December 2022 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Radio Bristol’s Top Albums of 2022

As 2022 comes to a close, it becomes a time for reflection – and so Radio Bristol would like to take the opportunity to look back at some of the releases that made this past year memorable on the music front. This year saw releases from many great artists, including some heavy hitters like Billy Strings and Tyler Childers, and many breakout artists like Adeem the Artist, Miko Marks, and more. With so many great releases this year, it’s tough to narrow it down, but here are just a few of our recommendations for some of this year’s standout releases.  As always, if you tune into Radio Bristol you’re sure to hear all these artists regularly spinning on our airwaves!

49 Winchester // Fortune Favors the Bold

The boot-scuffing barstool ballads of 49 Winchester’s fourth studio album, Fortune Favors the Bold, has landed the band national acclaim and the mega fandom of country music superstars such as Luke Combs. A festival favorite at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the Russell County, Virginia natives have gone from playing small venues on Bristol’s State Street to selling out theaters across the country.

Composed of high school buddies who grew up together in nearby Castlewood, Virginia, 49 Winchester’s newest release relates genuine downhome grit with dang-good storytelling, showcasing the group’s infectious Southern rock-infused brand of Appalachian folk meets country soul.

Leyla McCalla // Breaking the Thermometer (To Hide the Fever)

New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla’s newest album, Breaking the Thermometer, explores her Haitian-American heritage through the troublesome history of Creole-language based Radio Haiti, an independent station that for decades confronted corruption with traditional Creole music. This interdisciplinary project, commissioned by Duke University, also combines storytelling, dance, video projection, and audio recordings from the Radio Haiti Archive which can be viewed during live performances.

Breaking the Thermometer feels like an exuberant analysis of culture, physiological space, and political discourse, with vibrant cello arrangements and emotive organic soundscapes that feel epic in scale and intensity.

Image: Album cover has a stark black background with a Black woman sitting in the center of it. She has her hair pulled back and faces to the left; she is wearing a white cross-over short-sleeved top and dark pants/skirt.

The A’s // Fruit

Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and longtime musical collaborator Alexandra Sauser-Monnig teamed up for a new project as The A’s, recently releasing Fruit, an idiosyncratic collection of folk songs that glean inspiration from early country music’s yodeling farm girls, The DeZurik Sisters. Recorded over a two-week stint during balmy summer nights at Sylvan Esso’s Chapel Hill studio “The Betty,” the pair playfully procured songs such as Harry Nilsson “He Needs Me” and traditional ballads like “Swing and Turn Jubilee” and “Copper Kettle” with endearing whimsy and hair-raising vocal harmonies.

The clarity of their voices peppered amidst a capella and thoughtfully accompanied atmospheric tracks create a glowing sense of intimacy, harkening back to early American field recordings, while sounding ultra contemporary. A perfect choice for a rainy day or a sun dappled picnic!

Image: Two white women lie in the center of the image looking at the camera. The woman in the foreground is wearing all black and sunglasses; she has medium-length brown hair. The woman behind her is wearing all white and has platinum blond hair. Vibrantly colored fruits and flowers are painted on the background behind them.

Brennen Leigh// Obsessed with the West

Brennen Leigh’s collaborative Western swing-inspired record Obsessed with the West hit the vintage vibes music lover’s scene with a punch. Produced by Ray Benson, whose legendary band Asleep at the Wheel also backed Leigh on the recording, this album is a grand excursion into a well-loved subgenre of country music. Punctuated by 1940s jump blues, folk cowboy balladry, and jazz-infused country, the tracks read like a love note addressed to the austere beauty of the Western plains. Nashville by-way-of Austin, Texas-based singer Leigh’s voice sways across the rollicking big band like a silk cloud of sawdust with a mellow swagger that feels effortlessly cool.

Image: Album cover has a reddish brown border around the central photograph. In the photo, a young white woman with long brown hair is walking towards the camera; she wears a reddish-brown and white prairie-style top and skirt with western belt. A landscape of scrubby brush and mountains can be seen behind her.

Charlie Crockett // Man from Waco

Charlie Crockett, the record-slinging Texan with an ever-expanding discography of retro-tinged Americana gold, has now become one of the most popular artists in independent country. Crockett is currently landing in a new stratosphere for roots musicians dominating the independent Americana radio with the #1 album and #1 song on the release of Man from Waco.

Man From Waco is a loosely conceptualized project with a theme song that both introduces and closes the album, drawing its inspiration from legendary country music singer James Hand. Mostly recorded live by Crockett and his band The Blue Drifters,’ this new album solidifies Crockett’s monstrous talent and incredible ability to turn out top grade recordings.

