Greeting from the Folklife Archive! I am over half-way done processing the Kentucky Folklife Program Collection and along the way I have found several cool projects Folklorist, Bob Gates, and his crew have worked on. Two media projects that I found super cool are Live From the Old State Capitol Stage CD and More than Music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23.
Since 1997, the Kentucky Folklife Festival has celebrated Kentucky’s rich cultural heritage. From 1997-2007 hundreds of folk artists from all over the Commonwealth have shared their diverse traditions with festival visitors. In 2001, Live from the Old Capitol Stage: Selections from the Kentucky Folklife Festival, Volume 1 CD was produced by Doug Boyd and Brent Bjorkman. The musical selections in this sampler come from festival performances recorded between 1998 and 2000 on the Old Capitol Stage and showcase the depth and extent of musical talent in the great state of Kentucky. Recently Folklorist Mark Brown gave me several additional copies of the CD, but these were special, they were all autographed!
Signatures on the CDs include the famous instrument maker and bluegrass artist Homer Ledford; the originator of Newgrass, Sam Bush; Zoe Speaks (Carla Gover and Mitch Barrett); Jean Ritchie; and several from the great Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers: Luther Scruggs, Eric Riley and Greg Page. Other artists featured on the CD include: Rob McNurlin and the Beatnik Cowboys; The Rigsby Boys; Eddie Pennington; Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek; Cari Norris, Roger Cooper and the Might Gospel Harmonizers to name a few.
The second media project that really impressed me is the More than music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23. Country music owes a great deal of its heritage to the stretch of US Route 23 in Eastern Kentucky. Officially-named “Country Music Highway,” travels through the hometown of more country music stars than any other road! Dwight Yoakam, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs and many more legends trace their roots to Route 23. After the designation of Route 23 as the "Country Music Highway" in 1997, the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Folklife Program selected the Route 23 Corridor for a pilot project. Eight Kentucky counties participated in the project which explored the potential for cultural/heritage tourism development from a regional perspective. During the summer of 1998, four folklorists were assigned to the region to conduct cultural resource surveys and to learn more about the culture behind the Country Music Highway. The eight counties that were studied included Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Johnson, Lawrence, Letcher, and Pike.
The tour is based on more than 60 interviews conduected by Judy Sizemore and Casey Billings as well as information gained through the research of the folklife surveys. Interviewees who appear on the CD include Loretta Lynn, Ralph Stanley, Patty Loveless, and Crystal Gayle. In addition to the well-known country music artists, the listener will hear stories from local residents and artists including Minnie Adkins and members of David Appalachian Craft. There are interviews with regional authors like Ken Slone and Linda Scott DeRosier, as well as workers of traditional jobs such as coal mining and railroad working. The goal of the project was to help the visitor experience the rich culture of the area by not only providing them with this entertaining and educational information, but encouraging them to spend time in the region exploring many of the historic and cultural sites.
The packaged project includes 3 audio CDs of the actual tour, narrated by Ricky Skaggs, one audio compilation of musicians referenced from the driving tour, and one guide book, complete with photos, maps, and additional contextual information. The Tour was released at the 2005 Kentucky Folklife Festival. Artists featured on the driving tour: Dwight Yoakum, Lee Sexton, Zoe Speaks, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Roger Cooper, Rob McNurlin, Gary Stewart, Stanley Brothers, The Judds, Indian Bottom Old Regular Baptists and Carla Gover.
The project was note-worthy because it came out of a visionary meeting including a wide representation of local residents. The resulting survey was considered innovative at the time because of the strong input of the Highway 23 Cultural network. The network went on to become incorporated and 8 new arts councils were developed. So if you are looking for an adventure and want a see Eastern Kentucky from a different perspective I encourage you to buy a copy of More than Music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23. Written by Judy Sizemore and Narrated by Ricky Sckaggs for $24.99, contact Mark Brown at email@example.com for more information.
While these are only two out of over a hundred projects I have discovered in the Kentucky Folklife Program Collection, I have learned so much about the Commonwealth while processing. The collection has shaped my experience of living in Kentucky and has allowed me to learn about things I may have never known about. While the Kentucky Folklife Program Collection is still in its first stage of processing, there are some amazing resources within this collection!
~Project Archivist Heather Stone