The Bluegrass Standard - October 2022

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Our Staff

Keith Barnacastle • Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!

Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor

Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

Susan Woelker • Marketing

Susan traveled with a mixed ensemble at Trevecca Nazarene college as PR for the college. From there she moved on to working at Sony Music Nashville for 17 years in several compacities then transitioning on to the Nashville Songwritrers Association International (NSAI) where she was Sponsorship Director. The next step of her musical journey was to open her own business where she secured sponsorships for various events or companies in which the IBMA /World of Bluegrass was one of her clients.


Shelby C. Berry • Journalist

Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.

Susan Marquez • Journalist

Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Stephen Pitalo • Journalist

Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era.

Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.

Candace Nelson • Journalist

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” In her free time, Nelson travels and blogs about Appalachian food culture at Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email



Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars

Located 100 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas, in the depths of the Ozarks, is Mountain View, the “Folk Music Capital of the World,” where you feel the music and tradition of folk and bluegrass music reverberating from every street corner on any given day of the week.

It’s no surprise many young people growing up there are drawn to the music, like Kailee Spickes, an old-time string band fiddler, who began playing music from a young age because “that’s just what people do in Mountain View.”

“One thing about Mountain View is that you have an instrument in your hand by the time you’re walking,” Kailee said. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play like that anywhere else. It’s nothing to walk into town and see 20 musicians jamming for fun.”

The 21-year-old musician doesn’t come from a musical family. Still, her first test of playing stringed instruments came in the fourth grade with the well-respected Music Roots Program that aims to encourage students to play traditional folk instruments and embrace the music and culture that makes the Ozarks so special. Students meet once a week to play their chosen stringed instrument, and by the time they graduate, many perform in bands,

which is what happened with Kailee Spickes.

“Over the years, I have been named Female Performer of the Year, Musician of the Year, and one of the members of the Band of the Year at the Ozark Folk Center. None of that would be possible without the music roots program starting me in that direction,” said Kailee, who was named Female Performer of the Year at the Ozark Folk Center in 2019—the same year the band won Group of the Year.

While she specializes in the fiddle that she first began playing as part of this program, Kailee also plays mandolin, banjo, bass, guitar, and piano—and she even clogs. Thriving in versatility, Kailee performs as a solo act in addition to playing with three different bands—Five South, Taller than You, and Blackberry Summer.

Her family band, Five South, focuses on more upbeat dance music, and Blackberry Summer focuses more on harmonies. Taller than You, an old-time bluegrass string band, is arguably her most successful, consisting of very tall, skilled musicians proudly pushing the boundaries to keep alive old-time music that is clean and fun.

“We hope people can see through our music that the old paths are sometimes the best,” said Kailee,


adding that they want to keep their style of music alive and draw all ages. “Each of my bands has a different dynamic and strength,” Kailee said. “I can listen to a song and decide what band it fits better. I have played both bass and guitar but mostly the fiddle, and I love singing harmony.”

Shining most in the spotlight when she is playing dancing fiddle tunes, Kailee loves playing bluegrass music—with a touch of old-time music layered in— because that’s where she started.

“I like to pop back and forth between bluegrass and old-time tunes and styles of playing, and true musicians of each can tell I play both,” said Kailee.

As a Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars member, Kailee has had the opportunity to meet and play with other young artists over the years.

“Programs like Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars show that there are still younger ones playing bluegrass, and that’s super encouraging,” said Kailee.

But Kailee’s involvement in young musicians doesn’t stop there. She teaches old-time music to new fiddle and mandolin players and is currently teaching 17 students, mostly fiddle and some mandolin. Kailee enjoys seeing young artists first pick up their instruments. Some older students watched her play when she was young and decided they, too, wanted to play an instrument.

“I enjoy getting to pass down the history and heritage of bluegrass and old-time music,” said Kailee. “Once the students understand what they are playing and begin to enjoy it, it’s fun to watch it click. I used to attend workshops while learning to play, and it’s fun to pass that on. It’s like coming full circle.”

Looking forward to playing the Ozark Music Festival and Mountain View Bluegrass Festival with her bands, Kailee is excited about her future in music and where the tradition of Mountain View’s folk music heritage will take her.

“What I want for my life is what the Lord wants for me, so I don’t know where that will lead,” Kailee said. “I am on the Mountain View Bluegrass Association Board right now. So, I’m excited to see where that will lead and what might happen.”




Growing up in Georgia, Drew Young never traveled or went on family vacations. But his grandfather, an international executive for General Electric, traveled the world many months out of the year. From all the exotic, exciting places he visited, he selected the perfect postcard to mail overseas to his grandson in the States.

“He had a map at his house and pins in all the places he had been,” said Drew. “He would come back and show a slide show of pictures of those places.”

Drew decided to be like his grandfather and vowed to travel the world. And he set off for Europe for the first time at age 17, the year he started the University of Georgia in Athens.

“Every time I got an extra couple of hundred bucks in my pocket, I’d get on one of the bucket airlines and just go,” he said. “It’s so weird, but looking back, I can’t believe I did it so young before cell phones. I wouldn’t even know where I was going to be staying. I just had this wanderlust kind of thing. And then I started meeting people.”


During his college years at the University of Georgia, the Athens music scene was enjoying its heyday. “Everything was music, music, music,” said Drew. Still, Athens was a sleepy college town before the Internet and cable TV, so “if you wanted to hang out and meet girls or whatever, you had to go out. So many places had live original music, and everyone was trying to make their mark and make their songs. It was a supremely exciting time to be there.”

Drew and his college roommate, Blair Lott, started a band, Ruben Kincaid, that quickly became popular. They borrowed $5,000 from Blair’s dad and made a record. “This was before everyone had home recording systems. It was insanely expensive to go into recording studios.” They

chose John Keane’s studio in Athens. “Everyone who came through Athens and Atlanta, Georgia, recorded with John (of Widespread Panic and the Cowboy Junkies), and we did this cool album and put it out on cassette. It started selling, and we started getting better and better gigs.” They performed in Canada and on the east coast, “and LA, where we did some recording. It was a fun time, but we never hopped over to that next level.”