Swimming through multiple genres – including funk, R&B, soul, Tex-Mex, Western swing, folk, and traditional country – Crockett treads water through uncharted territories with an easy grin, maintaining his authentic aww-shucks attitude and relaxed cowboy charm though vulnerable lyrics.

Image: This album cover shows a scrubby mountainous landscape with a Black man in western clothes walking down a slope in the foreground. He wears a cowboy hat, blue shirt, and jeans, and he carries a black guitar case.

Willie Carlisle // Peculiar, Missouri

Peculiar, Missouri, Willi Carlisle’s newest release on Free Dirt Records, further authenticates the rising songwriter’s rare talent for storytelling. Packed full of poetic grit and intimate ruminations on the human condition, Carlisle’s musical performance feels like Allen Ginsburg and Utah Phillps bore a folkster lovechild with a voracious proclivity for personal truth.

This album acts as a stylistic barometer of American folk music, with flashes of honky tonk on the socially-aware single “Vanlife,” Tejano-on-Cowboy border ballad “Este Mundo,” and talking blues on the title track – an anxious Guthrie-esque account of an existential “come apart” in the Walmart cosmetic aisle. Every so often Carlisle releases a tremulous yawp amidst impossibly witty lyrics like a reflexive revolt against the absurdity of existence; his voice feels like something familiar and something wholly new that we’ve never heard before.

Image: Album cover and CD, both pink. In the center of the album cover is a sepia photograph of a white man from the shoulder up. He has dark hair and a short beard, and is wearing a cowboy hat and collared button-down shirt. In each corner of the album are graphic symbols like a hand with a pen and a crying eye.

Tyler Childers // Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?

Liberator of free thought in country songwriting the Kentucky poet Tyler Childers’ triple-LP Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is a complex celebration of traditional Appalachian religious music, offering social commentary with an ecumenical scope. The album’s eight tracks are imagined in three different arrangements – the “Hallelujah” version, which has an unadorned “live” feel; the “Jubilee” version, which has more of the production you’d expect from a country music recording, and a “Joyful Noise” version, which seems to delve into the energetic essence of each song though electronic remixes and auditory environments with sound bites from artists such as Jean Ritchie and country comedian Jerry Clower.

Deeply divisional for fans of Childers’ more acoustic releases, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is striking for its imaginative qualities and Childers’ uninhibited sonic journey through nostalgia, spirituality, and contemporary awareness.

Image: Album cover is red with a linen-like book cover feel. In the center in gold writing is the name of the album, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? and a small dog.

 S. G. Goodman // Teeth Marks

Western Kentucky-based songsmith, S. G. Goodman made an indelible mark on southern music with their debut album Old-Time Feeling in 2020; its pensive production and self-aware lyricism caught the attention of major music industry players, such as Tyler Childers who recently covered the single “Space and Time.”

Now the queer-identified farmer’s daughter who grew up near the banks of the Mississippi River is carving a place as a rising voice in new-south roots rock on Teeth Marks. Enveloped by surging post-punk meets 1960s southern rock reverb clad guitar, Goodman’s achy voice quavers like an exposed nerve with acute realizations that stem from a progressive rural consciousness, making this album easily one of most intriguing releases of the year.

Image: Album cover is white with a line drawing in the style of connect-the-dots. Numbered dots outline the main part of the drawing -- that of a woman who sits backwards in a wooden chair; she looks to the right and holds a red ball in one hand.

Melissa Carper // Ramblin’ Soul

For the second year in a row, we have to include Austin-based stand-up bassist Melissa Carper’s and her latest recording Ramblin’ Soul. With a similar recipe that created her beloved Daddy’s Country Gold in 2021, Carper’s newest collection of songs was also recorded at the Bomb Shelter in Nashville, Tennessee. Produced by Andrija Tokic and Dennis Crouch of The Time Jumpers, Ramblin’ Soul definitely has a healthy helping of that extra special sauce that has made Carper become a stand out artist on the Americana charts.

With an alluring varnish of vintage tone, Carper masterfully encapsulates a multitude of classic American sounds with glimmers of Western swing, rhythm and blues, country, soul, jazz, and folk, that both sound impressively authentic to the era, and gratifyingly pleasant to hear. This is definitely an album you can put on without skipping a track, perfect for cooking up a mess of biscuits with Caper’s blissful Billie Holiday by way of Loretta Lynn-sque vocals simmering on the backburner.

