12 Ways to Appreciate Local Traditional Music


Where else could you find a FREE Bluegrass Jam with a mix of local musicians ranging from a many-times Grammy Award winner (Bobby Hicks) to other local fiddlers who have won awards at Fiddlers’ Grove and other Festivals to those who just want to play the fiddle? It’s every Thursday night at Zuma Coffee in downtown Marshall from 7pm to 9 pm. Come early and enjoy dinner or a cup of their great coffee.


Step back in time and listen to the oldtime music and maybe even get up for a dance. Or just sit and tap your toe to the tunes. Every Friday night at 7pm, The Depot on Main Street in historic Marshall–the old Railroad Station–opens its doors for FREE music and dancing. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the music.


In Spring of 2011, the town of Marshall held its inaugural open air concert on Blannahassett Island. So, Madison County now has a way to enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings while listening to the beauty of our traditional music and other types of music.  Come enjoy this great setting for community to gather and celebrate all that makes Madison County a unique treasure. Some events are Free and others are ticketed.


Almost every month, the Madison County Arts Council hosts local, regional or national talent in reasonably priced concerts in the Arts Center which is located right on Main Street in downtown Marshall. Director Laura Boosinger, a musician in her own right, attracts musicians from all genres and geographic areas. Local singer/songwriter Joe Penland is a common site and April Verch, a dynamic Canadian fiddler, singer, and stepdancer specifically requests to be invited back each year.

Each March the Arts Center hosts the Fiddlers of Madison County concert for two sold-out shows. The Arts Council also hosts concerts at a beautifully restored rock schoolhouse (built during the Depression) which has a wonderful auditorium for great acoustics. Watch for concerts at The Ebs Chapel Community Center.


Traditional music is the centerpiece of two annual events held on opposite ends of the county. The second Saturday in June is the date for the annual Bluff Mountain Festival on the Spa grounds in Hot Springs. In addition to food and crafts, there are FREE performances all day on the concert stage by local and regional musicians.The first Saturday in October in the evening of the same day as the Heritage Festival is the annual Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival concert. Again, traditional music is performed by noted musicians ending the day celebrating the county’s music heritage. Right on the Mars Hill University campus in downtown Mars Hill. 


Clogging grew in popularity with Riverdance but it has been a traditional dance in Madison County for over 200 years. You might see young and old alike get up at a local concert and find some space on the dance floor for flat-footin’ (as the locals call it). Mars Hill University is home to thirteen-time national champion clogging team–the Bailey Mountain Cloggers. You can catch them performing at several concerts throughout the year or watch a FREE performance at the Heritage Festival held in downtown Mars Hill and the Mars Hill University campus the first Saturday of October each year.


Musical performances are not the only way to surround yourself with our heritage. That heritage begins with our traditional music history. Madison County’s place in traditional music history–namely the old time ballads–was recognized by Cecil Sharp an English music scholar and folksong collector, who came to our county in 1916 to collect such ballads. Sharp called Madison County the “richest repository of English folk songs in the world.” He traveled around the county collecting the music and a Balladry historic marker on Bridge Street in Hot Springs commemorates one such stop.

A Madison County native, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, also collected the traditional music. Lunsford differed from Sharp because he himself was a performer. Because of that talent, he was hired to organize the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville in 1928. That festival is recognized as the oldest folk festival in the United States and also popularized the style of dancing known as team clogging. His birthplace is memorialized by a historic marker in downtown Mars Hill. You can also view hundreds of his manuscripts, recordings and instruments at Mars Hill University.