Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tennessee Fall Homecoming 2016 - Thursday & Friday

The Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee, held over a four day period in early October covers lots of bases. Thursday is set aside as Heritage Day for school age children to attend for the day, listening to music that might not be familiar to them, seeing how life was lived a century and more earlier, hearing historical interpreters explain what they're seeing, and sampling food, some from an earlier era, but most as tasty and bad for you as today. The parking lot was filled with buses and cars as we arrived. Here's a (mostly) visual sampling of Thursday as the kids swarm the grounds of this fine museum. 

Kids at Food Concessions

The Teno Family at Stage 2

Looking Toward the Main Stage from Stage 2

The campus of the Museum of Appalachia is spacious and spread out. Buildings brought from farms and hollers throughout the region form a ring around it, each one filled with interesting artifacts, often with an interpreter inside weaving, playing a mountain dulcimer, or engaged in some other mountain art.

Making Soap

The Blacksmith Shop in Front of Stage 2

Sparky & Rhonda Rucker

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker sing freedom songs, some dating from the early 19th century, while others are more contemporary, coming from the fifties and sixties. Most of their music recalls the continuing struggle for racial justice presented in a direct, informative fashion.

Sparky Rucker

Rhonda Ruckers

David West (Chicken Man) & Ciderville Folk

Tom Brantley & Missionary Ridge

Tom Brantley

Bobby Clarke


Unlike more conventional music festivals, The Tennessee Fall Homecoming takes place on a spacious outdoor museum grounds during the daylight hours. Music begins at 8:45 each morning and continues on four stages until 6:00 PM each day. There are four sound stages located around the grounds, with increasingly successful efforts being made to keep sound from one stage from interfering with that from another. Most bands appear on at least three of the four stages with time allotments from fifteen minutes to an hour for major bands on the main stage. During the three days, seventy different musical groups play, rotating through the four stages. The biggest bands perform a four segment (each segment is fifteen minutes) set on the main stage, others, even quite well known national bands, trek to the three other stages. Fans can follow them there to get a more intimate view, or settle in at a particular venue while bands rotate through.

In the Green Room
Lillies of the West

The origin of the term "Green Room" is lost in theater history, but may date back to the days of Shakespeare. The Green Room is traditionally the place where performers wait their turn to go on stage, relax, and spend time together. The Green Room at Appalachian Fall Homecoming is a huge space behind the stage, well enough separated so that no noise reaches performer's ears. It's one of the liveliest places at the event, where performers warm up, visit, jam, and hang out. I'll be posting pictures from the Green Room throughout the next two posts.

David Holt & Josh Goforth

David Holt is well-known nationally as an interpreter and performer of traditional music on traditional instruments. Along with Josh Goforth. a very accomplished traditional musician in his own right, he travels the world and performs on public television, presenting and interpreting music that echoes as far back as the stone age and recreates home-made music from the Appalachian region where professionally made instruments were unknown. It's always a treat to see and learn from this duo. 

David Holt

Josh Goforth

Blue Moon Rising on the Dance Stage (Stage 4)

Blue Moon Rising is seen too little these days, but has always been a solid band led by Chris West, who's both a fine singer and song writer. Most members of this band also continue to play with other touring groups. 

Brandon Bostic & Chris West

Keith Garrett & Randall Massengill

Kenny & Amanda Smith in The Wilson Barn 

The Wilson Barn is a marvelously intimate stage, once a horse barn, where fans can have an up close and personal experience with bands. Here, award winning duo Kenny & Amanda Smith perform without their whole band and with minimal amplification to a very satisfied, if small, group that can be accommodated by the venue. They also appeared on Stage 2 as well as the Main Stage.

Kenny & Amanda Smith

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Junior Sisk, from along the Crooked Road in Ferrum, VA, is one of the best known interpreters of classic bluegrass Ralph Stanley style as well as a presenter of more contemporary music written with an old sound and striking traditional revenge and she-done-him-wrong songs. 

Junior Sisk

The Church Sisters 

Savannah Church

Sarah Church

WDVX's Freddy Smith - Emcee

Leroy Troy

Leroy Troy, widely known and enjoyed as an interpreter of the music of Uncle Dave Macon as well as hillbilly style music with his band the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, usually performs as a single at Tennessee Fall Homecoming. 

Steve Gulley & New Pinacle

Steve Gulley, who has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from Lincoln Memorial University, has been performing here for many years with a variety of bands. Now touring with his own recently formed band New Pinacle, he's in good voice and presents a solid show of bluegrass tinged with the classic country sounds he loves so well.

Steve Gulley

Ralph Stanley II Recording a Radio Interview
In the Green Room

With the recent passing of the great Ralph Stanley, Ralph II has come into his own. At Tennessee Fall Homecoming he seemed more relaxed, personable, approachable, and musical than we have ever seen him before, singing some of the music his father sang for decades as well as new material he favors. Traditionalist Alex Leech lovingly provides the Stanley style vocals and banjo playing. 

Ralph Stanley II

Alex Leach

The Matt Leadbetter Band

Matt Leadbetter, best known around the Knoxville area, is emerging as one of the fine young Dobro players as he gains higher visibility with this very good group. 

Matt Leadbetter

The Lonesome River Band
Sammy Shelor 

The great Lonesome River Band closed out Friday with a full set late in the afternoon. Sammy Shelor has long been recognized as one of the top innovators on the banjo as well as the leader of the hard driving, both musically and on its wide-ranging tour, bluegrass band. While continuing to play songs that have become standards often player by other bands, LRB keeps itself up-to-date with Brandon Rickman's song writing and through its choices of other new works by today's song writers. LRB is truly a standard setting groupl 

Brandon Rickman

Jesse Smathers

Mike Hartgrove & Sammy Shelor