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Take the Crooked Road to the beginnings of American Music

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By Wayne Lazarus on February 23rd, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

If you enjoyed the music from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou, you’ll find a lot to love along the 253-mile Crooked Road in southern Virginia. Since 2003, this group of music venues, museums and historic sites has organized as Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail to promote the area’s many unique ties to country, folk and blue-grass. In February of 2010, the Crooked Road was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s Distinctive Dozen Destinations for 2010.BR05091808V_08.TIF

Along the road are a number of concert venues, regular jam sessions at small stores or restaurants, museums, good country food and beautiful scenery. There are more than two dozen wayside exhibits — covered kiosks off the highway that explain a little of the area’s history and at the same time, broadcast some of the local music on an FM frequency.

Summer and fall are festival seasons. These include Gathering in the Gap Music Festival in late May, Dr. Ralph Stanley’s Annual Memorial Weekend Bluegrass Festival (Dr. Stanley sang the haunting acapello version of O Death in the movie) Clinch River Festival in June, Covered Bridges Festival also in June, Floyd Fandango Beer & Wine Festival and Floyd Fest 9: Breaking Ground, both in July, Old Fiddler’s Convention in August and Rhythm & Roots Reunion in September and the Wise County Famous Fall Fling.

Among the larger venues are the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College (with a new exhibit called “Virginia Rocks — A History of Rockabilly in the Commonwealth,”) the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, Blue Ridge Music Center, the Carter Family Fold, the Ralph Stanley Museum, the Rex Theater, the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park and the Floyd Country Store.BR07081009V_07.TIF

But a stage doesn’t have to be large to invite creativity and passion. A staggering number of jam sessions are held in the smaller communities at cafes, theaters, old schools and courthouses. Almost any time of the year, weekends and weekdays, there is pickin’ and an open-to-the-public gathering of like-minded music admirers. Check the calendar for the date of your visit.

Make your reservations with in Galax, Norton or Bristol, the three largest cities on the Crooked Road. And for driving music, check the Crooked Road website for several CDs of the music that started it all.

Photos: Guitarist by road sign, Virginia Tourism Corp., Crowds outside the Floyd Country Store, credit: CameronDavidson, courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation.

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