Vaden Landers // Lock the Door

We would be remiss to not include a local release on this list. East Tennessee native and Bristol resident Vaden Landers envisions traditional country music through a lens made razor sharp by countless performances at dive bars and regional venues, with an undeniable finesse that can only be gained through road-worn experience.

You may have caught Landers performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this year or at State Street’s Cascade Draft House where he and his band – The Hot n’ Ready String Band – played a weekly residency this summer. As a rising purveyor of irrefutable country music, Landers’ newest release on Hill House Records has masterful production, calling to mind the golden era of country music production in the mid-1950s known as The Nashville Sound. Produced at The Bomb Shelter by Andrija Tokic and John James Tourville, the 12 tracks on Lock the Door relay songs of love, heartbreak, and hard living, while Landers’ satisfyingly raspy twang summersaults and yodels across old-school sounding lyrics. No doubt borrowing vocal techniques from country greats such as George Jones and Johnny Paycheck, the album feels like a country fan’s daydream. At Radio Bristol we’ve been spinning this album in heavy rotation and think it’s well worth the listen!

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.







All I want for Christmas is a great music experience and the t-shirt: Bristol Rhythm Christmas Party Playlist included

In August 2013, St. Paul & The Broken Bones made an epic debut in Historic Downtown Bristol. The band was booked to headline Believe in Bristol‘s Border Bash free summer concert series with opener Blair Crimmins & The Hookers, and so begins the story of how the simple purchase of a band t-shirt may have helped direct the upward trajectory of the band’s career and continues to enrich my life with warm memories and great comfort after almost a decade of faithful wear.

Hailing from the iconic and eclectic music scene of Birmingham, Alabama, St. Paul & The Broken Bones had only been together for about a year when they arrived in Bristol, otherwise known as the birthplace of country music.  Though still in its infancy, the band was already creating a buzz in roots music circles with its throwback R&B sound, complete with jazzy horns and a killer lead vocalist that invoked the spirits of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Wilson Pickett in every soul-gutting note. It was so early in the band’s development, they were paid only a few hundred dollars for the Border Bash booking, plus dinner. I can’t say for sure, but I believe the band likely accepted the gig because lead singer Paul Janeway’s girlfriend at the time, Caroline Williams, had family in Bristol who could put them up for the night.

It was my first time seeing either band live, and I was really stoked. I remember the show was well-attended and both bands killed. At one point in St. Paul’s set, Janeway’s mic briefly went out. Already a seasoned and flamboyant performer, Paul didn’t miss a beat…he ditched the dead mic and leapt from the stage to join my daughter Callie in an impromptu dance session. She was only four years old at the time and loved to dance at Border Bash. However, once she realized all eyes were on her and her flashy new dance partner, my baby girl had a moment and bolted!

Once the mic issue was resolved, the band played into the night –  making a big splash and lifelong fans in Bristol. After the show, I couldn’t get over to the merch tent fast enough to buy a St. Paul t-shirt and a CD from Caroline, who was manning the table. At some point Paul and a couple members of the band came over and chatted with us, and they were all super-gracious and kind. Paul and I laughed over Callie’s reaction to him joining her on the dance floor, and for several months after that encounter, she begged to listen to the band’s CD on repeat in the car.

Fan for life! Photo 1: 4-year-old Callie wearing her favorite frilly frock to see St. Paul & the Broken Bones at Bristol Rhythm 2013, hoping for a dance do-over. Photo 2: Callie and her friend Branch Sword couldn’t wait to say hi to Paul when the band returned to the festival in 2019.

Both bands that performed at Border Bash that evening returned the following month to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (see the full 2013 festival lineup here) to much acclaim, with St. Paul & The Broken Bones participating in a Live and Breathing recording session from the sewing floor at LC King Manufacturing while they were here. To date, those videos have received over a million views on YouTube – and the video below was featured in a background scene of the HBO series “Big Little Lies(Season One, Episode 6: Burning Love).

Following the February 2014 release of their album “Half the City,” St. Paul & The Broken Bones was invited to perform at Hangout Music Festival and Bonnaroo, and also returned to the Bristol Rhythm lineup that September. In December of that year Paul married his sweetheart, Caroline, and the band’s stock was certainly going up. They were getting higher-profile gigs in bigger venues and earned coveted opening slots for acts like Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The latter performance was held at a bucket list venue for Janeway, as it took place at Nashville’s “Mother Church,” The Ryman. In this interview with, Janeway mentions that the band received three standing ovations that night.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the year my dear friend and co-worker Tracey Childress refers to as her “Year of Music.” She and her husband Eric took in several of their own bucket list shows in 2015, which included seeing Paul McCartney and a big Grateful Dead reunion tour. Me and my hubby Tim tagged along with them to see a cathartic 3-hour Fleetwood Mac show in Knoxville in March, during which I unexpectedly cried through almost the entire concert. The whole band was back together in its original form, and being in the same room with Stevie Nicks and seeing them play with such exuberance literally sent me on an emotional journey I hadn’t been prepared to take.

