The Crooked Road's Music and Dance Spectacular
Celebrating Southwest Virginia's Heritage Music
June 18, 2021
Celebrate the vibrant cultural traditions of Southwest Virginia with an evening bringing together the area’s finest old-time, bluegrass, and heritage music and dance masters. Traveling through the rich history of our region, the premiere of this multigenerational, curated concert by the famed Crooked Road brims with music, singing, storytelling, flatfooting, and square dancing.
Steeped in the sounds of fiddles, banjos, and other stringed instruments, Crooked Road illustrates the melting pot of immigration and the early settling of the mountains. From haunting duets and ballad singing to the dynamic dancing tunes of string bands, this musical journey includes a tip of the hat to some of the most historic musicians of the Crooked Road, such as the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers.
A showcase of heritage music bands, the performance features a robust line-up of traditional talents.
Junior Sisk Band
A force of bluegrass, the Junior Sisk Band hails from the Virginia Blue Ridge. The members are masters of instrumentation and songwriting, and the band is well-known and well-recognized from organizations such as the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPGBMA) for their talents.
Junior Sisk is widely recognized as one of today's top bluegrass guitar players and vocalists. Sisk has won numerous awards from the IBMA, including the Album of the Year and Song of the Year Awards in 2012 and the Male Vocalist of the Year Award in both 2013 and 2017. His band earned the SPBGMA Bluegrass Band of the Year Award in 2014.
The Junior Sisk Band comprises a variety of bluegrass powerhouse players, including Heather Berry Mabe, guitar and vocals; Tony Mabe, banjo, guitar, and vocals; Johnathon Dillon, mandolin and vocals; Curt Love, bass; and Doug Bartlet, fiddle and vocals.
Whitetop Mountain Band
Bringing a legacy of old-time sounds to the stage, the Whitetop Mountain Band is an award-winning family ensemble that has long-time traditional roots in Whitetop, Virginia, an area rich in the old-time music tradition. The band’s members have been essential to the preservation of the Whitetop region’s style of old-time fiddling and banjo picking. These legendary musicians serve as teachers of the style while entertaining audiences with fiddle/banjo instrumentals, powerful solos, and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky-tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old timey ballads, originals, and four-part mountain gospel songs.
The group has played numerous festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in New York City, and Carter Family Festival. In 2012 the Virginia Senate issued a proclamation recognizing the band’s contributions to the music of Southwest Virginia.
Band members include Emily Spencer, clawhammer banjo and vocals; Martha Spencer, guitar, fiddle, vocals, and dance; Kilby Spencer, fiddle; Debbie Bramer, bass, vocals, and dance; and Ersel Fletcher, vocals, guitar, and dance.
Dori Freeman, Scott Freeman, and Willard Gayheart
A progressive Appalachian singer and songwriter, Dori Freeman highlights her roots with traditional ballads and new favorites with her father, Scott Freeman, and grandfather, Willard Gayheart. Their family's history highlights the importance of generational legacy and represents the Galax music scene.
Dori Freeman is about as “bonafide” as an Appalachian artist can be: she was raised among a family of musicians in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Her fourth studio album, Ten Thousand Roses, showcases an artist who has cemented an inimitable signature sound, while simultaneously establishing herself as capable of a wide variety of styles. She is a multi-faceted eclectic artist, defying and expanding notions of what it means to be from Southwest Virginia, as well as a young woman in the music industry.
Willard Gayheart and Scott Freeman are consummate musicians, storytellers, teachers, songwriters, and tunesmiths. Though grounded in old-time tradition, their music is adventurous and ready to roam the edges for new sounds and songs that fit within the tradition. Scott Freeman plays mandolin, guitar, and fiddle and has a smooth baritone vocal style. Gayheart, a renowned pencil artist, is a hugely gifted songwriter who captures Appalachian life in song like a firefly in a jar for all to admire.
Justin Golden unites the Virginia blues with heritage music of Southwest Virginia, bringing his songwriting and guitar talents to heart-and-soul issues. On his debut record, Hard Times and a Woman, Golden showcases the full breadth of the genre and its downstream influences—everything from country blues to Americana, soul, indie roots, and beyond. Golden was raised on the Virginia coast and is steeped in the distinctive, fingerpicked Piedmont blues of the central part of the state. He’s studied country blues and can name any number of influences, from Blind Boy Fuller to Taj Mahal, but his key inspirations have always come from the indie guitar realm. A trained archaeologist, he understands the history of this genre and teaches the next generation of youth blues guitarists.
Becky Hill is a percussive dancer, choreographer, and square dance caller. She was a 2021 Strathmore artist-in-residence, a 2018 OneBeat Fellow for the U.S. State Department and is currently an artist-in-residence at the John C. Campbell Folk School. She performs with the T-Mart Rounders and teaches dance throughout the country. As an avid organizer and teacher, Hill’s work is deeply rooted in the intersections between music, dance, and community. She is dedicated to creating innovative choreography rooted in Appalachian music and dance.
Brother Boys member and actor Eugene Wolf weaves the collective narrative of song and experiences on the stage. A native of Greeneville, Tennessee, Wolf studied music and theatre at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He was a member of the Road Company and has been a member of Barter Theatre’s Resident Acting Company for 24 years. In 2002 Wolf found home in the role of A.P. Carter in Barter Theatre’s Keep on the Sunny Side and on television’s Lost Highway on BBC and Will the Circle Be Unbroken for PBS American Experience. He has been a member of the Brother Boys with Ed Snodderly for 35 years. His one-man show, The Book of Mamaw, played the United Solo Festival in New York City in 2019 and took home the United Solo/Backstage Audience Award. Wolf hosts What in the World, a weekly radio show for WEHC-FM featuring world music, and is the winner of the 2019 Arts Alliance of the Mountain Empire Arts (AAME) Achievement Award.
The Moss Arts Center previously hosted Crooked Road events in 2014, 2015, and 2019. Dori Freeman first performed at the Moss Arts Center in 2017. This is the first performance at the Moss Arts Center for the other performers.