In his mid to late 20s, when others were buying houses and building families, Drew knew something needed to change. The band disbanded, and Drew, now approaching his 30s, swore not to do music again even though that’s all he’d ever known.

“I went back to college to get my master’s at Loyola

University in New Orleans, and that’s how I ended up there.” In his first semester, he noticed a sign on a telephone pole: Want to work in the music business? It was a legitimate job with a new television show, The Big Easy, filming in New Orleans. “I ended up being the music consultant for this TV show. That was my first introduction to the professional music industry outside of performance.” The Big Easy was canceled after two seasons but Drew said it was his turning point in making a living in the music world. “That’s how the whole thing started. That launched me into everything I’ve done since then.”

In 2011, Drew became an artist in residence at the University of Southern Mississippi and started taking University students to England for a summer global music industry


study abroad program.

“I ended up speaking at a music conference in Sweden in 2012,” he explained. “It was my first time to have been to Sweden.” Drew thought it a magical place of incredible resources and people committed to social justice and humanity. “It just blew me away. I had no idea that a place like that could even exist.” Drew was fascinated with their philosophy around arts and culture being a commodity and economic engine, “whereas America treats arts and culture as a luxury. If you think about it, the entertainment industry is bigger than the oil industry, but we don’t treat it that way. We treat it like it’s frivolous, and we treat it as unnecessary.”

But during the pandemic, that’s what people turned to. “One of the great embarrassments of the technology revolution is that we’ve never been more isolated,” said Drew. “We are trying to supplant


digital activity with real-world, personal connectivity.” In doing so, he said we lost our tactile nature as humans because digital activity cannot serve our need for personal contact. “It just doesn’t fill that same emotional, spiritual bond of being face to face with each other and learning about each other’s culture, home, and community. We have to celebrate that and be mindful of that, and if we are going to grow, we have to do that.”

And that is Drew’s mission—connecting people worldwide through music by connecting with organizations like The Mississippi Songwriters Festival. Drew was impressed with them as people and what they had built through the festival.

“I knew our Swedes would love being involved in something like that. So, I approached George (Cumbest), Scott (Stradtner), Darwin (Nelson) and said I’ve got a crazy idea.” The idea was to take Mississippi songwriters to Sweden and bring Swedish songwriters to perform at the 2022 Mississippi Songwriters Festival. Drew asked, “If I can pull it together, are you guys in? And they said it sounds great. It was that whole Mississippi-can-do attitude. I love that attitude. I pitched the idea, and we wrote some grants, and we were able to get a little bit of funding.”

Mississippians Sean Gasaway, Amy Lott, Darwin Nelson, and Darwin’s wife Dana traveled to Sweden to write songs and perform with Swedish, Australian, and German songwriters. In turn, three Swedish songwriters, Steve Ericksson, Moa Erlandsson, Izak Danielsson Kihlstrom, and the Mississippians, traveled to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and performed in the Mississippi Songwriters Festival, September 15-18.

The goal was cross-cultural exchange and music, the purest form of expression, that “bring us closer together as a society,” Drew affirmed. Music is the pathway, but the underlying reason is knowledge and cultural exchange. Plus, service is a life goal, “so I can do my tiny little piece of helping the world understand each other better.” He added that travel is the enemy of Xenophobia, and problems arise because we don’t know each other; we know what the media wants us to see. “When you go to another country, you realize everyone has families and friends, hopes and dreams, disappointments and excitements. We’re all really 99.9 percent the same.”

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The Vanguards

The Vanguards, a five-piece traditional bluegrass band, based in London, is an active and growing member of the British bluegrass community. Named after Vanguard Way, a longdistance trail from East Croydon to outer London, The Vanguards seek to create a sound blending the mandolin style of Bill Monroe, the banjo style of Ralph Stanley, and the oldtime fiddle style of early bluegrass recordings.

This sound, the basis of who The Vanguards are as a band, continues to influence the recordings of countless other traditional bluegrass bands today as well.

Starting their journey as a band in 2014, banjoist Chris Lord, mandolinist Jack Baker, and fiddler Laura Nailer found themselves in the same jam session for British bluegrass artists. Eventually, the Vanguards rounded out their sound with guitarist Alex Clarke and bassist Pete Thomas and officially came together as we know it in 2016 as they began writing their music for the first time.



Shelby C. Berry

Their influences range from the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and Irish pub music to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

“In my early teens, I discovered that Elvis and Johnny Cash were both big Bill Monroe fans, so I started listening to his music because some of my favorite artists also listened to him,” said mandolinist Jack Baker. “I later found out that my grandfather was a huge Hank Williams fan and that he used to get bootlegged Hank Williams tapes from someone he worked with. This led me in the direction of classic country and bluegrass music.”

These influences based heavily on traditional bluegrass music, combined with the vast bluegrass scene in London, led The Vanguards to their sound today.

While many modern bluegrass bands in the United Kingdom and worldwide have found their sound focusing less on banjo and the styles of bluegrass originators, The Vanguards found themselves going down a different path—the path of tradition.

“In the United Kingdom bluegrass scene, certain sounds and styles of bluegrass become popular in the under-30 crowd,” Baker said. “The traditional stuff isn’t as popular as some of us would like for it to be. No one under the age of 50 or 60 plays Bill Monroe or the styles that fans of Bill Monroe would recognize. We’ve got one and a half feet in the very traditional bluegrass music.”

“Other modern bands focus on very stylistic things, but we have a stylistic sensibility from the 1940s-1960s because that’s what we like to play,” Baker continued. “My mandolin touchstone is Bill Monroe, and when I play, I’m trying to make people feel the same things I feel when I listen to Bill Monroe.”

After years of honing their craft and perfecting their sound, The Vanguards released their first full-length album, South of the River, in August.

