2020 Festival Entertainment
Mike Snider is an American banjo player and humorist. He specialized in “old-time” mountain banjo music which is a style that can be traced back to the core beginnings of country music. He learned to play banjo at the age of 16. Although he is well known for comedic routine, he is a well-respected banjo player and in 1983 Mike won the National Banjo Championship held at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas.
Mike is celebrating 30 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry! He was a cast member for 7 years of the famous TV show Hee Haw.
A particular area of western Kentucky, Muhlenburg County, is known as the birthplace of a complex guitar-playing style known as thumbpicking. This instrumental technique requires the thumb to keep a regular rolling rhythm while the fingers pick the lead melody. Popularized by Merle Travis and further developed by instrumentalists such as Chet Atkins, this music had a common source in Mose Rager, a guitarist from the region. Eddie Pennington, the son of a coal miner, also learned from Mose Rager, but he stayed home in Princeton, Kentucky, to become a county coroner and funeral director. Music was a part of his family heritage. Relatives say that his great-great grandfather, Edward Alonzo Pennington was a fiddler who was unfairly convicted of a murder and who played a tune still played today called “Pennington’s Farewell” as he sat on his coffin watching the hangman prepare the noose. Eddie’s father, a coal miner, played fiddle and exposed his son to songs about the life of a coal miner. Today, Pennington continues to play this ornamental instrumental style, enlivening his public performances with humorous stories about his experiences as a funeral director. He has recently been featured on stages at the National Folk Festival, as part of the Folk Master series at the Barns of Wolf Trap and on the Masters of the Steel String Guitar Tour.
The Loose Strings Band
The Loose Strings Band consists of four girls that make their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Galax Virginia. This area is very rich in musical heritage and hosts the world’s largest and oldest fiddlers convention. The group has drawn from many influences and this has contributed to their unique Appalachian sound. The group came together 15 years ago, and have drawn inspiration from a variety of artists such as Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, and The Dixie Chicks. These artists have inspired avenues to the band’s own bluegrass/folk sound.
They released their first album, Only The Beginning (2009) and have since released four more albums: The Next Chapter (2012), Everlasting Faith (2013), Journey With No End (2015), and As We Travel (2016).
The Loose Strings tour has consisted of multiple festivals and venues including: Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion-Birthplace of Country Music, Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass, International Bluegrass Music Association-World of Bluegrass, Merlefest and Houstonfest. They have performed on the official television series of Virginia, Song of the Mountains, as well as Kentucky’s WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, which broadcasts on radio and as a television series across the world.
The band took on a new venture in two thousand eighteen, and were part of the film, Ticket to Nashville. They were the only artists to contribute original material to the production/soundtrack, and will also appear in scenes throughout the film. Kevin Dorsey, Producer states, “Music is my profession. Having the opportunity to work with the Loose Strings Band broadened my horizons when it came to the genre of bluegrass. In their own unique way, The Loose Strings Band has found a way to incorporate country, pop, and soul in their vocal presentation of bluegrass, while keeping the wonderful sound and feel of the genre! Do yourself a favor and give yourself a gift of beauty, harmony, and true bluegrass sound, give yourself the gift of The Loose Strings Band!”
Over the years the group has evolved and continues to make their mark as singer/songwriters, with the intent to make an impact on the music industry and to touch the lives of their listeners.
The Twin Creeks String Band
The Twin Creeks String Band is an old-time band from Southwest Virginia where their hard-driving music has been handed down to them through generations of music in Carroll and Franklin County. The band is a continuation of The Dry Hill Draggers, a band formed in the early 1980’s in Franklin County, Virginia who played for dances and festivals for over 30 years. Though the name has changed, the high-energy sound and rock-solid rhythm remains unchanged. The Twin Creeks Stringband continues to play hot fiddle tunes with a driving beat along with strong vocals that will entertain both listeners and dancers alike. The members of the band include Chris Prillaman on fiddle, Jason Hambrick on guitar and vocals, Stacy Boyd on bass, and his son Jared Boyd on banjo.
Willard Gayheart and Dori Freeman
Willard Gayheart and Dori Freeman, grandfather and granddaughter, have been playing music together for years. Willard is an acclaimed pencil artist and musician and Dori’s singing and songwriting have been hailed by the New York Times and Rolling Stone Magazine. They’re part of a tight knit Appalachian family of musicians from Galax, VA. Dori’s father and Willard’s son-in-law Scott Freeman plays mandolin and fiddle and Dori’s husband is a touring drummer and percussionist. Together, they made a record of Willard’s original songs called “At Home In the Blue Ridge,” featuring songs about Willard’s youth in eastern Kentucky and his love for mountain tradition and community. This three-generational band’s dynamics on stage are as sweet as their familial harmonies.
National Heritage Award recipient Wayne C. Henderson, a musician and instrument maker lives in nearby Rugby, Virginia. Henderson’s top-notch finger-picking is a source of great pleasure and pride to his friends, family, and neighbors in Grayson County, Virginia. His guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar and in seven nations of Europe, Asia and Africa.