The Crooked Road’s annual Mountains of Music Homecoming is turning 5 this year.
The nine-day event begins Friday. It will feature 18 concerts and 89 cultural events, including music-oriented HoustonFest, in Galax, and the Henry Reed Memorial Fiddlers Convention, in Newport, along with three cuisine-centric “feastivals.”
In its half-decade of celebrating the towns, culture and music along Southwest Virginia’s Crooked Road, organizers have seen a growing international audience of visitors, along with commonwealth residents, Crooked Road executive director Jack Hinshelwood said.
Ticketholders have come from the United Kingdom and 17 American states including Oregon, he said.
“That’s very rewarding and means that we’re doing a big part of what we should be doing, which is getting people to visit from other places,” Hinshelwood said. “We want the people who live here to appreciate it, enjoy it and feel ownership of it. But it’s important from an economic standpoint for visitors to come … to these communities. So that was pretty cool.”
Organizers remain on a “learning curve,” he said. It’s important to stay abreast of performing acts to book each year, while also searching for ways to refresh other aspects of the event.
“I guess the good thing for us is that the scale of this is such that someone could come to this every year for a lifetime … go stay in a different locality … or road-trip it, whatever you want to do,” he said. “It’s got a lot of built-in flexibility.”
A key lesson along the way: Don’t give folks too many options. If an average of two concerts per day and almost 10 other events sounds like a lot, it’s not, compared to year one.
“We’re learning a balance of how much activity to do,” Hinshelwood said. “We had way too much activity the first year, way too much for staff, and I think even too much for people who wanted to come and take it in.
“Enough is a feast.” This year’s offerings are “still more than enough for nine-days, even if you’re coming for the entire nine days.”
Forty-two Southwest Virginia localities are putting on the dog, and the event website, mtnsofmusic.com/schedule-2019/, is set up for you to search for your kind of fun by town or zone. Here are our top 5 music picks — a list that by no means denigrates the multiple others on offer. And if you’re up for dinner and show, check out the feastivals, via mtnsofmusic.com/feastival.
1. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver: Gospel concert; and reunion concerts, feat. Jamie Dailey, Russell Moore, Terry Baucom and Jim Van Cleve. Second-generation bluegrasser Lawson, a mandolinist and singer, and his band are worth seeing on their own. Adding Quicksilver alumni — guitarist/singer Dailey (Dailey & Vincent), guitarist/singer Moore (his own IIIrd Time Out) banjoist Baucom (Boone Creek, IIIrd Time Out and his own Dukes of Drive) and fiddler Van Cleve (session ace, Mountain Heart) — makes this one essential for trad-grass freaks. Mountains of Music is hosting two reunion shows and one gospel concert, in three locales, to celebrate 40 years of Lawson’s signature band. Harmonies will abound.
Details: 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Gospel Concert. Slate Mountain Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 239 Rock Church Road, Meadows of Dan. $15, $10 12-younger via bit.ly/2HP3nXU. 7:30 p.m. Monday, with Dailey Baucom and Van Cleve. Southwest Virginia Community College / King Community Center, 724 Community College Road, Cedar Bluff. $15, $10 12-younger via bit.ly/2BEtGMQ. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, with Dailey, Moore and Van Cleve. Country Cabin II, 6024 Kent Junction Road, Norton. $15, $10 12-younger via bit.ly/2EL3hyC.
2. Bill Monroe’s Sons of Bluegrass feat. former Blue Grass Boys Butch Robins, Billy Baker and Doug Hutchens. Monroe was the Daniel Boone of bluegrass and three Southwest Virginia men who were part of his band at one time or another — banjo man Robins, fiddler baker and upright bassist Hutchens — are at the core of this outfit. Also on stage for the two shows will be guitarist Tom Ewing, fiddler Robert Bowlin and mandolinist Mike Compton (Nashville Bluegrass Band).
Details: 7 p.m. June 14, Blue Ridge Music Center, Milepost 213 Blue Ridge Parkway, near Galax. $15, $10 12-younger via bit.ly/2I7NOt8. 7:30 p.m. June 15, Harvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount. $20, $12 12-younger via bit.ly/2wuTS9F or harvester-music.com.
3. Stanley Brothers All Star Band: Ralph Stanley II, Junior Sisk, Don Rigsby, Dewey Brown, Tommy Brown, Randall Hibbitts. Mountain music icons Ralph Stanley, who died nearly three years ago, and his brother Carter Stanley, dead since 1966, left behind a deep legacy. Ralph’s son, dubbed “Two,” leads an act of his pop’s bandmates and acolytes and looks to survey the essence. Sisk, a Ferrum resident and multiple IBMA Award winner, lends his great vocal style to the proceedings.
4. Remembering Doc, feat. T. Michael Coleman, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little and Wayne Henderson. Whether flat-picking or finger-picking, the late Arthel “Doc” Watson was a guitar treasure, and his voice was a mellow beauty, even deep into his life. Bassist/singer Coleman and guitarist Lawrence played many a road show with Watson, while guitarist/luthier Henderson (who built guitars for him) and pianist Little were friends and picking buddies with the legend.
5. HoustonFest, feat. Shenandoah, Dailey & Vincent, EmiSunshine, Dori Freeman and more. It’s the ninth go-round for this event, which pays homage to Houston Caldwell, a banjo player heavily into community service. He died at 18, in a 2010 motorcycle crash. Proceeds benefit the Galax Fire Department and a scholarship program. National, regional and local bluegrass, country and other roots acts are on the bill.