Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei, Amythyst Kiah, Becky Buller Band, Ley Line, Front Country join Blue Ridge Music Center summer series lineup
(GALAX, VA) – As the country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote, the Blue Ridge Music Center will put the spotlight on female performers and their stories with concerts, discussions, and special events. The offerings will be centered on the theme A Place in the Band: Women in Bluegrass and American Roots Music. As part of this year-long focus on women, the summer concert series will feature performances by Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei, Amythyst Kiah, Becky Buller Band, Ley Line, Front Country, and additional female musicians and bands led by women. The concerts are hosted on Saturday evenings from Memorial Day through Labor Day in the outdoor amphitheater at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Amythyst Kiah returns to the Music Center at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 30, along with The Barefoot Movement. Tickets are $20. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and based in Johnson City, Amythyst Kiah has a commanding stage presence, matched by her raw and powerful vocals. Playing banjo and guitar, her eclectic range of influences spans decades, finding inspiration in old-time, alternative rock, folk, country, and blues. Kiah has recently collaborated with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell to record Our Native Daughters on Smithsonian Folkways. Written and performed by Kiah, the opening track, “Black Myself,” won 2019 Song of the Year at the Folk Alliance International Conference, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best American Roots Song.
No strangers to the Music Center stage, The Barefoot Movement will open the show by taking the audience back to a simpler place and time. Whether concertgoers are seeking emotional ballads or rip-roaring barn-burners, they can expect a collection of music that offers something for everyone.
Both Amythyst Kiah, and Noah Wall, the lead singer for Barefoot Movement, are graduates of the East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) prestigious and influential Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Studies program.
Front Country is back on the mountain stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 6, with special guest, Dori Freeman opening the show. Tickets are $15. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.
Led by vocalist Melody Walker, Front Country is a band on the precipice of a metamorphosis. As multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and composers, the group’s musical vision comes through no matter what stage they take. From their beginnings in the San Francisco Bay Area to their new hometown of Nashville, Walker, Adam Roszkiewicz, and Jacob Groopman have been on a journey to discover their sound. With a genre dubbed “Rugged Americana and Purposeful Pop,” they push the envelope without losing sight of their acoustic roots music influences.
Galax native Dori Freeman grew up in a musical family. Her father, Scott Freeman, and grandfather, Willard Gayheart, are both regular performers during Midday Mountain Music at the Music Center. Produced by Teddy Thompson, Freeman released her eponymous album on the Free Dirt Records label in 2016. Following that release, Rolling Stone included her on the magazine’s list of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.” Freeman recently released her third album, Every Single Star, also produced by Thompson.
Ley Line will make its Music Center debut at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 18, along with Shay Martin Lovette. Tickets are $15. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.
Raised on the North American traditions of blues, folk, and soul and inspired by their world travels, the four women of Ley Line transcend genre and language, creating a global soundscape by blending influences from Brazil, Latin America and West Africa. They create dynamic harmonies with stand-up bass, guitar, ukulele, and world percussion. With strong ties to world folklore traditions, Ley Line’s multilingual compositions evoke the beauty of the human experience through our connection to nature and each other.
Shay Martin Lovette is a singer-songwriter hailing from the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina. He has placed in nationally recognized songwriting competitions like MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Competition and Telluride’s Troubadour Songwriting Competition. He has performed at music festivals such as Merlefest, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, and Carolina in the Fall.
The Becky Buller Band takes the stage on 7 p.m., Saturday, August 22. The show will open with young artists Luke Morris and Madison Elmore. Tickets are $20. Children 12 and younger are free.
A multi-instrumentalist and singer- songwriter from St. James, Minnesota, Becky Buller is a two-time Grammy award-winning songwriter. She co-wrote “Freedom,” the lead-off track of The Infamous Stringdusters’ 2018 Grammy-winning album Laws of Gravity, and “The Shaker” on The Travelin’ McCourys’ self-titled release that garnered a Grammy for 2019 Best Bluegrass Album. Buller is the recipient of eight awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and made history in 2016 as the first bluegrass musician to win in both instrumental and vocal categories, as well as being the first woman to win Fiddler of the Year.
Rounding out the band are Ned Luberecki, the 2018 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, guitarist Dan Boner, who is also the Director of the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program at ETSU, Nate Lee, the 2015 IBMA Momentum Award winning instrumentalist, on mandolin and fiddle, and Daniel Hardin on doghouse bass.
The singer-songwriter duo of Luke Morris and Madison Elmore draw their influences from the rich musical heritage of the Blue Ridge mountains. Currently students in ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program, they grew up playing traditional Appalachian music. First introduced to the audiences with his band ShadowGrass, Morris plays mandolin and guitar, and is an accomplished songwriter. Elmore plays fiddle, guitar, and piano and is also a songwriter. The two began playing together regularly in 2018 and released a debut single “Take Me Back to the Blue Ridge” in December 2019.
Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei will highlight the power of musical collaborations at 7 p.m., Saturday, September 5. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 day of show, and $15 for children ages 3 to 12.
This musical pairing is a natural extension of Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei’s cross-cultural musical explorations. Washburn is an Illinois-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter and clawhammer banjo player. Fluent in Mandarin, she has a profound connection to the culture and people on the other side of the Pacific. By sharing U.S. music in China, and Chinese music in the U.S., she hopes to foster a cultural understanding and richer existence with sounds that are rooted in tradition. Combining elements of American folk music with far-flung sounds, the results feel both strangely familiar and unlike anything heard before.
Wu Fei is a native of Beijing and resident of Nashville. She is a vocalist, classically trained composer, and master of the guzheng, a 21-string Chinese zither. She mixes Western classical and Chinese traditions with a contemporary, idiosyncratic sound. In addition to her original compositions, Fei has taken her music around the world, collaborating with artists of different disciplines and genres ranging from Béla Fleck and Billy Martin to avant garde composers John Zorn and Fred Frith.
Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn will release a self-titled debut collaborative album on April 3 on Smithsonian Folkways. Their work together is a testament to the connective power of music across seemingly disparate cultures. Merging American old-time music and Chinese folksong, Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn features gorgeous, impressionistic renditions of traditional material from the hills of Appalachia to the prairies of Xinjian province, each tune flowing seamlessly into the next.
The Blue Ridge Music Center offers season passes for the Roots of American Music series. There are 16 concerts in the series. Full season passes are $175, with half season passes allowing admission to any eight concerts for $125, and Pick 3 passes allowing admission to any three concerts in the series for $75. Season passes are available by calling (866) 308-2773, ext. 212.
To purchase tickets, visit BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org.
About the Blue Ridge Music Center
Operated through a partnership between the National Park Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Music Center, milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, Virginia, celebrates the music and musicians of the mountains. The visitor center and museum are open May through October and admission is free. The site includes an outdoor amphitheater and indoor interpretive center used to highlight an important strand of American musical culture, which still thrives in the region. Midday Mountain Music performances are offered free from noon to 4 p.m. daily. The Music Center also offers scenic trails for novice and seasoned hikers. On Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day, its beautiful outdoor amphitheater at the foot of Fisher Peak comes alive through a vibrant and diverse concert series. Concerts are also presented off-site throughout the year in partnership with other organizations. For more information, visit BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org.