The BBMA is unlike The Country Music Association or the International Bluegrass Music


Association. With less than 70 members, it is a small community of musicians and British bluegrass promotors that care about the growth of the bluegrass community in the United Kingdom. Because The Vanguards banjoist Chris Lord is the editor for the BBMA’s magazine, British Bluegrass News, and a member of the BBMA Board, he was aware of the program they offer and applied for financial assistance with the band’s newest album.

Financed through The British Bluegrass Music Association’s program for assistance with album production, The Vanguards were finally able to release an entire album of original music. To qualify for this program, bands must be members of the BBMA and acknowledge the BBMA’s financial help with the album. The financial assistance consists of a grant plus a loan to be repaid down the road from sales revenue.

“We recorded an EP in 2016, but we were always planning to release an album at some point,” said fiddler Laura Nailor. “In 2017, we did a weekend retreat for writing after deciding to make the album all original music. Then the pandemic hit, and we had a couple of years to work on more original music.”

They started recording the album as soon as they legally could with the pandemic and shutdowns.

“I really enjoy doing our original music that we created with this album,” Baker said. “We have a full set of original bluegrass music that we have created from our own life experience, and I feel like it stacks up and could have been written by someone who plays original bluegrass.”

“I find it very rewarding that we made an album that was fully ours,” Lord added.

Recent opportunities for The Vanguards include Fire in the Mountain Festival, a “hippie festival” in the middle of rural Wales, and Desert Fest, the United Kingdom’s premiere underground heavy metal festival. As they move toward the future, The Vanguards are preparing for next year’s festival season, focusing on more folk and Americana music festivals.

“I’d also love to play music in the United States as a bluegrass band,” said Baker. And he added that a gig or a jam at The Station Inn in Nashville would be a nice verification they are doing okay. “We’ve done a handful of festivals and venue gigs that make me think we might actually be alright at this.”

It looks like bluegrass in the United Kingdom is in the right hands.

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The Truffle Valley Boys

Step into your time machine and adjust the dial to the 1950s, into a simpler time when bluegrass was hardedged and raw, and a band’s attire let an audience know they were there to do business. On center stage is a single microphone, and the choreography of musicians in and out of the mic’s range creates a unique sound. Wait—there’s a malfunction in the time machine. You are actually in 2022, and the band you hear is a modern-day version of a 1950s bluegrass band of Italian musicians known as The Truffle Valley Boys.

Since the band’s inception, attention to detail has been a key element. “We love that hard-edged kind of bluegrass that developed in the early-to-mid 1950s,” says Matt Ringressi, the band’s leader. “We are highly influenced by bands like the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, Buzz Busby & the Bayou Boys, and many other lesser-known groups, perhaps even more so than some of the big name acts of the era.”

The band’s full-immersive experience is a real throwback to witnessing a bluegrass band in the 1950s. “From the actual music language, song choice, and use of period instruments, all the way to the use of vintage outfits, and the overall presentation of the show that has become our trademark,” he adds.

You may be scratching your head, wondering how a bluegrass band sprang up in, of all places, Italy –certainly not a hotbed of bluegrass activity. “I’d be hard pressed to say bluegrass has any real popularity in Italy,” laughs Matt. “While it has seen a small resurgence lately, with a number of younger musicians getting into different early country music styles such as bluegrass and old-time, it still remains a very limited niche.” Because of that, Matt says the band rarely performs in Italy anymore. “Live clubs that regularly feature bluegrass music are few and far between, and the same goes for festivals. I feel it’s really hard to create a following for music if people aren’t exposed to it.” Luckily, the situation is much better in other European countries, where the band concentrates most of their musical activity.

Matt says he vividly recalls watching television as a child. “There was a Muppet Show episode where Kermit

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the Frog played banjo. I have no idea why, but something within me clicked. I wanted to learn how to do that. I came from a non-musical family, but my grandfather built me a toy banjo using a ukulele neck and a biscuit box. It didn’t play, but it made me the happiest kid around.” Still unaware of bluegrass, Matt recalls seeing a CD with a cowboy hat on the cover at a newspaper stand in Southern Italy. “I bought it on a hunch, and it was a sampler by Bill Monroe. I have been hooked ever since.”

Matt took guitar lessons, and with the spread of the internet, he learned more about music. “I began finding more and more records, learning about artists, and teaching myself how to play banjo and mandolin.” Through social media networks, Matt got in touch with a few bluegrass lovers and musicians in northern Italy and attended jam sessions in Milano. It wasn’t long until he met guitarist and singer Ruben Minuto. “We instantly clicked and bonded over our shared love of bluegrass, and harmony singing in particular.” The two began working together, first as part of other bands, then as a duo. “In 2012, I received a message from a banjo player in Carpinone, a tiny village nestled in the mountains of Molise. Germano Ciavone came across videos of me and Ruben on YouTube. He was surprised to find out there were other musicians in Italy who are into this style.”

After months of chatting, Germano came to visit Matt, and after a night of good food, drinks, and jamming on obscure bluegrass songs, they knew they had a musical and personal connection. The following year, Germano invited Matt and Reuben to perform in his region, where they met Germano’s bandmates, Denny Rocchio and Emanuele Balente. They were also into the same type of early bluegrass. “We knew right then and there we had a band in the making,” says Matt.

A fundamental aspect of the Truffle Valley Boys is they try to steep themselves in the musical aesthetic of 1950s bluegrass without copying a specific artist or recording. “We love to quote certain iconic licks or solos, but generally, we try to imagine how bluegrass musicians of the era would have approached a certain song. We often mix and match ideas from different artists. It keeps the process fresh, spontaneous, and more personal.” The band also loves to play songs that don’t necessarily belong to the “bluegrass cannon,” perhaps some old Gospel or honkytonk number, and arrange it to fit their style. “We always remain mindful of how bluegrass musicians in the era would have tackled them. It’s our way of paying homage to the legends whose music we so admire.”

