(All information subject to change.)
Bailee Brandon & Jerry Sutton
Bailee is a 14-year-old fiddle player who enjoys both playing and singing. She plays piano and is a part of a youth symphony group and a youth choir in Asheville. Bailee has played at the Lunsford Festival as well as Shindig on the Green and other events. She is happy to be playing with her granddad Jerry on guitar and uke. Jerry Sutton will also be leading a guitar workshop at this year’s festival.
Bailey Mountain Cloggers
The Bailey Mountain Cloggers were organized in 1974 by students at Mars Hill College (now university). Their name is derived from the mountain adjacent to the college campus. This college clog team carries influence from an older championship team in Mars Hill called Bailey Mountain “Square” Dance Team. During the 1980’s Bailey Mountain began competition clogging and expanded its clog repertoire to include more than precision clog routines. Today, the students who comprise the dance company come from various dance traditions. Each student clogger becomes a unique part of the Bailey Mountain tradition, blending the old with the new into a larger mosaic for the future. Bailey Mountain Cloggers serve as ambassadors of goodwill for the university and the folk dance traditions of the Southern Mountains. During their 45-year history, the Bailey Mountain Cloggers have won 27 National Titles and have performed throughout the United States and internationally.The Bailey Mountain Cloggers Folk Dance Company has established a national and international reputation for American clog dance excellence.
Laura Boosinger will be teaching a shaped note singing workshop at the Lunsford Festival this year, as well as performing with the Midnight Plowboys. Laura lives in Asheville, NC, but has the good fortune to work in Madison County, which is known for its ballad traditions and is home to a slew of traditional and bluegrass musicians. Laura Boosinger has been studying and performing traditional Southern Appalachian music since she was a student at Warren Wilson College in the 1970’s. It was at WWC where she began to learn clawhammer banjo, learned how to call southern mountain square dances, and attended Shaped Note Singing School with North Carolina Folk Heritage Award winner Quay Smathers. Laura performs solo, as one of David Holt’s Lightning Bolts, with her duet partner Josh Goforth, and with The Midnight Plowboys. Her latest recording, Most of All, with Josh Goforth, has received extensive airplay throughout the US and the UK. Laura is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.
Kathryn Parham Brickey
Kathryn Parham Brickey grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina (Leicester/Asheville area) learning fiddle tunes from the greats of the region including Roger Howell, Arvil Freeman, and Bobby Hicks. When college came around, she attended East Tennessee State University where she fiddled and sang in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Program. She participated with the program for four years, playing venues such as the Carter Family Fold, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, and the Down Home Johnson City (TN).
George Buckner and Chris Sharp
George Buckner plays the mountain music he grew up with in Western North Carolina, sharing his heritage through ballads, banjo tunes, and handed down family traditions. He is from a small town called Barnardsville in Buncombe County and now lives at Buckner Farm in the Jupiter community on the Buncombe and Madison county line. He frequently performs as a duo with his wife Brooke all over the region, including at Merlefest, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, and the Smokey Mountain Folk Festival. George will be joined by Chris Sharp. Chris has toured with John Hartford, played in the O Brother Where Art Thou project, and performed on the Grammy Nominated recording by the John Hartford String Band Memories of John.
Dee Dee Buckner
Dee Dee Buckner is an eighth-generation ballad singer from Madison County, who has carried on the tradition of her ballad-singing relatives, including her great-grandmother Dellie Norton. She is featured in the film The Madison County Project (2005) and will be sharing her ballad tradition at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
The Carolina Chickpeas are long-time friends Dona Cavanagh (fiddle), Hilary Dirlam (banjo), Maxine Herring (guitar) and Amanda Luther (bass). Hilary Dirlam was the winner of the Lunsford Award in 1996.
Debbie Chandler is an eighth-generation ballad singer from Madison County, who has carried on the tradition of her ballad-singing relatives. She is featured in the film The Madison County Project (2005) and will be sharing her ballad tradition at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
Lillian Chase is a 15-year old old-time and bluegrass fiddler and ballad singer with an album already under her
belt. The 6th generation native of Western North Carolina found the fiddle at the age of 6, and has a strong interest in the local and regional old-time music that goes with our mountain history. She also plays the stand-up bass and enjoys playing classical violin in one of the Asheville Symphony Youth orchestras. Lillian has been a booked artist at Merlefest, Song of the Mountains, and the Carl Sandburg Folk Music Festival and is included in the Traditional Artist Directory of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Lillian will be joined by her sister, Sara Nell Chase, who is also an accomplished young musician.
