40th Annual Celebration of Traditional Music
LEE AND JOHNNY SEXTON
A native of Linefork in Letcher County, Kentucky, Lee Sexton is one of the finest old time banjo players in the nation. Lee began honing his banjo skills seventy five years ago, learning his songs and tunes from members of his musical family,including his uncle, noted banjo stylist Morgan Sexton. Lee’s banjo picking was featured in 1980 biographical film COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER and was recorded by John Cohen for the 1959 Smithsonian Folkways collection MOUNTAIN MUSIC OF KENTUCKY. Lee has performed nationwide at venues including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. and was a recipient of the 1999 Kentucky Governor’s Award for the Arts. Passing his music on to the next generation, Lee is a regular teacher and performer at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School and the Carcassone School square dance, both in Letcher County. He will be accompanied on guitar by his son Johnny Sexton.
CARI AND MIKE NORRIS
Cari Norris grew up hearing traditionalmountain music from her maternal grandmother, Lily May Ledford.She also participated with her family at the Hindman Settlement School’s annual “Family Folk Week” for many years where she learned from traditional musicians Lee Sexton, Rich Kirby, and Jean Ritchie. Cari has been performing traditional mountain music at various venues and in schools since 1989.She sings and plays banjo, guitar and lap dulcimer. She has recently begun collaborating with her father, singer/song-writer, guitarist and author, Mike Norris.
Listen to Cari Norris play “Banjo Pickin’ Girl.”
JIM COSTA AND JIM LLOYD
Jim Costa comes from Bell Point in Summers County, West Virginia, where he has spent his life learning songs, tunes and stories from the area’s older generations. Costa is fluent on most of the instruments associated with mountain music, but is especially known for his expert fiddling in the styles of Southern West Virginia and his energetic old time banjo playing which moves fluidly between frailing and fingerstyle. Costa’s songs, humor and banjo tricks follow in the footsteps of Grand Ole Opry star Uncle Dave Macon. Costa’s playing was featured in the 1987 film MATEWAN and he has taught and performed at West Virginia venues like the Augusta Heritage Center and the Vandalia Gathering and at many other national and international venues. For his lifelong contribution to traditional Appalachian music, Costa will be honored as this year’s Smith Performer, sponsored by the L. Allen Smith Memorial Fund. He will be accompanied by Jim Lloyd, the renowned musical barber of Rural Retreat, Virginia.
Listen to Jim Costa sing and play “Sail Away Ladies.”
SYMPOSIUM: CURRENCE HAMMONDS, WEST VIRGINIA BANJO PLAYER (1894-1984)
Presented by Michael Kline
Michael Kline became a close friend and frequent visitor of Currence Hammonds and his extended singing family while working as a folklore field researcher for the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia in 1978. The Hammons Family of the Allegheny Highlands in West Virginia are legendary for their fiddling, banjo picking, singing and storytelling.
THE LAMB FAMILY BAND
Donna and Lewis Lamb come from Paint Lick in Garrard County, Kentucky. Lewis (fiddle) grew up in a family that played old time music and taught his daughter Donna (guitar and vocals) the music he loves. They have traveled many times overseas with the Berea College Country Dancers, performed at the 1982 World’s Fair, at Berea’s outdoor drama WILDERNESS ROAD and at many festivals and dances throughout the region. The Lambs were the 2006-2007 winners of the Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts and Donna is the 2013 winner of the Homer Ledford Award for her skills in luthiery (musical instrument building). The Lambs also host Jammin’ on the Porch on Thursday nights in Old Town Berea. They will be accompanied by mandolinist James Shoopman, a resident of Berea and graduate of Berea College.
Listen to Donna and Lewis Lamb play “Liberty.”
