Erupting from an already volcanic Louisville, Kentucky music scene comes hometown powerhouse Nellie Pearl. With an ingenious collaboration of musicians from other established local bands, the stunningly creative Americana-Roots-Rock sound and massively dynamic performances have solidified them as one of the breakout bands of 2015. Songs from their debut EP “So It Goes…” hit Louisville’s public radio station WFPK quickly earning a spot in regular rotation, with many other AAA radio stations around the country quickly following suit. The rapid growth of fan base led to the successful crowd-funding campaign of over $10,000 in album pre-sales to produce Nellie Pearl’s highly anticipated LP, “Lonesome No More!”. Already pegged by Peter Berkowitz of Leo Weekly as “a supergroup of musicians… in what could only be described as a sensuous orgy of musical expression”, Nellie Pearl are poised to continue their meteoric rise with this magnetic and wildly diverse record.
One of the most treasured and revered traditional Appalachian musicians of our time, Lee Sexton still continues to pick the banjo and regularly tour when not at home with his wife Opal and his beloved garden.
June Appal issued an LP of Lee playing traditional material–Whoa Mule–in 1988, and an expanded CD version of the album was released in 2004, featuring an additional 40 minutes of music. In 1999, he was presented with the Kentucky Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. Also known (by some) as “Mr. Seedtime,” we’re delighted to welcome Lee back to the Seedtime stage; we’re not sure where we’d be without him.
Brothers Trenton and Trevor Jenkins from Irvine, Kentucky represent a culture that spans larger than the majestic foothills of the Appalachian mountains where they were raised. With their folk infused mix of americana, rock, and bluegrass tunes, they represent a type of music that transcends genres and shatters the rules established by the music industry. In short, they jam out.
Born in Tuscon, Arizona, Matt Kinman’s life is deeply rooted in traditional music. When he was nine Matt joined his school’s orchestra class as a violinist but was eventually kicked out due to his refusal to read music. Foregoing formal training, he opted instead to study music by listening and imitating musicians with whom he played firsthand.
When his family relocated to Florence, South Carolina, Kinman began his professional music career playing mandolin and fiddle in upscale restaurants at the age of twelve. The urge to travel and play music soon overcame him and he quit school, leaving home when he was fifteen. “I’d find every musician that I wanted to be around and I’d take off. It didn’t matter if I had a car or not… I’d take off walkin… I’d take off on a bus… I’d take off if someone would pick me up and give me a ride to get there. I didn’t care and if I had no job or no money to get there- I went anyways.”
Kinman settled into a career as an industrial plumber and worked as one for about fifteen years. Eventually the urge to play music resurfaced and Matt hit the highways again playing music, earning the moniker, The Little Hobo, as he sought out musicians from whom to learn. He has since performed with acts such as The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Hackensaw Boys, Leroy Troy, Marty Stewart, and the list goes on.
Currently, Kinman performs solo most of the time and “trades on about anything” to make ends meet. “I just try to be honest and go out there and play music and trade around. I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of big names… It ain’t that I’m anything great, by no means… I just play old music the way that I hear it in my head and that’s the way it comes out”.
His latest album, Travlin' Songs, is set to be released on September 18th on his own label Lonesome Whistle Records. Travelin' Songs will feature 18 songs that will be sure to take you back to a simpler times of when songs to the stories of the good ole' days.
Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. Sparky Rucker has been performing over forty years and is internationally recognized as a leading folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller, and author. He accompanies himself with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, banjo, and spoons. Rhonda Rucker is a musician, children's author, storyteller, and songwriter. Her blues-style harmonica, piano, old-time banjo, and bones add musical versatility to their performances.
Sparky and Rhonda are sure to deliver an uplifting presentation of toe-tapping music spiced with humor, history, and tall tales. They take their audience on an educational and emotional journey that ranges from poignant stories of slavery and war to an amusing rendition of a Brer Rabbit tale or their witty commentaries on current events. Their music includes a variety of old-time blues, slave songs, Appalachian music, spirituals, ballads, work songs, Civil War music, railroad songs, and a few of their own original compositions.
Over forty years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR's On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition. Their recording, Treasures & Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times.