Cole Mountain Cloggers
The Mars Hill-based Cole Mountain Cloggers are a team of young dancers from Madison, Buncombe, Henderson, and Avery counties. Led by Jeff Atkins, an alum of MHU’s Bailey Mountain Cloggers and winner of the Lunsford Award in 2017, many of the Cole Mountain Cloggers have deep roots in this region’s traditional culture. In fact, the team’s motto is “Keeping a Mountain Tradition Thriving”!
Green Grass Cloggers
The Green Grass Cloggers are one of North Carolina’s best-known dance teams. Since they began in 1971, they have consistently won prestigious awards all over the state and in 2014 were inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.
Beth Gunn is a dance and recreation leader from Swannanoa, NC. She calls Big Circle Mountain dances throughout the year in Western North Carolina and beyond. Being a daughter in the Bannerman family, growing up in this area attending Shindig on the Green, and dancing in the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival yearly have shaped her love of the culture our area has to offer. Beth will be calling the community dance at the Lunsford Festival.
The Lonesome Mountain Ears
Gary Spence & friends. Gary arrived in Madison County a few decades ago, and soon began to study and play music with Obray Ramsey, whose recordings he later prepared for the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. He has been an adjunct music faculty member at Mars Hill University for 43 years and was awarded the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Award in 1996.
Roger Howell has had a life-long passion for mountain music. He grew up near Mars Hill, on Banjo Branch, surrounded by the music of older neighbors who played traditional banjo and fiddle tunes like generations before them. His first instrument was the guitar at age ten, with the banjo coming a bit later and eventually the fiddle in his mid-teens. Roger developed a keen interest in the regional mountain music of the Madison County area, picking up licks and developing his fluid fiddle style from mentors like Tommy Hunter and Woodrow Boone. He is known these days as a “Walking Encyclopedia” of fiddle tunes. In 2017, Roger finished recording over 600 tunes from memory – a “Memory Collection,” which is available online and is housed in the Ramsey Center’s Southern Appalachian Archives. In 2015, the North Carolina Folklore Society honored Roger with the prestigious Brown-Hudson folklore award for his work in preserving and celebrating regional music traditions. Roger will be leading a fiddle workshop at this year’s festival.
Jim Lloyd is an Appalachian barber, musician, presenter, music teacher, banjo historian, and radio host whose accomplishments go on and on in old-time, bluegrass, and storytelling. He is Program Director as well as an instructor for the Junior Appalachian Musicians program. His latest release, Play Guitar in Seven Days, captures the Doc Watson-like variety of music that he interprets through his mountain lens. Lloyd’s musical roots extend back through at least four generations of fiddlers, guitar players, dancers and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. He has performed as a member of the Willow Hollow String Band, the Konnarock Critters, the Elkville String Band, Jim Lloyd and the Skyliners, as a duo with Trevor McKenzie, and as a solo act. He has performed and taught internationally and throughout the Southeast.
Madison County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) Program
The Madison County Arts Council hosts a JAM program on Thursday afternoons. Classes are taught in fiddle, banjo, guitar, and clogging, and advanced students have the opportunity to play in a string band. Students perform at Art on the Island, the Bluff Mountain Festival, the Fiddlin’ 5K , the Fiddlers of Madison County, and the Lunsford Festival. No student is ever turned away for lack of funds. The Madison County Arts Council provides instruments and clogging shoes to students that need them. The program is supported in part by the North Carolina Arts Council and The Franklin Project. The Soiree at Kalamazoo raises funds to keep the program affordable for all students.
Robert Lynn “Bobby” McMillon is an American treasure. A recipient of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award and the Lunsford Award, McMillon has performed ballads, songs, and stories at festivals and events across the country, including the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, the A.P. Carter Memorial Festival, and the Festival for the Eno. From the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area: McMillon “was heir to numerous strands of Appalachian culture. From his father’s family in Coke County, TN, he learned Primitive Baptist hymns and traditional stories and ballads. From his mother’s people in Yancey and Mitchell counties (NC), he heard booger tales, haint tells, and legends.” For ten years he served in the Artist in the Schools and Visiting Artist programs and is featured in Tom Davenport’s film The Ballad of Frankie Silver. McMillon will be sharing ballads at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
The Midnight Plowboys
The Midnight Plowboys are a traditional roots music string band comprised of talented, fun-loving musicians and stage entertainers. The Asheville-based band is well-known for its diverse musical style, which includes elements of southern fiddle music, bluegrass, Americana, old-time, folk and classic early country songs. Solo and harmony vocals are featured with acoustic instrumental support from fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass.