Their new release, Looking for an Old-Fashioned Church, is a tribute to the Truffle Valley Boys’ love of


Gospel music. “We especially love the repertoire and the passionate, powerful singing of people like Brother Claude Ely and John and Frances Reedy,” says Matt. “When we decided to record an all-Gospel project, I dug deep in my record collection. Our main criteria for picking songs was that they had to feel ‘real’ and have an ‘urgency’ about them.” The album contains twelve tracks, including two original songs contributed by Matt, “Airwaves of Zion” and “Sinner’s Prayer.”


Described by the Wall Street Journal as possessing “freshness and finesse bordering on magical,” genre-mixing folk outfit We Banjo 3 – based in Galway, Ireland – is celebrating its 10th anniversary of bringing “Celtgrass” to worldwide audiences.

Over the past decade, the energetic quartet that transcends genre by blending Irish and Americana influences has claimed the #1 slot twice on the Billboard bluegrass chart with their last two albums. They’re striving for yet another lasting success and an even richer sound with the recent July release of Open the Road.

“Open The Road is an album of opportunity,” explained Enda Scahill, We Banjo 3 tenor banjo player and vocalist. “We had planned on it, practiced for it, but had no real idea when we could get the time to record it. The pandemic had us at times scattered to different corners of the world, and as things began to open up, we were looking at potentially very busy times touring, trying to make up so much lost time. As luck had

it, a canceled tour in January afforded us the space to record the album.”

“This record is definitely an evolution of the We Banjo 3 sound,” Scahill explained.

It was produced in full by lead vocalist and guitarist David Howley, who Scahill said: “had a singular vision for the soundscape of the album.”

“It’s far more multi-layered than previous albums,” Scahill continued, “with many guest musicians on each track, lots of drums, horns, and keys. So in many ways, it’s a much bigger, fuller sound than our previous albums.”

We Banjo 3 has always emitted unrelenting positive energy, and there’s no reason that won’t continue into the next decade. Scahill told a story that partly explains this inspiring characteristic of the group.

“Many years ago, we met an Irish fiddler at a festival in France, and he imparted some tour

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wisdom that we really took to heart,” he said. “One of the things he said was that we should always remember that every night, somewhere in the audience, is an old lady or old man who has saved up for a long time and traveled a long way to be at our show, and we should always play to that person.”

Scahill explained that keeping that anecdote in mind – and always aiming to satisfy that hypothetical fan – has kept the band “right-sized.” He said on the “harder nights,” the bandmates will often ask each other: “Did you find the old lady yet?”

“That brings back up our energy and focus,” he added. When Scahill reflects upon the band’s success, the sense of appreciation and gratitude is clear.

“We consider ourselves immensely fortunate to have got to this stage in our career, to still be friends and brothers, and to have had the incredible opportunity to play music right across the world for amazing audiences,” Scahill said, referencing the fact that the quartet is composed of two sets of musical siblings – brothers Enda and Fergal Scahill, and brothers Martin and David Howley.

“We have met and performed with many of our musical heroes, and we’re always so impressed to find out that they are simply good, kind people as well as stunning musicians,” Scahill said.

As for the future, despite having graced the stages of world premier venues, at least one remains on the “to-do” list.

“There are many beautiful venues we would dream to play,” he confessed, “and possibly Red Rocks features at the top of that list. Who knows what the future brings!”

In the near future – and no doubt in support of the new album with a retro, nostalgic cover – the band will take to the open road and bring fresh work to audiences in the states. They’ll pack new sonic stuff for the trip, bringing along the 10-tracks of new Open the Road songs. They’ll headline a series of late summer/early fall Irish festivals in the U.S., which Scahill describes as a “crazy, adrenaline-fueled joy-fest.”

They’re slated for – among other things – Irish Fest in Dublin, Ohio; Milwaukee Irish Fest; The Irish Fair of Minnesota; the LaCrosse Irish Fest; and Kansas City Irish Fest.

“We always have an incredible time at these festivals,” Scahill said.


The Foreign


Foreign Landers

It was a match made in IBMA heaven. Bluegrass sparks flew when David Bene dict of South Carolina met Tabitha Agnew from Northern Ireland in Raleigh in 2017. “Ours is definitely a bluegrass romance,” says David.

Tabitha was at IBMA with her family band, Cup O’ Joe (previously covered by The Bluegrass Standard, Cup ‘O Joe - The Bluegrass Standard). David was there with a band called Twelve Mile. The two stayed in touch, and when David was touring in Australia and New Zealand in 2018, Tabitha asked him to pop over to Northern Ireland, and he did. “We had always wanted to play together from the time we met,” says David. And play they did. “We both love Irish music, as well as Americana, roots music, and bluegrass.”

By late 2018 they were engaged, and the couple married in May 2019. They lived with Tabitha’s parents before moving to South Carolina, where they lived with David’s parents. David and Tabitha focused on their music. About the time Tabitha played her last show with Midnight Skyracer (an all-female band based in the UK), David stopped playing with Twelve Mile and formed their band called The Foreign Landers. “Our music has more of a transatlantic feel,” explains David.

As the worldwide Covid pandemic began, the opportunities to perform disap peared. “David was supposed to have a tour scheduled, and that fell through,” re calls Tabitha. “He got the last flight to Northern Ireland before the borders shut down.” As the pandemic wore on, David and Tabitha recorded many videos and wrote songs for The Foreign Landers. “I’m kind of thankful for that time to slow down and focus on our work.”

Both David and Tabitha are full-time professional musicians. They each teach music, and fortunately, they were able to continue teaching throughout the pan demic. Tabitha teaches private lessons online, while David does YouTube in structionals, and he has a Patreon page. “We are so grateful that we are able to do

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that,” says David. “We have had a lot of support from people online.”

Now that the world has opened up after the pandemic, both David and Tabitha did a summer tour with Cup O’ Joe, which includes Tabitha’s brothers, Ben jamin and Reuben.

