A Sampling of Albums from Madison County Musicians

Enjoy the sounds of mountain music wherever you go with one of these albums from Madison County musicians that will pull at your heart strings. The delicate and traditional playstyle mastered by the below musicians exemplifies the musical heritage of Madison County and the songs are cherished by people both locally and around the world. Whether you’re seeking vibrant fiddle music, pretty ballads or lively banjo tunes you are sure to find the perfect match with one of these albums.

My Dearest Dear

Sheila Kay Adams

A seventh generation native of Madison County, Sheila Kay Adams presents this collection of old love songs sung unaccompanied or with banjo. Sheila Kay embodies the musical heritage the county is so steeped in. One of the best-known banjo players in North Carolina, she has expanded to storytelling and is an award-winning author of two books about her experiences growing up in Madison County. She has performed at dozens of venues and festivals in the United States and Great Britain and served as the vocal coach in the movie Songcatcher in 2000. Check out the album

Ballads, banjo tunes, and sacred songs of western North Carolina

Bascom Lamar Lunsford

This album from one of folk music’s legendary figures, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, is a collection of a few of his songs from his 1928 Brunswick sessions (the immortal “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” “Dry Bones”) and over a dozen other songs — from a total of over 350 – which Lunsford recorded in March 1949 for the Library of Congress as his “Memory Collection.” The Minstrel of the Appalachians really comes alive on this collection, introducing most of his 1949 recordings with song histories and where he collected them. Also included is a priceless track named “Dedication,” in which Lunsford spends five minutes recalling both his early life and his later career as a country lawyer and song collector. Check out the album

Apple Seed and Apple Thorn

Daron Douglas

Daron Douglas presents the songs of her great-grandmother, Jane Hicks Gentry of Hot Springs, North Carolina. These a cappella songs, in Daron’s often haunting and always lyrical style, are early English ballads of romance and murder, singing games, and children’s songs. This album includes a selection of the ballads that Jane Hicks Gentry would have sung to Cecil Sharp when he collected music in Madison County in 1916. In the liner notes Daron writes: “It is a personal, musical gift from an unbroken tradition of musicians of Appalachia.” Check out the album

Regenesis with the Crowe Brothers

Arvil Freeman

Madison County fiddler Arvil Freeman contributed to the top-notch instrumentation
which accompanies the harmonies of the Crowe Brothers (Josh and Wayne) on this
album. It is a combination of old and new recordings from the Crowe Brothers. Originally released in 1981 and titled “Always True,” nine of the original ten songs are reissued here along with five new songs which complement the old. Calling the music bluegrass is a stretch since some of the songs include piano, drums, or harmonica. The style has more of the feeling of the classic country duets of the past. Check out the album

Cuttin’ Loose

Josh Goforth with David Holt

Multi-instrumentalist Josh Goforth, joins the fabulous David Holt on this great, Grammy-nominated collection, which was recorded live at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. David plays countless instruments and sings. Using the musical heritage of Madison County as the theme, they open with a reminiscence of Josh’s Aunt Zip from Sodom—a community in Madison County—and a tune that David learned from her – “Black Eyed Susie.” David next tells the story of Morris Norton, another of Josh’s relatives. The two play and sing “Cripple Creek,” accompanied by only the paper bag and mouth bow. Josh exhibits his skill with the guitar in “Guitar Boogie” and with the fiddle in the music at the end while David plays bones and spoons. Check out the album

Fiddle Patch

Bobby Hicks

Multi-Grammy Award winner chose to make Madison County his home several years ago and has given back in many ways to the musical community here. You can catch him weekly at a free bluegrass jam or annually at the Fiddlers Concert at the Arts Center. But, if you want to listen to his music on your own time, check out this CD which includes several other fiddle players. The selections are full of energy and offer songs from Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, Rob McCoury, and others. A great CD for those who love fiddle music. Check out the album

Hills & Heroes

Roger Howell

The county considers itself extremely fortunate to have Roger Howell here. Not only is he one of the best fiddlers around (just check his credentials from Fiddlers’ Grove Festival), but his work in documenting our musical heritage is priceless. And, if you want a fiddle restored, Roger can do that, too! The album is filled with a trip through traditional music history showcasing his many influences from these mountains and more. He is accompanied by a couple of his talented friends—Cathy Arrowood & Frank Pomeroy and the guitar of Leonard Hollifield. This is a very personal 57-minute trip back to the mountains, through the eyes of a remarkable musician. Check out the album

Adam Masters plays the fiddle

Adam Masters

From Gypsy Jazz to hard driving twin fiddle tunes to the beautiful double stops, Adam learned from his mentor Bobby Hicks. This album showcases Adam Masters fiddle style as a unique voice of his own. Although he started with classical music as a child in the Suzuki School, he moved on to playing bluegrass after studying with Arvil Freeman and Bobby Hicks. He now plays what he describes as “gypsy jazz.” Check out the album

Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads

Wallin Family members and Dillard Chandler

This remarkable album features field recordings of Appalachian ballad singers collected by John Cohen in the Big Laurel region of Madison County, NC, in the early and mid-’60s. Dark Holler Old Love Songs and Ballads songs The songs (which the Big Laurel singers simply referred to as “old love songs”) feel ancient and timeless, embedded with dark themes and topics that include violent murder, unmarried pregnancies, infidelity, abandoned children, adultery, and seduction, mostly sung a cappella with a certain deceptive detachment. Check out the album

On Shakey Ground

Joe Penland

This album is a collection of the songs that Joe Penland learned as a boy. He wanted to record the ballads of our ancestors who brought them to the colonies for his children and grandchildren. Many remain the same as they were hundreds of years ago. A special treat is the backup group of youngsters (ages five to fourteen) who were members of the Joyful Noise Music and Art Center. And, so, Joe accomplished his goal of passing on the music to a younger generation. Some of the ballads were a cappella epochs carried in the hearts and minds of our ancestors when they came across the waters to the “New World.” Check out the album

When I Find Time

Ralph Lewis & Sons of Ralph

This is an eclectic blend of American music featuring bluegrass, country, blues, and Southern Appalachian Mountain folk music by The Sons of Ralph (featuring Ralph). Ralph Lewis started playing mountain music in the 1940s. The Band’s frontman, Ralph Lewis (mandolin, guitar, vocals) started out playing “mountain music” in the 1940’s. From there he had many groups (before he passed away in 2017) including, The Lewis Brothers, The Carolina Pals, and The Piney Mountain Boys. In 1974 he got a call to join Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, where he stayed for two years. Seeing his own “boys” wish to play music, he quit Monroe’s group to pick with his sons. Marty (guitar, dobro, keyboard, vocals) and Don (fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, and vocals). Check out the album

Masters of the Mountain Dulcimer Vol. 1

Betty Smith

This anthology is a who’s who of dulcimer greats. Most of these people have been playing for at least 20 years, some for 50. A showcase of dulcimer techniques, styles and repertoire covering traditional American, British Isles and contemporary styles, this is both as an overview for new players and a treat for dulcimer sophisticates. The dulcimer may look simple, but this all-instrumental anthology of 19 top players shows how complex, beautiful, and varied its music can be. The survey includes the traditional styles of Jean Ritchie and Betty Smith whose recording of Liza Jane is presented here. Check out the album