The Ramsey House recently invited Appalachia Bare to attend their annual Celtic and Appalachian Music Festival. So, we packed our modest gear, threw in a few lawn chairs, and headed that way. The event was held underneath a large tent, sheltered from sun and/or rain. Food trucks were on hand, ready to prepare orders, and artisans sold their wares and crafts. A smithy was busy heating and hammering away. The Ramsey home was opened to spectators for self-guided tours and volunteers were available to answer questions.
The event itself lasted from noon to 8:00 p.m. with plenty of traditional Celtic and bluegrass music performed by eight different groups playing 45-minute sets. Appalachia Bare settled in with our equipment and stayed for performances from Elza Gate, Wild Blue Yonder, and The Tenos (pronounced Teen-ohs).
Elza Gate is a duo made up of Pat Parr (guitar, vocals) and Bob Cushman (banjo, vocals, harmonica, penny whistle). They play traditional mountain music, from old folk ballads like “Pretty Saro” and “Sally Gardens” to instrumentals like “Johnson Ridge Special.” Their performance was delightful, reminiscent of past mountain troubadours, and they had the audience clapping and foot-stomping during their rendition of “Country Roads.” Their music and fun, folksy manner was a joy to hear and experience with the audience.
Wild Blue Yonder
Wild Blue Yonder is a five-piece band – Melissa Wade, Philip Coward, Cindy Wallace, Karen Leffel, Michael Leffel – who plays highland Celtic music from both Scotland and Ireland. They are lively performers who filled the stage with fiddle, flutes, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bodhran, and a variety of other percussion. They played such favorites as “Scarborough Fair,” “Whiskey in the Jar,” and “MacPherson’s Rant” (a.k.a. “MacPherson’s Farewell”). Their set featured an impressive display of group performance and skill that animated the audience to cheer and clap along with them.
The Tenos are a traditional family bluegrass band. Their perfect harmonies and tight group sound hearken back to the music families have been producing for generations, across the hills and hollers of Appalachia. The Tenos are relatively new to bluegrass music. The group began after son, Adam, started learning banjo at age nine. His love of bluegrass drew the family along with him into that world. The group has two banjo pickers, where most other bluegrass bands have one. The Tenos are fronted by the four children, Adam and Will, both on banjo, Leah on fiddle, and Sam on mandolin. Mom, Karyn, plays guitar and dad, Trippy, plucks bass. They played a lovely mix of bluegrass, like “Girl in the Blue Velvet Band,” “Down the Road,” and old-time gospel like “River of Jordan” and “Church in the Wildwood.”
We had a wonderful afternoon full of great music and good food. We thoroughly enjoyed the groups we saw. An unexpected engagement caused us to leave early. Otherwise, we could’ve experienced the other accomplished musicians there: Thistle Dew, Four Leaf Peat, Knox County Jug Stompers, Good Thymes Ceilidh Band, and the New Johns Creek Grass. Some highlights from the event can be viewed in the video clip below. Click play and take a listen to these talented musicians. Find others in your area and support our rich musical heritage of the Appalachian people.
**Photographs by Delonda Anderson
***Video by Tom Anderson