Carolina. “It’s located outside Greenville,” David says. “And honestly, we re ally love the name of the town so much we are going to use the name for our upcoming record.”

The Foreign Landers’ first EP, Put All Your Troubles Away, is a collection of

When they were touring so much, it made sense to live with David’s parents. But now, they have moved into their own home in Travelers Rest, South

the material the couple started working on during Covid lockdown when they were stuck in Northern Ireland for six months. “We were so thankful to have the time to work on this and to be with


each other,” says Tabitha. The EP combines musical styles to represent the Benedicts’ respective homelands. Haunting vocals accentuate the instrumentals with a nod to the past while creating something new. Tabitha plays the banjo and guitar on the EP, while David plays the mandolin. Three of the six songs are orig inal tunes, and one is a song with traditional lyrics, but with new music by David and Tabitha. There is a tune by Gordon Lightfoot, “I’m Not Sayin’,” which has a whole new sound with Tabitha’s smooth vocals. The title tune is a song written by John Hartford. The EP was released on May 10, 2021. Now they are working on a new album to be released in November. “We have been recording it at home,” says Tabitha. “We have a designated guest room we use for recording. It has homemade baffles, and we do vocals in the closet, but it works. We will have some exciting guests on the album, and we look forward to sharing that. We are getting very close to finishing it.”

What started as a long-distance romance has developed into a relationship that works perfectly for David and Tabitha. “We would like to stay stateside long term,” says David. “But we would love to have a place in Northern Ireland where we can spend time. I think that may work out for us eventually.”


FOLKS LIKE THEM Doing What Comes Naturally


THEM Naturally

Making music together almost always brings two or more people closer. But when a father and son make that music, the bond originated by nature grows even stronger. The culture and values of a family do double duty and can’t help but be reflected in the music.

West Virginia’s Chris and Allen Kave – from the old-time country father-son duo Folks Like Them – know well what it means to perform and create with close family.

“As a small child, around [age] four, Chris used to partici pate in my band rehearsals with his toy guitar…but that doesn’t really count,” reminisced Folks Like Them father figure, Allen Kave.

“Seriously, we started playing together when Chris was in his early teens,” he said. “The first local release that I did, Chris played the signature piano part on a song later picked up by an R&B artist. One of the incredible things for us is that when we play together or write, we finish each other’s phrases both musically and lyrically. We don’t analyze that connection; we accept and enjoy it!”

Chris Kave said he remembers that contribution well.

“My earliest memory is playing piano on sessions for the CD my Dad mentions,” Chris said. “What a great experi ence, to not only get to play but to also be around musi cians and family friends whose only purpose was to make the best music possible. It was such a great learning experi ence.”

“Dad and I have a great connection, and you just can’t beat the fact that we are family,” he added.

The values of the Kave family – ideas such as respect and the value of hard work – are everywhere in the music, start ing first with the duo’s moniker.

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“The hard work and accepting responsibility for your actions came from my parents, Chris’s grandparents,” Allen explained. “The song ‘Folks Like Them,’ where we got our name, is written about their work ethic. That work ethic informs everything we do, how we write, how we treat our families, and how we treat our fans. We do our best to treat everyone with the respect we would like to be treated with, and we try our best to do what it takes to make that happen all the time.”

Although both father and son admit they’re not perfect, they strive to let “personal re sponsibility” guide everything, including how they make the music, how they present it, and how they connect with their audiences.

Folks Like Them has released several studio recordings, with their latest CD – Stories – of fered this past spring. They’re now focused on promoting the album’s third single, “What They Say.”

They say they’ve been “blessed with a great response” to Stories and are already setting their sights on getting the next album release ready for the end of the year, having finished the next batch of songs and selected a “not-yet-revealed” working title.

Allen said the greats of classic country influenced the music of Folks Like Them.


“I go back to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and other older artists for inspiration all the time,” he said. “There are many things I take from them, but the one thing that I love is its simplicity. Simplicity in their stories, and the directness in their music, make what they say more impactful. They had the ability to strip away things that didn’t belong in their songs.”

“A good friend of mine once told me that when you start throwing away great lines to get to the ones that really mean what you want to say, then you’re on to something,” Allen said. “Those older artists were masters of that.”

Chris said many of his influences are similar to those of his father. Despite being of a dif ferent generation, it’s clear classic country has stood the test of time for the Kave family.

“My older influences include many of the same artists as Dad,” Chris said, adding that in addition to piano and guitar, years ago, he added mandolin to the writing toolbox. “I love its lack of sustain, which leads to very different musical compositions,” Chris said. “I draw influence from many old-school bluegrass mandolin players and enjoy combining that with my piano and organ influences like Bruce Hornsby and Jimmy Smith.”

In summary, this father-son duo agreed that they hope to continue doing what comes nat urally.

“We are doing what we love to do,” they both agreed, “and we are thankful for all the sup port we’ve gotten.”


Constance McCardle

As a designer for some of the biggest acts in bluegrass, Constance McCardle first saw the needle and thread as a child but through her mother’s eyes.

“When I was growing up, my mother made all of our clothes out of necessity, but she happened to be a fashionista, so we had great clothes,” said McCardle of this earliest influence in her clothing design style. “I took an interest in sewing very early and later became interested in needlework, crochet, embroidery, lacemaking, and macrame. I was obsessed with it.”

McCardle also experienced mountain music in her early childhood. “My uncle, who lived with us when I was a kid, took up the banjo – Earl Scruggs-style, to be exact! He needed a rhythm guitar player, so he taught me how to play it by ear and to keep a steady beat so he could get his righthand roll-down. There was some singing happening as well, but it was more about the tunes then. I

continued to love playing and began singing with friends on the porch.”

Later, McCardle worked as a nurse. Her art pieces with needlework techniques showed in galleries and American Crafts Council fairs and won awards. That lit a fire, and she quit nursing to pursue what she calls “fiber art” full-time. At the same time, she began collecting vintage clothing and marveled at the workmanship and structure of these garments, so much so that she opened a vintage clothing store in Lexington, Virginia, in 1977.