Donna Ray Norton
It’s hard to imagine a deeper musical heritage than Donna Ray Norton’s. Hailing from Revere (also known as Sodom Laurel) in Madison County, she is an eight-generation ballad singer, the granddaughter of fiddler Byard Ray and Morris Norton, daughter of singer Lena Jean Ray, and cousin to Sheila Kay Adams and many other prominent Madison County musicians. Norton is a highly regarded member of the younger generation of Madison County ballad singers and storytellers. She was featured in the documentary Madison County Project and was recently featured on the Grammy-nominated album Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition. Norton has performed at several regional festivals and venues, the Berkeley (California) Old Time Music Convention, the North Carolina Museum of History, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. She received the Lunsford Award in 2005 and received the Key to the City of Hickory for her contributions to musical heritage. Norton will be sharing ballads at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
Denise Norton O’Sullivan
When Denise Norton spent a year living with her great-grandmother Dellie Norton, she saw in part what life had been like for her ballad-singing forbears, and why music played such a powerful and enduring role in their relatives’ lives. “Granny Dell” lived in a house with no running water and no television. “It was just like stepping in a time capsule,” Denise says, in the documentary Madison County Project. “People didn’t have all the TV and video games and stuff to baby-sit their kids. They had to entertain them other ways.” Though Denise grew up in a very different age, her family still made sure that she heard the old love songs as she grew up. She learned ballads from Dellie Norton and great-aunt Inez Chandler, and learned “knee-to-knee” from cousin Doug Wallin. She has performed at many North Carolina festivals and music events. Her CD Little Margaret was released in 2004, and a second CD, Black Is the Color, was released more recently and is dedicated to her grandparents. Denise received the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Youth Award in 2005. Denise will be sharing ballads at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
Don Pedi is a traditional mountain musician. He shares songs, tunes and stories in a warm, often humorous, and always entertaining manner. Don is known for developing a playing style for the fretted mountain dulcimer that can match a fiddle, note for note, while maintaining the rhythms and characteristics of traditional music. He won first place in the first contest he ever entered at Fiddler’s Grove in Union Grove, North Carolina, in 1974. Before retiring from competition in 1984, Don had amassed around 40 first place ribbons. Over the decades, he’s been recognized and honored for collecting, preserving and performing traditional Appalachian music. In addition to performing solo, beginning in 1982, Don has played with and absorbed tunes from his friend and music partner Bruce Greene. Since 1985 Don has championed folk music as an on air host at NPR affiliate WCQS 88.1. His weekly show, Close to Home, airs on Saturdays (8:00-10:00pm EST) and simultaneously streams on the web. Don has appeared in the motion pictures The Song Catcher and The Journey of August King, as well as a number of documentaries and music specials. Don will be teaching a dulcimer workshop at this year’s Lunsford Festival.
Joe Penland was born and raised in rural Madison County. He is the proud steward of twelve generations and over 250 years of the rich oral tradition of his Scots and English ancestors. From birth, he has listened to and learned the stories and love songs these travelers brought with them across the ocean and then southwest to the narrow coves and high meadows of Southern Appalachia that many consider the richest repository of British folk songs in the world. In 2005, Penland received the Lunsford Award for his contributions to traditional music and song. For many years, Joe has been instrumental in bringing together the Lunsford Festival’s Ballad Swap. He will be hosting the swap this year and sharing ballads there.
Analo Phillips’ family has lived in Madison County for several generations. Phillips can be found singing the old ballads at the Lunsford Festival and many other regional festivals. He will be sharing ballads at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
Lena Jean Ray and Tom Gardin
Husband and wife duo Lena Jean Ray and Tom Gardin are both seasoned musicians, steeped in the traditions of the Appalachian Mountains. Lena Jean Ray grew up surrounded by some of the most acclaimed musicians of the North Carolina mountains – including her father, fiddler Byard Ray, her great-aunt Dellie Norton, and her father’s partner and friend Obray Ramsey. She loved and learned the music of her family and community, and in doing so, carried her family’s musical traditions into a seventh generation. She has recorded albums of ballads, performed at several prominent festivals, and received the Lunsford Award in 1999. Ray’s daughter and student, Donna Ray Norton, has now joined her as a prominent member of Madison County’s traditional ballad singers, advancing their family’s musical heritage into its eighth generation.
Tom Gardin grew up in a musical family in Asheville, where he learned to play guitar and sing from his family, including his mother and his uncle, A.J. Cairnes. His first performance was as a boy at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville in 1956. Formerly a railroad engineer, Gardin performs locally and at large festivals, including the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs, NC, and the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival in Lake Junaluska, NC.