REV. ROBERT AND BERNICE JONES
Rev. Robert B. Jones has more than twenty years of experience as a performer, musician, storyteller, radio producer and music educator. Born in Detroit, Jones was raised in a Southern household by a father from West Pointe, Mississippi and a mother from Conecuh County, Alabama. He is an excellent singer, slide guitar player and gourd banjoist. Since 2004, he has performed with his wife Bernice Jones, a powerful spiritual singer, teacher and motivational speaker. In addition to continuing in his duties as pastor of Sweet Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, Rev. and Bernice Jones have performed at the prestigious National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s Merlefest, at international venues in England and Canada and many other places. In 2007 Rev. Jones received the Blues Foundation’s prestigious “Keeping The Blues Alive” award in recognition of his teaching, including his self-designed “Blues For Schools” program that he has performed throughout the nation. Rev. Robert and Bernice often teach workshops together on “the holy blues” and in 2010 they issued their first joint recording titled, “Guitar Evangelists.”
Listen to Rev. Robert and Bernice Jones perform “I Heard the Angels Singing.”
A native of Hindman, Kentucky and a graduate of Berea College, Raymond McLain has 46 years of experience performing, recording, producing and composing, including twenty-one years as a mainstay of “The McLain Family Band.” He has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. and at venues in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Many know Raymond for his many performances with Jim and Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys from the Grand Ole Opry stage. Raymond is well-versed on many instruments, but is particularly known for his skills on five-string banjo in both bluegrass and old time styles. Raymond is currently serving as director of the The Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.
MOREHEAD UNIVERSITY MOUNTAIN MUSIC AMBASSADORS
Direct from the heart of eastern Kentucky, The Mountain Music Ambassadors are the flagship group of student performers from The Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University. This entertaining group has represented mountain culture and their region in concerts at theaters, schools, festivals and other venues regionally, nationally and in such diverse lands as Ireland and The People’s Republic of China. The Mountain Music Ambassadors and all MSU Traditional Music Ensembles are comprised of students enrolled in band class, so members vary from semester to semester. With a strong history of education in the field of traditional music, Morehead State University offered the world’s first minor in traditional music in the year 2000 and as of 2013, a Bachelor of Arts degree in traditional music. As it relates to The Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University, “traditional” music includes Bluegrass, Old Time, Country, Ballad Singing, Blues, Celtic, Western Swing and many other forms. The music with which they are most involved stems from, or is influenced by the music that is identified with the southern Appalachian mountain region.
Becky Hill is a percussive dancer and square dance caller hailing from West Virginia. She coordinates the Mountain Dance Trail Project at Augusta Heritage and is the current director of Appalachian Spirit at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.
IRON LEG BOYS
The Iron Leg Boys, from eastern and central West Virginia, play old-style string band music and fiddle tunes unique to their home state. Since forming more than ten years ago, the group has played cake walks, family reunions, house dances, weddings, flatfoot contests, concerts and bar gigs across the state. They have appeared on stage at the Augusta Heritage Center and the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop, and the November 2011 release of their long-awaited first recording has helped expose the band, along with a unique repertoire of West Virginia fiddle tunes, to a wider audience. For the Berea Celebration of Traditional Music, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Chesser will fill in for member Ben Townsend.
As a founding member of Iron Leg Boys and The Fox Hunt, Matthew Metz has been playing old time music for nearly ten years.
Andy FitzGibbon learned to play the fiddle from the older generation of West Virginia fiddle players, and is known for his interpretations of the state’s oldest tunes and bowings. A regular prize winner in fiddle and banjo contests around the state, he was recently awarded first place in the traditional band contest (with Kevin Enoch and Kate Brett) and second place in the banjo contest at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop, West Virginia. He lives and works in Montrose, West Virginia.
Kevin Chesser started playing old time music after moving to West Virginia to attend college. He has become a regular face in square dance bands and banjo contests all over the state, and has appeared on stage at the West Virginia State Folk Festival at Glenville & the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop. He plays guitar and banjo, and lives in Elkins, West Virginia.
Listen to the Iron Leg Boys play “Rattle Down The Acorns.”