“There was a major old-time music scene happening in Lexington at that time, and I met up with The Green Grass Cloggers from Greenville, N.C. They were a progressive Appalachian clog dance team of college kids that toured nationally. I traveled around with them quite a bit, which was pivotal to my story because with

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cloggers came musicians, festivals, and, thus, cool stage clothing. I remember being at the McClain Family Festival, and when Peter Rowan and his brothers came on stage, he was wearing a pink sparkly Nudie suit; I was mesmerized! I began to think I should take my artistic fiber nature and put it into clothing rather than art.”

McCardle rolled the dice and moved to New York City to train at the Traphagen School of Fashion Design. While in school, she was already making one-of-a-kind lace blouses from vintage lace and sold much of her work in boutiques around the metro area.

“The lace blouses shifted into lace dresses, and eventually, into bridal wear,” said McCardle of the progression. “I stayed in bridal for ten years, with lace as my signature look. Then suddenly, lace was out of fashion, so I had to reinvent myself. Since my interests were always in the ‘art wear’ category, I took a position as head designer for a New York City store called The Gallery of Wearable Art. I created some extraordinary clothing using museum-quality vintage and modern textiles while there. We had clients from all over the world buying my work, including performers. Then one day, Stevie Nicks came in! For years, people told me my clothes were

very “Stevie.” We made her a beautiful silk velvet jacket for hosting the Grammys that year. After seven years, I felt it was time to go back to my label, and I’ve been there ever since. I like being the boss of me.”

“My clothing continues to have an artsy, unique style to them when designing my collections, but I do a lot of custom work too. Custom design is a bit different, and many times I create the client’s vision, not mine, and then interpret that without giving my personal influence, but at the same time, I guide the client with my knowledge. My style generally is about being a textile fanatic, and I still like to give a nod to vintage whenever I can.”

Her upbringing in the Blue Ridge Mountains connects vividly in her work, having lived in what she calls a ‘Waltons’-type family where her mother, three sisters, grandparents, and uncles all lived together.

“It definitely was a place of creativity and a selfsustaining lifestyle. My mom made clothes and liked to decorate. Given different circumstances, she might have been an interior designer. A lot was going on constantly. My grandmother was a self-taught artist as a hobby and particularly loved painting mountain landscapes. She painted the walls in the house, rocks, pieces of wood, and whatever was around. She would take us up on the Blue Ridge mountain Parkway so she could paint, and we would sit there. I remember watching how she mixed the paint colors, and the simple brush stroke had so much movement. Her father was a millwright and part of the team that built the Maybreeze Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She created many paintings of that mill. She often repeated the saying, ‘make something from nothing.’ My grandfather was a Jack of all trades and grew an amazing huge garden which meant harvest time. We were required to help with the harvest. I think my patience for needlework came from snapping bushels and bushels and bushels of green beans!”

While building a new website in 2007, McCardle spoke with a public relations professional who told her that photos of celebrities wearing her clothes were essential for her web presence. Many current


customers were attending weddings, galas, and special awards events.

“I had already had my gowns worn to many major award ceremonies but not on a famous celebrity. The first time I had a gown worn to the Oscars was Robert Duvall’s wife when he won for Tender Mercies, but this was pre-iPhone, so no pictures were available to me. I embarked on a journey to try to get an A-list Hollywood celebrity to wear something and get a photo. That door is very difficult to open because the A-list gals are usually in a deal with Chanel, Gucci, Dior, etc., once they hit the top.”

McCardle decided that she’d pursue musicians, but only artists she admired, which proved to be a stroke of genius.

“My first success on that was with Emmylou Harris,” McCardle said. “I sent her a great lace jacket which she wore immediately to the Hardly Strictly Festival, and it was filmed for ‘Austin City Limits.’ Her team was so gracious and sent me the pictures immediately.”

McCardle then engaged with high-profile singers but realized she needed to match her style with the artist. They were off the list if they were not into an exciting, unique style.

“I was a huge fan of Rhonda Vincent and noted she liked fun clothing. I happened to be going to a bluegrass festival where she was headlining, so I took a few things to show her. She was just a doll, and we hit it off.”

McCardle met Rhonda in New York City and created the orange Lamai dress Rhonda wore on tour that year. Rhonda began wearing McCardle designs in performances, in various song videos, and on her debut album with Gene Watson.

“We created a dress for the cover and the tour with Gene. That album is still one of my favorites. It has been an ongoing collaboration with her ever since.” When she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, I just had to make the dress. We decided to donate the dress to the Grand Ole Opry archives, which became a display in the museum. That was such a thrill for me -- now it’s a part of history!”

She found that Sierra Ferrell was a perfect match for her organic style, a combination of authenticity and funky vintage that connected with McCardle.

“I noticed her probably about five years ago,” she said. “I love the look, and it was right up my alley. I still had many vintageinspired pieces from my younger days as a designer, so I reached out to her and sent her stuff that had been packed away for decades. She brought them back to life. She asked me to make another vintage piece she wore in her video ‘Bells in the Chapel.’ In ‘The Sea’ video, she is wearing a blue tie-dyed gown I had experimented with that was perfect for the scene. I have a million ideas for her, but it’s even more fun to see what she does with them on her own.”

McCardle said the key to connecting the outfit with the artist is listening, studying, and trusting your instincts.

“I have to find out what their personal style is, likes and dislikes, color choices, where they are wearing it, evening or daytime, and all of these factors are key if you want them to have this outfit work for them. Keep in mind, these are working clothes for them, and with performers, there are many components other than just a great dress. How well does it travel?


Can you cram it into a suitcase so that it comes out wearable? How fast can you change into it? Is it comfortable? Can you move your arms freely? It also has to fit the lifestyle of an artist on the touring circuit, on the road.

Working on pieces for Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, McCardle found the collaboration so fulfilling she said she was elated with the outcome.

