Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tennessee Fall Homecoming 2015 - Thursday and Friday: Review

The Tennessee Fall Homecoming is held annually on the ground of the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN,  about 20 miles north of Knoxville, TN just off Interstate route 30. The Homecoming opens on Thursday with a day provided by the museum for school children, mostly from East Tennessee, to encounter elements of regional mountain culture collected by founder John Rice Irwin at this unique living museum. The parking lot is filled with school buses, the ground with groups of children encountering a life, now mostly unfamiliar to them, of subsistence farming, home made living and music, regional crafts mostly founds in places like Hobby Lobby and Michael's these days. They also get to gorge on a combination of fair food and regional delicacies grown and made in the home. It's always fun to come early to watch the kids experience a life now fast disappearing as cable and satellite television as well as improved transportation make the mall readily available to most.

Crushing Sorghum for Syrup

The Corn Crib

There are more than thirty historic buildings that have been brought to the museum and repositioned as what's known as The Village. On weekends during the year, interpreters can often be found demonstrating crafts inside the buildings while musicians sit on the porch singing and playing mountain music. 

Kids Watching in the Cantilever Barn (Stage 3)

Mala Patterson on the Main Stage

Kids Enjoying the Day

Paint a Pumpkin

Old-Time Amusement - Rolling a Hoop

Thursday is a wonderful day for kids. The Main Event, however, starts on Friday and runs for three music and culture-filled days.

The Main Stage (Stage 1)

The main stage at Tennessee Fall Homecoming is the center of musical attention, as headline bluegrass acts appear there in addition to old-time, gospel, and family bands galore. This year's lineup was peppered with members of the International Bluegrass Music Museum's Hall of Fame including Larry Sparks, Melvin Goins, and Del McCoury as well recent International Bluegrass Music Association Award winners like Kenny & Amanda Smith, The Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, Phil Leadbetter, Junior Sisk, Adam Steffey, Dale Ann Bradley, Doyle Lawson and more. 

The Tennessee Fall Homecoming actually appeals to three contrasting groups: bluegrass fans, old-time music fans, and cultural tourists. As such, it represents a mixing bowl of unusual interests providing wonderful opportunities for exposure to different musics and experiences in a wonderful museum setting during one of the nicest times of the year. So many performers appear during the jam-packed three days that I won't even attempt to capture all of the performers or groups. 

Kenny & Amanda Smith on Stage 2

Stage 2 is a good place to see bands close up and personal. It's lies against the woods near the back of the Museum site. Kenny Smith is a frequent nominee and twice winner of IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, while Amanda Smith was named IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2014.

Kenny Smith

Amanda & Kenny Smith

Performers from ETSU Watch at Stage 2

Vendors Row

Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle at Stage 2

Steve Gulley

David Holt & Josh Goforth

Grammy winner David Holt and musical sidekick Josh Goforth present varieties of mountain music collected by Holt over decades of study in the mountains. Their performances are both important for the musical history they present and highly entertaining. They always present a terrific show!

In the Green Room

The Green Room, perhaps the largest in all music, sits behind the main stage. In it, bands meet to warm up for the Stage 1 performances while others gather for ongoing old-time jams and reunions of old friends. It's a friendly, raucous space for the musicians.

Elaine Irwin Meyer - Museum President

Emcee Freddie Smith - WDVX Knoxville

The Boxcars - Adam Seffey

Adam Steffey and Ron Stewart are both multiple award winners in IBMA instrumental categories. They appeared at the Tennessee Fall Homecoming with their band The Boxcars, and both can be found as guest performers on countless recordings. 

Ron Stewart

Audience at Stage 1

Grove Behind Food Vendors

LeRoy Troy at Stage 2

Doyle Lawson & Qucksilver

Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson has been a principle in four of the most important bands in bluegrass history: J.D. Crowe and the Kentucky Mountain Boys (later The New South), Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, The Country Gentlemen, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Through more than fifty years, he has consistently been on the scene as a leader and ground breaker.

Doyle Lawson with Eli Johnston

The Trio
Doyle Lawson, Eli Johnston & Dustin Pyrtle

Craftspeople Sell their Own Work
Vendors Row

The Hogslop String Band

Traditional old-time string band music was represented by this Nashville-based national band as well as a  number of regional bands who played similar music. The Hogslop String Band is highly energetic and entertaining. We first saw them a couple of years ago at Gettysburg, and their appearance here was a welcome surprise.

Friday at the Tennessee Fall Homecoming was the beginning of three days of music and fun with old friends. The Meyer family welcomed us with open arms, giving us the run of the grounds to prepare the best material we could find. We enjoyed reunions with people we've met from all over the country who make this an annual event. This is the first of two reports from the Museum of Appalachia. Even if you can't make it to the Homecoming, you should make sure that this important museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, a must see if you're interested in the lives and cultures of American society.