Arts & Culture

‘Appalachia in the Bluegrass’ Presents Tall, Dark and Handsome, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, CornMaiz, Mama Said String Band

Watch Tall, Dark and Handsome perform "Maybe" above.

Watch Mama Said String Band perform "Somebody, Anybody" above.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 2, 2019) The John Jacobs Niles Center for American Music’s “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series returns this October with four more free public concerts featuring Tall, Dark and Handsome, international folk duo Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, folk family band CornMaiz and Mama Said String Band. All concerts begin at noon Fridays, in the Niles Gallery, located in the University of Kentucky'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.

Tall, Dark and Handsome: Oct. 4

Karen Jones, Bev Futrell and George Neel formed Tall, Dark and Handsome (TDH) in 1993. The Lexington trio performs a rare blend of jazz and regional music. Original songwriter and country singer Bev Futrell, of the legendary Reel World String Band, is the centerpiece of the group. In addition to Futrell, the group features champion fiddler Karen Jones and jazz mandolinist George Neel. Futrell’s poetic songs are about places and characters in Kentucky as well as her native state of Texas. The trio’s recording, “Rock Me Away,” showcases the vibrant songwriting legacy of Futrell and reflects the group’s artistic strength.

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker: Oct. 11  

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform across the U.S. and overseas, singing songs and telling the stories of the American folk community. Sparky Rucker, an internationally recognized leading folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller and author has been performing for over 40 years. Sparky accompanies himself with bottleneck blues guitars, banjos and spoons. Rhonda Rucker is a children’s author, storyteller, musician and songwriter. Rhonda’s blues-style harmonica, piano, banjo and bones give an additional flare to their performances. The pair take audiences on an educational and emotional journey through a variety of old-time blues songs, slave songs, spirituals, work songs and more. Their performances combine music with captivating stories and songs while celebrating the diversity of the nation’s history.

CornMaiz: Oct. 18

Kentucky string band, CornMaiz, was founded by Carla Glover, Yani Vozos, Zoey Barrett and Arlo Barnette. The old-time family band features Eastern Kentucky tunes and fun covers with a traditional folk sound. Clawhammer banjos, mandolins, guitars, mother-daughter harmonies and bass instrumentals represent the rich history of Kentucky through musical expression. Performances include the fascinating Appalachian dance styles of clogging and flat-footing. The band performs shows throughout Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and Mexico.

Mama Said String Band: Oct. 25         

The five-piece group Mama Said String Band is based in Louisville, Kentucky. Guitarist and banjo player Kaitlen Farmer, bassist Katie Didit, guitarist Aldai Filiatreau, mandolin player Stephanie Kidd and fiddler David O’Neal form the group. Their strong focus on vocal harmony and innovative instrumentation helps to build the band’s aural medley. Influenced by bluegrass, folk and Americana music, Mama Said String Band reintroduces traditional bluegrass folk music with a youthful and lively touch. The ensemble has performed at various notable festivals, was nominated as a finalist in the Bluegrass artist of the year category for the Louisville Music Awards and has received accolades and praise for their debut album released in February 2018.   

The Niles Center is 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 concert series, contact Niles Center Director Revell Carr at or visit the center's website at

photo of trio of performers from Tall, Dark and Handsome
photo of Sparky and Rhonda Rucker holding instruments seated
photo of CornMaiz seated at table
photo of 5 members of Mama Said String Band

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