“I always noticed they were having fun with clothes on stage, so I wanted to be in on the fun. After chatting with them, I heard that Molly liked the idea of something fringy, so that was exciting to me; I love fringe. I can’t wait to see what they are cooking up. I’m almost finished with a project for them, and it’s just in time because they are debuting on the Opry in September.”

She always hopes the outfit makes it onto the stage, but you never know what could happen to hinder that possibility. She’d created a special dress for Rhonda Vincent to wear in New York City for a special show, and the bus had an accident in New Jersey, so the dress never made it to her performance.

“An interesting thing that came out of my recent conversation with bassist Shelby Means was that she asked me why clothing always has the split or embellishment on the left side?” Her frustration was that the fun stuff would be hidden behind the bass she played. The general rule of design is that accents go on the left, “but I will certainly keep that in mind when I make something specifically for her.”

As a side gig in bluegrass, McCardle puts aside her sewing to play in the Sleepy Hollow String Band.

“To be honest, I never set out to be in a bluegrass band. It just happened. My lifelong best friend Dee was really into singing. Her mom used to sing backup for country bands in the 50s, so the years singing with her gave me a strong foundation for singing harmony. Then in 2006, some friends I had been jamming with decided they wanted to start a bluegrass band and asked me if I wanted to be in it. I had to think about that because it takes dedication and commitment. I eventually said yes, and we

founded Sleepy Hollow String band. We are still a local band, even though players have changed over the years. Our original bass player Rick Brodsky joined the Rock Hearts a couple of years ago, and now they are rising on the bluegrass charts! I’m so excited for them. As it turns out, I really like playing in a band and enjoy working on arranging and perfecting songs.”


Bluegrass: A Universal Language

Musician and bluegrass tour operator Tara Linhardt usually creates crosscultural music experiences in Nepal. She takes groups of bluegrass fans and musicians to a faraway land to explore a different world of culture and music.

On a recent personal trip, however, Linhardt participated in some cool crosscultural jamming with Indian musicians.

“I recently was traveling around India and, as always, was on the lookout for people to jam with and hoping for the ultimate find of bluegrass pickers,”

Linhardt explained. “I discovered those bluegrass gems in the city of Kolkata, India. Through the internet, I had discovered a couple of bluegrassers playing fiddle tunes and some bluegrass standards.”

After an 18-hour train ride, Linhardt met her new friends.

“We first met two charming pickers named Souvik Hazra – who played guitar – and Subhankar Dhar, who played an Eastman mandolin,” she said. Their band is called Grassy Strings. “We were invited into their families’ homes. We

enjoyed a beautiful traditional Bengali meal and jamming on some traditional Appalachian bluegrass tunes.”

Linhardt said they recorded a few tunes together.

“Next, we all ventured together to the other side of the city to meet another bluegrass picker,” she said of musician Koustav Dey. “Koustav is a picker who plays a number of styles and travels around south Asia a good bit for gigs. We went to his rooftop for a lovely sunset jam session.”

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Linhardt said the musicians must order picks from the U.S. since “finding good stiff picks in India is not really possible.”

“Koustav was using a blue chip, and Souvik and Subhankar were using Wegens,” she said. “Also, my new mando buddy Subhankar had to order his mandolin from Florida. They do make mandolins in India, but not of the type and caliber that he wanted to be able to play bluegrass.”

“Souvik had a guitar made by a local luthier there in Kolkata named Mintu Biswas, who makes Woodenheart Guitars,” Linhardt said. “There are some good luthiers I hear making guitars now in India, but I personally have not tried many of them. I hear Mr. Biswas has also been building mandolins, charangos, ukuleles, and guitars.”

By all appearances, the Indian musicians enjoyed having the opportunity to play

with an American bluegrass performer.

“To meet anyone who plays bluegrass music is enchanting always, and it is even surprising to find someone like that in this part of the world,” said Grassy Strings member Souvik Hazra. He called the opportunity to perform with Linhardt “unforgettable.” He said he jammed on “traditional and standard bluegrass tunes” with Linhardt and her husband, Ian Poole.

“Tara is so energetic that she brought us all the stories about the bluegrass festivals in the United States and its tradition,” he said, “how people spend their time in the Galax Festival, how they jam all through the day, about the camper vans, the moonshine, and whatnot!”

“Playing and learning bluegrass music and being in a distant land which has no connection with the tradition or root of bluegrass music is challenging,” Hazra continued. “But while listening to Tara


and her stories from the land of bluegrass, we didn’t feel for a moment that we are far-off.”

Hazra said the appeal of bluegrass is that it embraces all with open arms.

“We believe that bluegrass music is very much ‘welcoming’ to anyone,” he said. “This music always put a smile on its face and calmness in the voice, even though [it] expresses pain and sorrow.”

“The simple chord patterns in bluegrass music are really very simple that they can easily go with the flow,” he continued. “Beautiful melodies usually played on mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo, and dobro are extremely captivating for any soul, no doubt. The lyrics mean a lot. That is why it is one of the biggest reasons we think that people can connect themselves with bluegrass music.”

As the saying goes, music is a “universal language.” Sometimes that language is exactly the same, and at other times, it is spoken with a different accent.

He explained that not many music styles there are similar to bluegrass. “Still, we can find some amount of similarities between the bluegrass music and Baul music in West Bengal, India, and also in some contemporary Bengali music.” He added that melody is approached through a Dotara, a two- or four-stringed Bengali instrument. That reminds him of bluegrass.

“And the songs…most of them have the swing kind of feel in the rhythm,” he said.

Before leaving India, Linhardt also met a mandolin player who she said plays both bluegrass and Indian folk music (www. He’s the founder of the band Fiddlers Green and also performs music for films and advertising.

Although Linhardt isn’t currently working on creating an organized trip to India, she plans to “hang out more with the amazing folks in India.” Joining her mailing list is a great way to get updates on Nepal trips or to be informed of anything new she might organize in the future. Her website is

“It is so wonderful to travel to literally the other side of the planet and have someone kickin’ off

good old Appalachian bluegrass numbers,” she said. The music really is open to anyone and is such a fun means of bonding and entertainment. It is so fun to see how the groove and feel of the music can be enjoyed by people of such a variety of backgrounds.”


