Traditional Music Lives On - In The High Country

Traditional Music Lives On - In The High Country

It was just history and a bit of coincidence that brought the two musical instruments together. The banjo made its way to the south on the slave ships during the colonial days of the country. At the same time fiddlers from the British Isles were bringing their fiddles and bows across the Atlantic with jigs and reels aplenty. When these two instruments met in the churchyards and plantations of the south, the path of musical history was forever changed.


No one knows when the first European fiddler and African banjo player first traded licks. It is safe to say, however, that this cultural meeting has led to the development of blues, jazz, bluegrass, gospel and swing. Now, hundreds of years after the first inter-cultural jam session, the musical landscape is dotted with musicians and bands that are the direct spiritual descendents of those two musicians.

Music in the High country is dominated by the acoustic sort. Whether it's a front porch sing-along, a rousing gospel hymn or bagpipes at the Highland Games, we like our music unplugged.

One of the best places to catch some local acoustic talent is on the lawn of the Jones House in downtown Boone. On Friday afternoons the Jones House will feature local bands of all types all summer long. Blowing Rock also hosts outdoor musical events through its Sunday Concerts in the Park series. And look for the Summer Sunday Sunset Concerts Series to start in July at Fred's Gazebo on Beech Mountain.

The High Country also has its fair share of music festivals. Although the world famous Merle Watson Festival in Wilkesboro and the Black Mountain Music Festival occurred earlier in the spring, there are still some great festivals to attend this summer. The Lenoir Bluegrass Festival in Lenoir, North Carolina is held each July with over two dozen acts performing. And Boone's Firefly Festival, held in June, features just about every local musician who is up to snuff as well as storytellers, yarn spinners and just plain old everyday liars.

imageIf you are musically inclined, there is a wealth of opportunity for you to show your stuff while you are visiting the High Country. And we're not just talking about karaoke. Dick Wilson regularly schedules impromptu jam sessions at his Friends Music Shop on Hwy 105. Several of the area clubs hold open mike nights that bring out the best in local and visiting talent. And Caribbean Café hosts Songwriters' Night every Sunday where the best songsmiths of the area get together and support each other's work.

If you really want to hear some astounding traditional music of the High Country, take the time to invite yourself to one of the area churches some Sunday morning. The churches of the area all welcome visiting guests to their congregations and some of them feature the most amazing gospel choirs you will ever hear.

Other fine places to find good music of the traditional sort are Woodlands Barbecue and Pickin' Parlor in Blowing Rock, Jim and Jennie's Music Camp in Crossnore, Green Acres Music Hall near Marion, the Saturday night jam at the Old Fort firehouse in McDowell County, and the Mountain Music Jamboree in Laurel Springs every Saturday night.

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