Friday, August 26, 2011

Mountain Song Inn is just a few miles off the Crooked Road

A Musical Tour Along the Crooked Road

Grab a partner. Bluegrass and country tunes that tell 

America's story are all the rage in hilly

 southern Virginia

  • By Abigail Tucker
  • Photographs by Susana Raab
  • Smithsonian magazine, September 2011
Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are known for their speed demons. The moonshiners of old tore over country roads in 1940 Ford coupes, executing 180-degree “bootleg turns” and using bright lights to blind the revenue officers shooting at their tires. Legend has it that many of Nascar’s original drivers cut their teeth here, and modern stock car design is almost certainly indebted to the “liquor cars” dreamed up in local garages, modified for speed and for hauling brimful loads of “that good old mountain dew,” as the country song goes.
Even now, it is tempting to barrel down Shooting Creek Road, near Floyd, Virginia, the most treacherous racing stretch of all, where the remains of old stills decay beside a rushing stream. But instead I proceed at a snail’s pace, windows down, listening to the burble of the creek, the gossip of cicadas in the dense summer woods, and the slosh of a Mason jar full of bona fide moonshine in the back seat—a gift from one of the new friends I met along the road.
Slow is almost always better in this part of the world, I was learning. A traveler should be sure to leave time to savor another ready-to-levitate biscuit or a melting sunset or a stranger’s drawling tale—and especially, to linger at the mountain banjo-and-fiddle jams that the region is known for. This music cannot be heard with half an ear—it has 400 years of history behind it, and listening to it properly takes time.
The Crooked Road, Virginia’s heritage music trail, winds for some 300 miles through the southwest corner of the state, from the Blue Ridge into deeper Appalachia, home to some of the rawest and most arresting sounds around. Most of the trail runs along U.S. 58, a straightforward multilane highway in some spots and a harrowing slalom course in others. But the Crooked Road—a state designation originally conceived in 2003—is shaped by several much older routes. Woodland buffalo and the Indians who hunted them wore the first paths in this part of the world. Then, in the 1700s, settlers came in search of new homes in the South, following the Great Wagon Road from Germantown, Pennsylvania, to Augusta, Georgia. Other pioneers headed west on the Wilderness Road that Daniel Boone hacked through the mountains of Kentucky. Some rode on wagons, but many walked—one woman told me the story of her great-grandfather, who as a child hiked with his parents into western Virginia with the family pewter tied in a sack around his waist and his chair on his back. And, of course, some fled into the mountains, long a refuge for escaped slaves.
The diversity of settlers funneled into the region gave rise to its unique musical style. Today the “old-time” Virginia music—the forerunner of American country—is still performed not just at legendary venues such as the Carter Family Fold near Hiltons, Virginia, but at Dairy Queens, community centers, coon hunting clubs, barber shops, local rescue squads and VFW halls. A fiddle tune may be played three different ways in one county; the sound is markedly modified as you travel deeper into the mountains toward the coalfields. Some of the oldest, loveliest songs are known as “crooked tunes,” for their irregular measures; they lead the listener in unexpected directions, and give the music trail its name.
Except for a few sites, including a park near the town of Rocky Mount, where a surviving fragment of the Great Wagon Road wanders off into shadow, the older pathways have virtually disappeared. But the music’s journey continues, slowly.
Cheick Hamala Diabate smiled angelically at the small, bewildered crowd gathered in a breezeway at the Blue Ridge Music Center near Galax, Virginia. They had come expecting to hear Mid-Day Mountain Music with local guitar players, but here instead was a beaming African musician in pointy-toed boots and dark sunglasses, cradling an alien string instrument called a ngoni. Small and oblong, it is made of goatskin stretched over hollowed wood. “Old in form but very sophisticated,” whispered folklorist Joe Wilson, a co-founder of the center, a partnership between the National Park Service and the National Council for the Traditional Arts. “Looks like it wouldn’t have much music in it, but the music’s in his hands.”
Wilson is one of the Crooked Road’s creators and the author of the indispensable Guide to the Crooked Road. He had invited Diabate for a recording session, not only because the musician is a virtuoso performer nominated for a Grammy, but because the ngoni is an ancient ancestor of the banjo, often described as the most American of instruments. The ngoni’s shortened drone string, tied off with a piece of rawhide, is the giveaway—it’s a predecessor of the modern banjo’s signature abbreviated fifth string.
“This is a tune to bless people—very, very important,” Diabate told the audience as he strummed the ngoni. Later he would perform a tune on the banjo, an instrument he’d never heard of before immigrating to this country from Mali 15 years ago but has since embraced like a long-lost relative.
Captured Africans were being shipped to coastal Virginia as early as 1619; by 1710, slaves constituted one-quarter of the colony’s population. They brought sophisticated musical and instrument-building skills across the Atlantic and, in some cases, actual instruments—one banjo-like device from a slave ship still survives in a Dutch museum. Slaves performed for themselves (a late 1700s American folk painting, The Old Plantation, depicts a black musician plucking a gourd banjo) and also at dances for whites, where, it was quickly discovered, “the banjar”—as Thomas Jefferson called his slaves’ version—was much more fun to groove to than the tabor or the harp. Constantly altered in shape and construction, banjos were frequently paired with a European import, the fiddle, and the unlikely duo became country music’s bedrock.
In the 1700s, when the younger sons of Tidewater Virginia’s plantation owners began crowding west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains—then considered the end of the civilized world—they took their slaves with them, and some whites began picking up the banjo themselves. In the mountains, the new sound was shaped by other migratory populations—Anabaptist German farmers from Pennsylvania, who toted their church hymnals and harmonies along the Great Wagon Road as they searched for new fields to plow, and Scots-Irish, newly arrived from northern Ireland,who brought lively Celtic ballads.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Tour de Gaps bicycling event set for Saturday