The Local Honeys are a charming duo, born and raised in Central and Eastern Kentucky. The pairing is comprised of Montana Hobbs and Linda Jean Stokley. Montana and Linda Jean are the first women to graduate with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Traditional Music from Morehead State University. They are multi-instrumentalists, vocalists, and songwriters who pay homage to the their rich Kentucky heritage.
Jimmy and Ada McCown are from Pikeville in eastern KY – an area renowned for its traditional music. Jimmy took up the six-string banjo (tuned like a banjo rather than guitar) and loves to play a spirited fiddle tune too. Ada has been playing guitar since 1970. They have traveled much with their music even playing on the Grand Ole Opry. Jimmy was close musical friends with the late Paul David Smith and Snake Chapman and plays many of their tunes.
Brett Ratliff's homeplace is Van Lear, Kentucky, the historic coal camp that gave birth to Loretta Lynn. Having been mentored by the masters of the area--George Gibson, Rich Kirby, Paul David Smith, Lee Sexton, and Jamie Wells among them--Ratliff is often the traditionally trained musician on stage with country, acid honk-a-tonk, and cow punk. He has toured the region and the world with groups such as Clack Mountain String Band, Dirk Powell Band, Giant Rooster Sideshow, and Rich & the Po’ Folk and has played alongside the likes of Woody Pines, Foghorn Stringband, Jean Ritchie, Mike Seeger, and Art Stamper. Today Ratliff teaches traditional Kentucky repertoire at The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington; Swannanoa Gathering in Swannanoa, North Carolina; Sore Fingers Week in Oxfordshire, England; Augusta Heritage's Early Country Music Week in Elkins, WV; Cowan Creek Mountain Music School in Letcher County, KY and elsewhere. His first solo release was the 2008 June Appal recording Cold Icy Mountain.
Brett said of his 2017 release Gone Boy, "With the help of friends, I've tried with all my heart to make this record in a way that says something true about my East Kentucky. Turns out, it might be a salve to these days, hearing something felt, something true. It is my prayer that it gives you both a real lift and real challenge."
Kentucky Wild Horse takes its name from an old eastern Kentucky fiddle tune played by Wolfe County fiddler Darley Fulks (1895-1990) who possessed a vast repertoire of pre-Civil War tunes. Kentucky music from the 19th century down to the present, especially its fiddle and banjo traditions, has been our love and our inspiration. Unlike most old-time bands today, we use instrumental solo breaks, fills, and harmonies rather than all the instruments playing the melody together. We collect and value fine old instruments and we like to hear their sounds coming through. We got it in us so let us pick! On the other hand, unlike most bluegrass bands today, we keep old-time Kentucky fiddle tunes at the center of our repertoire and gravitate toward older songs and newly-written songs that have that old-time feel.
John Harrod (guitar, fiddle, and vocals) has documented, recorded, and performed traditional music for more than 40 years. In the 1970s and ’80s, he played with a number of bands such as the Progress Red Hot String Band, the Bill Livers String Ensemble, and the Gray Eagle Band that re-introduced old-time musicians such as Bill Livers and Lily May Ledford to Kentucky audiences. During this time he also worked for three years as a folk artist-in-residence in Kentucky schools. Along with Mark Wilson and Guthrie Meade, he has produced a series of field recordings of Kentucky fiddle and banjo players that is available on Rounder Records. John received the 2004 Folk Heritage Award of the Governor’s Award in the Arts for his work in traditional music.
It's easy to listen to Louisville folk duo The Other Years and instantly feel transported into another time. Bandmates Heather Summers and Anna Krippenstapel have captured a heart rendering sound that feels completely timeless in it's honest lyrics and stripped down acoustics.
The Right Fork Ramblers Band are relatively new as a band but like they say “its been a long time coming”. Jeff Kennedy from Clintwood, Virginia, previously with The Kody Norris Show, Midnight Ramblers, Dale Kennedy Orchestra and Nathan Stanley (on the Grand Ole Opry), plays guitar for the group and does the lead vocal work. John Moore, the enigma of the group, comes from being a solo youtube artist and plays banjo (or “manjo" as he calls it) and sings tenor for the group. Marcus Riley from Pound Virginia, having previously played with the Kody Norris Show, Bluegrass Messengers, Cross Country Bluegrass as well as the Dale Kennedy Orchestra, plays the mandolin for the Ramblers. Anthony Oquinne, previously with South Mountain Boys and also with Cross County bluegrass, is a solid foundation for this up and coming group on the doghouse bass and baritone vocals.
