Regional String Bands to Perform at ‘Appalachia in the Bluegrass’
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 3, 2013) — Two old time string bands come to Lexington as the next two acts in the “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series. On Friday, Oct. 4, Rich and the Po’ Folks will return to perform music straight from the eastern Kentucky coal fields. The next Friday, Oct. 11, UK will hear musical traditions from Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky when The Rail Splitters are in the spotlight. Both free public concerts will take place at noon, at the Niles Gallery, located in the University of Kentucky Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.
Friends with a Common Goal
Video courtesy of John Jacob Niles Center for American Music. A transcript of the video can be found here.
In the spring of 2006, a group of friends decided to build a band on their shared love for the traditional music of east Kentucky and southwest Virginia. Taking their inspiration from old Appalachian musicians, Rich and the Po’ Folks was formed.
Rich and the Po' Folks use sounds from old time artists like Art Stamper, Ed Haley, Charlie Osborne, George Gibson, Addie Graham and John Morgan Salyer. Using the fiddle, banjo, bass, mandolin and guitar, Rich and the Po’ Folks have revised classic bluegrass to release their newest CD, “When the Whistle Blew.”
A Mountain Musical Tradition
The next performance for “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” features the work of Adrian Powell, Julie Shepherd-Powell and Brett Ratliff. The Rail Splitters formed around its members’ deep roots in traditional music.
Adrian Powell, a native of Crimora, Va., has won contests at fiddlers’ conventions across the southeast United States. Powell has performed at Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, Ky., and the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. His fiddle style is straight forward with a hard driving bow, and he currently plays with the Pea Ridge Ramblers, Matt Kinman's Old Time Serenaders, the Cabin Creek Boys and The Rail Splitters.
Julie Shepherd-Powell is an award-winning clawhammer banjo player and flatfoot dancer originally from North Carolina. Shepherd-Powell previously taught beginning and advanced old time banjo at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Va. She has also played with the Letcher County band Rich and the Po’ Folks. She currently competes in flatfoot dance competitions at fiddlers' conventions all over the southeast and calls square dances anywhere from Knoxville, Tenn., to New York City. Shepherd-Powell is currently completing her doctorate in anthropology at UK.
Raised by a coal miner and teacher in Van Lear, Ky., Brett Ratliff grew up with a love for the mountains, its people and its culture. As a young boy, Ratliff started singing in church and sang along to recordings of Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. As a teenager he began playing guitar for bluegrass bands. But when Ratliff met musical father and son duo Jamie and Jesse Wells he became hooked on the moving, emotionally charged mountain music of his home. Since then, Ratliff has learned banjo tunes and ballads from some of the masters of old time music, like knock-down banjo player George Gibson of Knott County, Ky., and Pike County fiddle and banjo player Paul David Smith. Ratliff’s solo album, “Cold Icy Mountain,” was released on June Appal Recordings. He is currently music director for WMMT Radio in Whitesburg, Ky.
The “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series celebrates the old time roots of American folk music by featuring a diverse range of traditional musical expression. The concert series will showcase 13 different artists, duos and groups from southern Appalachia ranging from artists straight off their front porch to those who have earned international acclaim. The concert series is generously presented by the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, a collaborative research and performance center maintained by the UK College of Fine Arts, UK School of Music and UK Libraries.
For more information on the “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series or the concerts featuring Rich and the Po’ Folks or The Rail Splitters, contact Ron Pen, director of the Niles Center, by email to Ron.Pen@uky.edu or visit the website at http://finearts.uky.edu/music/niles.
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