Rhiannon & The Relics
Rhiannon & The Relics are Rhiannon Ramsey (fiddle), Craig Bannerman (bass, vocals), Troy Harrison (banjo, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Scott Owenby (guitar, mandolin, vocals), and Brandon Johnson (mandolin, guitar, fiddle, vocals). Rhiannon Ramsey began performing with her band when she was 9. She plays a fiddle style from the mountains of western North Carolina and was mentored by legendary Madison County fiddler Arvil Freeman. Rhiannon & the Relics will be playing lively tunes for the Lunsford Festival’s community dance.
Carol Rifkin’s soaring voice shines, uniquely recognizable on stage, recordings or radio. Her performance invites you to the front porch and features regional songs, lively tunes and stories of their history. This award-winning singer, dancer, and multi-instrumentalist co-hosts WNCW’s mountain music show “This Old Porch” and more than 1,000 of her stories about Appalachian culture are published. An early member of the Green Grass Cloggers, Carol later worked with Tommy Jarrell, Doc Watson, David Holt, Dick Tarrier and more, and appeared in the movie Songcatcher and with Jarrell in Down Home, Appalachia to Nashville. Her work earned her Asheville’s 2013 Lunsford Award and Mars Hill University’s 2016 Lunsford Award . Besides performing at festivals and traditional events, Carol directs the French Broad Valley Music Association, hosts a weekly music session and loves to share her songs, music and dance.
The RiverBenders, Warren Wilson College‘s old-time string band ensemble led by Phil Jamison, will be providing tunes for the clogging groups throughout the day. Jamison, a nationally-known dance caller, old-time musician, and flatfoot dancer, has called dances, performed and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the United States and overseas since the early 1970s, including more than 35 years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. Phil has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in Southern Appalachia. The RiverBenders feature Willow Dillon (fiddle), Rachel Dunaway (banjo), Trinity Esola (guitar), Phil Jamison (guitar), and Maggie Hollar (bass).
Betty Smith was born in 1926 in Rowan County, and grew up in Guilford County. Her father was a ballad and shape-note singer. She is a highly respected ballad singer and collector, and has performed widely at festivals for the last several decades. In addition, she is an award-winning author. She wrote and performed in the one-act, one-woman production of A Mountain Riddle, based on the life of singer Jane Hicks Gentry, who shared many songs with Cecil Sharp in 1916. She is also the author of A Singer Among Singers: Jane Hicks Gentry (1998). She won the Lunsford Award in 1982 and will be sharing ballads at this year’s Lunsford Festival Ballad Swap.
Southern Heritage is a group of local musicians who meet weekly to fellowship and play old time music at the cabin of local Master Fiddler Doug Phillips. The core of the group, Doug Phillips, David Robinson, Chris Carter, and Dana Carter, are often joined by other local musicians who want to join in. The group has been meeting at the cabin for over 15 years now and all who attend are sure to have a great time and enjoy the experience of keeping the old time traditions of Appalachia alive and well in the Madison County community.
John Roten will be joining the Lunsford Festival again this year as MC. John wears many hats with I Heart Media but most often can be seen around the region in one of his trademark cowboy hats. John is host of the very popular Kiss Country Classics program, heard Sunday mornings from 8 until Noon on 99.9 Kiss Country in Asheville, NC, and the host of Saturday morning’s WESC Country Classics from 6am until 10am on 92.5 WESC in Greenville, SC. John is also the producer and traffic reporter of First News On 570 WWNC with Mark Starling. John grew up in Western North Carolina. He knows the region and the people that live in these wonderful mountains. John and his wife, Delilah, make their home in Haywood County, as he likes to say: “out in the country with nothing but corn fields and cattle farms.”
Jerry Sutton will be performing with his granddaughter Bailee Brandon, and will also be teaching a guitar workshop at this year’s Lunsford Festival. Widely respected as a musician, Jerry Sutton is in the middle generation of a multigenerational family of musicians. He is the son of the late fiddler Grover Sutton, and the father of Leesa Sutton Brandon and Grammy Award-winning guitarist Bryan Sutton. Among the many awards he has won are first place in guitar at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair and second place in guitar at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Learn more about Jerry.
White Rock Revival
White Rock Revival are an Appalachian based bluegrass band, deeply rooted in Madison County. Band members are Jackson Adams, Sammy Adams, McClellan Patterson, and Jamie Roberts. Their goal as a group is to cater to those who are looking for window into traditional music. They perform a variety of traditional music, ranging from bluegrass, Gospel, and country music with a bluegrass twist.