Arts & Culture

‘Appalachia in the Bluegrass’ Presents High Tops, Sam Gleaves and Sue Massek, Zinc Kings, Don Pedi

Watch Sam Gleaves perform "Working Shoes" above.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 3, 2019) The John Jacob Niles Center for American Music’s  "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" concert series has four concerts on tap this September. The free public concerts will welcome to University of Kentucky's campus The High Tops, noted banjo players Sam Gleaves and Sue Massek, The Zinc Kings and dulcimer legend Don Pedi. All concerts begin at noon on Fridays, in the Niles Gallery located at UK's Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.

An annual concert series, “Appalachia in the Bluegrass,” celebrates the old-time roots of American folk music, while simultaneously representing a variety of different musical expressions. There will be 12 different performances by noted soloists, duos and groups from Appalachia throughout the fall.

The High Tops: Sept. 6

Noted musicians Brett Ratliff, Nadia Ramlagan, Stephanie Jeter and Andy Duckworth, who compose The High Tops, blend ancient fiddle tunes, traditional folk and honky tonk blues to invoke the music of the magical hills of Eastern Kentucky. This four-piece string band's mesmerizing vocal harmonies can be heard at square dances and music halls throughout the central and southern Appalachian Mountains.

Sam Gleaves and Sue Massek: Sept. 13

Appalachian singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Sam Gleaves was born and raised in Virginia where he began playing music as a teen. Gleaves, whose songwriting chronicles contemporary rural life and social issues, tours extensively in the U.S. and has also performed in Ireland, England, Canada, Japan and Italy. He currently serves as the traditional arts director at the Hindman Settlement School. A teaching artist, Gleaves has shared Appalachian traditions at numerous music camps, colleges, universities and public schools.

Fellow vocalist and banjo player Sue Massek has been working as a performing artist for over a half century, including nearly 40 years of playing and singing with the Reel World String Band. After moving from Kansas to Kentucky in 1976, she has worked over 30 years as a teaching artist, one year as circuit rider, and three years as a folklorist in residence for the Kentucky Arts Council.

The Zinc Kings: Sept. 20

Dan Clouse, Mark Dillon, Ryan Mack and Christen Blanton Mack founded the progressive string-band The Zinc Kings in recognition of their mutual love for traditional music. The band’s sound explores the old-time, early bluegrass, blues and folk music of the North Carolina Piedmont. The Zinc Kings continue to be inspired by traditional music as they take on projects writing original music.

Don Pedi: Sept. 27

Massachusetts native Don Pedi grew up in a musical family, breaking into the Boston area folk music scene in the early 1960s. His musical style has been influenced by the likes of traditional musicians Frank Proffitt, Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt and Almeda Riddle. Pedi first laid eyes on the dulcimer in 1964, beginning a 50-year partnership with the instrument. He is considered a pioneer in his music, breaking new ground and clearing a path for future musicians.

The Niles Center is a collaborative research and performance center maintained by the UK College of Fine ArtsUK School of Music and UK Libraries.

For more information on the concert series, contact Niles Center Director Revell Carr at or visit the website at

photo of The High Tops performing
photo of Sam Gleaves seated on porch with banjo
photo of The Zinc Kings with instruments
photo of Don Pedi playing dulcimer with mountain view behind