Cross County Bluegrass, like the name implies, is a cross between traditional bluegrass reminiscent of Flatt and Scruggs and old country music. The band is based out of Letcher County and the pickers are no stranger to the local music scene. The band consists of William Caudill from Whitesburg, KY on guitar, Buddy Young from Millstone, KY on banjo, Marcus Riley from Pound, VA on mandolin and Anthony Oquinne from Clinchco, VA on the doghouse bass.
Nathan Polly is a 68 year-old musician from Bottom Fork Road in Letcher County, Kentucky where he was raised and currently resides. Nate Polly worked for the railroad for thirty-seven years and all that hard work is reflected in his music. He sings about simpler times; cooking breakfast with his grandparents, working on the railroad, the back-breaking work of the mines, and gigging around with a string band.
Nate Polly was the “next to last” of seven children, and his mother was his largest musical influence because of her life-long passion for singing. Nate played with a bluegrass band called Kentucky Mountain Grass, and he remained with that band for twenty years. Nate played with the Trough Sloppers, an old-time string band, which featured Roy Tackett, Jesse Wells, Jamie Wells, Nate Polly, and Dave Dougherty. He later helped for another string band, with WMMT’s own Rich Kirby, called Rich and the Po’ Folk which featured the talents of Rich Kirby, Nate Polly, Brett Ratliff, and John Haywood. After all these years of playing music and hard work, Nate Polly has quite a story and his forthcoming June Appal solo album will give him the chance to tell it.
The Passing the Pick and Bow Program is a low- to no-cost after school music education program that teaches local youth Appalachian old-time music in Letcher County, Kentucky. Pick and Bow was developed as a response to the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, a project that Appalshop, WMMT’s parent non-profit, began in 2001. The program begins each semester with an assembly performance by our instructors in schools where the program operates. Our assemblies allow new students to see and hear Appalachian old-time music performed live, and they are a way to inform returning students about our teaching schedule. Our instructors teach after-school for five days per week, at four elementary/middle schools and the local high school, for the duration of the school year. The students are given the choice between guitar, fiddle, banjo, or mandolin. Pick and Bow also hosts annual student concerts, at the conclusion of each semester, in the Appalshop Theater. These concerts are open to the public and are a great way for the students to show off their developing talents to friends and family. Students can also be heard live on WMMT when they take the stage during Appalshop’s annual Seedtime on the Cumberland music and arts festival every June. In late summer of 2015, Pick and Bow expanded into Letcher County Central High School and Knott County Schools via The Hindman Settlement School. Students perform a Spring and Christmas concert in the Appalshop Theater in addition to kicking off Saturday on the Seedtime Main Stage.
The Payroll Boys’ place was that ground that runs from Letcher County, Kentucky, across the mountain into Wise and Scott Counties in Va. Theirs was a time, from 1977 to 1982, when old had mostly given way to the new in the mountains, the region’s younger musicians were also using the traditional framework to express contemporary concerns. The Payroll Boys put together a sound which drew from a wealth of musical styles that can be heard in the mountains, the influences of blues, swing, country, old-time and rock’n roll music are all at work with the Payroll Boys,
In those years the Payroll Boys were a familiar sight at festivals and celebrations, at nightclubs and beer joints and ginny barnes from Wise to Knoxville to Whitesburg and back across the mountain to Wise again. Their love for their music, and for the good times music can bring, was infectious. Their politics, which were seldom overtly stated, were nonetheless an important force in their music.
Each band member brings to this work not only his years of playing experience, but a strong instinct for the music. Sonny Houston, from Hemphill, Ky., grew up among the traditions of family gospel singing and applied that knowledge to the Payroll Boys vocal arrangements. Roger Hall, from Whitesburg, developed his outstanding tenor and tasteful banjo delivery through tenure with several area bands. Jack Wright a native of Wise, Va., is a seasoned musician who fuses his lifelong interest in blues and rock’n roll with the love for the traditional music of the region. They captured the spirit of their time and place.