritage of Kentucky. Since the beginning of the Reel World, the band has spread its southern musical roots to picket lines and folk festivals. In 1978, the band was booked at Englishtown Music Hall in New Jersey, and the New York Times, fascinated by the novelty of this "all-female group" from Kentucky, featured the band in an article "In Jersey, Five Women of Bluegrass". By 1980, the band was back in the NYC area playing at the Lincoln Center. They returned in 1985 to share the stage with David Bromberg after both had appeared at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
The individual members are as diverse as the musical styles they encompass. Sue Massek learned banjo from old timers in West Virginia and Kentucky after she hitchhiked from the Flint Hills of her native Kansas. The Sears guitar of Bev Futrell hung on the wall after her graduation from a Houston High School, but by 1977, while raising a family, she tuned it up and has been singing her songs ever since. Karen Jones, a Midwest Norwegian, adopted her southern home while attending Berea College, Berea, Kentucky. She was a country dancer and began her own dance troupe in Covington, Kentucky while studying fiddle with Guy Blakeman. Sharon Ruble, college buddy of Karen, studied clarinet as a youngster growing up in Henry County, Kentucky, and in the Reel World moved from wash-tub to acoustic bass. Elise Melrood, the latest member of the Reel World, mixes her Jewish roots with honky-tonk blues piano. She met the other members of the Reel World during a tour in Virginia and now plays full-time with the band since her move to Berea. With the energy of an old-time dance, the tight vocal harmony of Bluegrass singing, the infusion of American jazz and blues styles and lyrics that reflect the politics of a changing South, Reel World is an undeniable force in the folk music scene. All in all, Reel World String Band is the essence of Appalachian grit.
The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop, Virginia is an area rich in the old time music tradition, and this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region's style of old time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style.
At the same time, Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining containing everything from fiddle/banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old timey ballads, originals, and four part mountain gospel songs. Shows also include flat foot dancing. The band is well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.
Whitetop Mountain Band has performed at many venues throughout the United States from festivals to concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Carter Family Festival, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals where the band has performed. They recently were featured on the NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho, and in September 2007, members toured the United Kingdom and Ireland playing the Cornish Bluegrass Festival and Open House Festival in addition to venues throughout England, Wales, and Ireland. In January 2008, members of the band played at the Illawarra Folk Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival in New South Wales, Australia.
The Whitetop Mountain Band is carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter, Martha Spencer, is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, vocals) and dancer with the band as well. Originally from Oregon, Jackson Cunningham plays mandolin, guitar, and vocals in the band. He grew up in a musical family and has performed in several bluegrass and old time groups from the West Coast to the East. Spencer Pennington, from Warrensville, NC, plays guitar and sings in the band. Spencer has been playing for over 60 years and has been in several bluegrass and gospel quartets over the years. Debbie Bramer, originally from Michigan, moved to Fancy Gap, Virginia in the early 90s. Debbie plays bass and dances in the band.
Tickets to this special event are $10 per person for general admission and $5 for student admission. For more information about the May 9th performance, or to reserve your tickets, please visit www.ralphstanleymuseum.com or contact the Ralph Stanley Museum & Traditional Mountain Music Center at (276) 926-8550.
The Roots of Appalachian Music Concert Series is made possible by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities was established in 1974 to develop and support public programs, education, and research in the humanities and to relate the humanities to public issues. The VFH promotes understanding and use of the humanities through public debate, group discussion, and individual inquiry. Principal activities of the Virginia Foundation include an internationally recognized Fellowship Program, the Virginia Folklife Program, the Virginia Center for Media and Culture, a statewide network of Regional Councils, and the Grant Program. The VFH is non-profit and non-partisan and receives support from private gifts, grants and contributions, and from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more information, write or call the Foundation's office at 145 Ednam Drive, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903-4629, (434) 924-3296, or visit the VFH online at www.virginiafoundation.org.
The program is presented as a public service. The principal aim of the program is to discuss in an objective and nonpartisan context issues of concern and interest to citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the Virginia Foundation, its contributors, or its supporting agencies.