Make it a weekend event and stay at Mountain Song Inn Bed and Breakfast. You won't be

Tour de Gaps bicycling event set for Saturday: The Tour de Gaps, an annual local bicycling event held by the Ridge Rollers Velo bicycle club, is being held on Saturday at 8 a.m. The ride begins and ends at Westwood Park. This charity bicycle...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Get ready for the county fair in Floyd

Get ready for the county fair in 

Get ready for the 

county fair in Floyd

An apple pie baking contest and also numerous other classes for 
vegetable and flower growers will be part of this year’s Harvest Festival 
and County Fair to be held at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office 
grounds in Floyd on Saturday, September 10. A youth livestock show is 
planned for the day. Hours are from 10 to 4.
Bakers may enter double crust apple pies made from scratch, but they 
must pre-register for that contest by September 7. Pies must arrive at 
the Extension Office on Fox Street on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 
noon. Judging will begin at 12:30 p.m. Awards will be announced at 2 p.m.
For information on other contests, see the August 18 Floyd Press.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Floyd Fest XI will be July 26th through the 29th 2012. Book you room soon at
MountainSong Inn Bed and Breakfast for this fun filled festival. We are a scenic
17 mile drive from the venue.

FloydFest X - An Exceptional Show!

August 2, 2011

What an awesome music festival. 
Rainbow at FloydFest X
It had something for everyone, as witnessed by the fact that both 
Friday and Saturday were sold 
out. The organizers have come a long way in their 10 year history. They did a great job in putting together their 10th anniversary celebration. Every year they keep making good additions to the venue, to the organization itself and to the diverse line-up of performers.
I love the festival's dedication to the arts, from the vaudeville acts to the music performers to the spiritual aspect.  Congrats guys.
Some stand out performances were of course some of the headliners like Donna the Buffalo, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Railroad Earth, Sam Bush, Old Crow 
Medicine Show and Del McCoury Band. Other standout performances were some 
of the "Under the Radar" bands like James Justin & Company, Kings of Belmont and 
the The Brand New Life. Some of my other personal favorites were Shane Pruitt 
( WOW ), Thousands of Ones and Yarn.
Performers at FloydFest XI have produced or attended 
over 300 music festivals & 
concerts and can honestly say 
that overall it does not get much better. It had all the ingredients 
of a top notch music festival including an incredible line up 
of performers, a good 
organization plan and a really 
nice venue located along the 
Blue Ridge Parkway.  Great 
Also the National Park Service Rangers did a great job 
handling the massive amount of traffic on the Parkway and deserve a Big Thank You.
I am already looking forward to next year's event and encourage all that did not make 
this year's event to put it on your calendar and try to attend. Next year's dates are 
July 26-29. Let's go!!!
-Greg LaVecchia
Sales and Marketing Director