When we think of bluegrass, we think of the bluegrass community in America—the home of the genre and its founder Bill Monroe. But bluegrass and folk music have a reach much further than our backyard. It reaches halfway around the world.

Influenced and inspired by Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, musicians in the United Kingdom have the same desire to preserve the bluegrass tradition, and the British Bluegrass Music Association helps them do that.

Founded more than 30 years ago to support bluegrass musicians in the United Kingdom, The British Bluegrass Music Association, or the BBMA, a non-profit organization run by elected volunteers, provides information about bluegrass music to the public.

The BBMA was founded by festival and event organizers wishing for a place of mutual assistance and support among one another and to ensure that events and activities did not overlap.

“The overall objective was to promote bluegrass music throughout the UK, introducing it to a wider audience and enabling lone amateur bluegrass

musicians to meet up and make music together,” said Paul Brewer of the BBMA.

The association supported and continues to support bluegrass artists through publicizing festivals, concerts, and tours in the United Kingdom, informing musicians of opportunities where they may get bookings and other chances to perform.

The BBMA does so much more than promote events, however. This organization provides countless resources for artists and event hosts alike.

“Once you get more involved with the BBMA scene, you realize that this group advocates for musicians,” said Jack Baker, mandolinist for British bluegrass band The Vanguards.

One of the primary resources provided by the BBMA is their quarterly magazine, British Bluegrass News. Packed full of information on the British bluegrass scene, each issue includes album and performance reviews, historical pieces, interviews and features, and the latest news for members of the BBMA.

“British Bluegrass News had been published about ten years before the BBMA came into existence, but


it was willingly handed over when the BBMA was established,” Brewer said. “It has been upgraded over the years but has continued to be published quarterly. It has recently featured music tabs for each instrument on a particular song or tune in each issue.”

Edited by The Vanguards’ banjoist Chris Lord, the magazine continues to make changes and improvements as British bluegrass music evolves.

“There have been several magazine editors over the years, during which time it has continued to improve. It is no easy task to commission articles when everything is voluntary, but Chris has introduced new features, such as the music tabs for which he contributes the banjo parts. I believe everyone who receives the magazine appreciates his contribution, which reflects well on the organization,” said Brewer.

The BBMA also offers financial support to members through special programs. Festival and event organizers can apply for grants to assist with their activities, helping to make them financially viable and ensuring that they continue to provide a platform for bluegrass artists in the UK. The BBMA financial help doesn’t stop there.

The association seeks to assist aspiring musicians by finding local tutors and assisting financially with their music courses. Bluegrass bands who are current members of the BBMA are also eligible to apply for financial assistance in producing or recording an album.

“If approved for this program, the financial assistance would consist of a grant plus a loan to be repaid in due course from sales revenues,” said Brewer.

Because of his involvement as the editor and


member of the BBMA board, Chris Lord of The Vanguards was aware of this program and applied for financial assistance with the band’s newest album.

The Vanguards were approved for the program, releasing their album South of the River in August.

“I pitched the program to the rest of the band, and we decided to go for it,” said Lord. “We started the process prior to recording the album and finished about the time the album was complete. Everyone at the BBMA was on board to help, and all they ask is the acknowledgment of their help.”

According to The Vanguards’ Jack Baker, all of the people at the BBMA want the British bluegrass scene to grow, and they are all on the same page for moving forward.

“It is particularly rewarding to see so many more young people getting into bluegrass and attending festivals, and we believe we deserve some credit for this,” Brewer said. “Although it is still the case that

the scene is dominated by older people, we no longer fear that bluegrass music might not have a future here in the UK.”

The BBMA dealt with the struggles of a non-profit organization during the pandemic and COVID-19 shutdowns. However, they are moving toward the future to continue improving and supporting the United Kingdom’s bluegrass music industry.

“Hopefully, the problems associated with Covid-19 and the lockdowns are now behind us, and there can be more events and opportunities for growth,” said Brewer. “We still need to continue to attract young bluegrass players and fans and, hopefully, encourage them to play an active role in the association, bringing some fresh ideas and energy to the BBMA.”

Everything the BBMA does to support the bluegrass community in the United Kingdom is possible due to the financial and physical generosity of the British bluegrass community. The BBMA hopes that fans of bluegrass music will join them in supporting British bluegrass in the United Kingdom and worldwide.


To learn more about The British Bluegrass Music Association or to become a member, visit

Chris Lord Hilary Gowen Kevin Garrett Laura Nailor Paul Brewer Pete Earle Sherryl Payne Richard Holland



Number Song Artist Label





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LM 1 Molly Burns Crandall Creek
Mountain NRV 2 Heyday Lonesome River Band Mountain Home Music 5 3 I’ll Be Loving You Greg Blake
Records 3 4 Blue Ridge Mountain Baby Appalachian Road show
Blue Records 4 5 Hannah Authentic Unlimited
Blue Records 6 6 Return to Me Someday Joe Hott 615 Hideaway Records 1 7 Camille Caleb Bailey Independent 2 8 Irons In the Fire Unspoken Tradition Mountain Home Music 10 9 Hold On Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen Independent NRV 10 River Full of Blues Darren Beacley Turnberry Records NRV 11 Who’s Gonna Tell the Story Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road Pinecastle Records 7 12 I’m Warming Up to an Old Flame Tennessee Bluegrass Band Billy Blue Records 12 13 Being A Woman Caroline Jones Compass Records 13 14 The End of Crazy Donna Ulisse Billy Blue Records 9 15 Good Morning Moon Kristy Cox Billy Blue Records 2 51



IS THE HEARTBEAT OF VIRGINIA Visit Virginia’s Crooked Road at IBMA World of Bluegrass Exhibit Area. 53
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