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Mountain Song Inn Is just minutes 

away from 

Greasy Creek outFitters. Why 

don't you give 

us both a try. 


  • If you’ve ever wondered 


    to cast a fly or catch 


    trophy trout, 

    then you’re in luck.

    If you’ve ever wondered how to cast a fly or catch
    that trophy trout,
    then you’re in luck. Fly fishing is becoming
    increasingly popular
    throughout the country and Virginia is home to
    some of the best
    fly fishing waters.
    Many popular resorts offer fly-fishing clinics and
     guided tours
    to teach the novice fly fisher or challenge the most seasoned angler.
    Virginia also offers experienced instructors and guides for other
     fly-fishing expeditions.
    To explore fly fishing in a family fun environment, check out the Virginia 
    Fly Fishing Festival each April. It's the largest festival of its kind in the country.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just Down the Road from Mountain Song Inn

Blue Ridge Music Center Presents Bluegrass Fever!

Bluegrass fiddle-fireball Michael Cleveland and his award-winning band Flamekeeper are sure to deliver one of the hottest shows of the season.
Galax, VA (PRWEB) August 01, 2011
Get ready for Bluegrass Fever! at the Blue Ridge Music Center August 7 featuring Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper plus Galax's own Houston Drive. This Sunday evening concert will kick off a great week of music in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains at the Galax Old Fiddler's Convention.
Bluegrass fiddle-fireball Michael Cleveland and his award-winning band Flamekeeper are sure to deliver one of the hottest shows of the season. Eight-time winner of the IBMA Fiddler of the Year award, Michael has led Flamekeeper to taking home the IBMA Group of the Year award four times. Also, both Michael's CDs “Flamekeeper” and “Let Er Go Boys” have received the IBMA Instrumental Album of the Year award.
Michael Cleveland has performed with Rhonda Vincent, Dale Ann Bradley, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Audie Blaylock and Redline, Melvin Goins and others. The group has a hot new lineup that Michael is excited about bringing to Galax. Flamekeeper now features Charlie Cushman on banjo, Ashby Frank on vocals and mandolin, Charlie Lawson on vocals and guitar and Blake Bowen on vocals and bass. One thing that is for certain that this band will put on a big Blue Ridge Mountain bluegrass show that will dazzle the audience as Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper have done for years now.
Kicking off the Bluegrass Fever! concert will be hometown favorite, Houston Drive, so-named in memory of banjoist Houston Caldwell. Houston Drive won the blue ribbon for Best Bluegrass Band at the Old Fiddlers Convention last year and will be stiff competition this year as well with their powerful singing and hot picking.
Tickets for the Sunday August 7 Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper and Houston Drive concert are $20 or the earlybird price of $18 by Aug 3. Children 12 and under are free. Concert starts at 7 p.m. and seating opens at 5:30 p.m. Smokehouse barbecue is available at the concert. The Blue Ridge Music Center is located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Music Center is located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Tickets are available at Barrs Fiddle Shop, the Galax Visitor Center and online at or by calling (276) 236-5309. Bring the whole family. Lawnchairs and blankets recommended. No pets in the amphitheater. The Music Center has evening concerts every weekend all summer through mid-September at the foot of beautiful Fisher Peak (only 10 miles from Galax). The Blue Ridge Music Center is open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., seven days a week through October 30. Come see the new Roots of American Music exhibition and sit awhile in the covered breezeway and listen to Mid-Day Mountain Music from noon until 4 p.m. daily.

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