We learned The Rolling Stones were bringing their Zip Code Tour to Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium and that the opening act was none other than St. Paul & The Broken Bones! There was no way we were missing it, even if we had to sit in the nosebleed section.  Tickets in hand, we booked our hotel rooms and hit the road. I made sure to pack the t-shirt I had bought at the Border Bash show two years prior and proudly wore it to the concert.

Collage of 2 photos. The first is a photo of Eric, Tracey, Charlene and Tim (Charlene wearing St. Paul t-shirt) at Rolling Stones concert. Second photo is of Charlene, her daughter, and Paul Janeway of St. Paul & the Broken Bones.
Photo 1: Eric, Tracey, me, and my hubby Tim waiting for St. Paul & the Broken Bones to open for The Rolling Stones in Atlanta, June 9, 2015. I am wearing the t-shirt I purchased at St. Paul’s first Bristol show. Photo 2: That’s me with my daughter Callie and Paul Janeway at Border Bash in August 2013 when I bought the t-shirt.

For the record, I live for full-circle moments like these. Even though it was impossible that anyone from the band would see me in the crowd, I still came to represent in the St. Paul & The Broken Bones t-shirt I’d purchased two years prior. Also, once a band or artist has played Bristol Rhythm, it’s a bond that will never be broken. They are instantly part of our musical family and our story.

I ended up running into a couple of Atlanta friends I knew at the show who weren’t familiar with the band, and several people seated next to us were equally unaware of the greatness they were about to witness. My t-shirt opened up conversations about Bristol Rhythm and gave me the opportunity to brag about the band.

When St. Paul finally took the stage, it was exciting to see how the band had honed its stage show to perfection; their fiery energy primed the crowd perfectly for The Stones set and the whole night was magical. I’m still so proud of them and so incredibly happy for their success. Both The Stones and Fleetwood Mac shows are particularly sentimental to me now that we have lost Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts and the divine Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Most of all, I cherish those memories with Eric and Tracey whom I’ve been seeing shows with for the better part of 30 years.

Back to the shirt…there is an existing school of thought that it is uncool to wear your favorite band’s t-shirt to their concerts. I call B.S. on that, but I did run across this article panning the practice and another op-ed accusing band tee snobs of being self-loathing know-it-alls – so there’s that. I posed the question, “Is it cool or uncool to wear your favorite band’s t-shirt to their concerts?” on Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion’s Facebook page, asking fans and musicians to weigh in on the matter. The response was a unanimous “it’s cool” from both sides.

Collage of 3 photos: 1) Two young girls posing with the band The Happy Fits. The girls are wearing their band sweatshirts. 2) Charlene posing in her New Respects sweatshirt while posing with the band Curse of Lono. 3) Charlene selfie, she is wearing a Momma Mollasses t-shirt
Photo 1: My daughter Callie (right) and her friend Gionna Russo posing with The Happy Fits (L to R) Calvin Langman, Luke Davis, and Ross Montieth at Bristol Rhythm 2019. The girls are wearing the band’s sweatshirts in 90 degree heat! Photo 2: Me posing in my New Respects sweatshirt with WJHL news anchor Amy Lynn and the band Curse of Lono at Bristol Rhythm 2019. Photo 3: A selfie in my favorite Momma Molasses tee – yay, v-neck!

I have an entire chest of drawers overflowing with band and festival t-shirts, and they are a constant in my weekly wardrobe. I’ll never regret a single purchase, and I’d like to think that $15 or $20 investment in my favorite artists may be putting gas in their vans to get them to the next gig where a whole new audience will fall in love with their music. I’d like to think that my investment in St. Paul & The Broken Bones in those early years contributed to that in some small way.

Buying band merch is especially meaningful to local musicians. When you slap their stickers on your bumpers or sport a cool tee out in public, not only are you advertising their art, you are supporting a small business in your community, plus helping local artists tour, record new music, replace broken guitar strings, etc. Also, when you show up to their shows wearing those t-shirts, you’re showing them how much you love them. The energy exchange there is priceless, and it gives them incentive to keep creating.

Photo collage of 2 photos. In the first photo three children standing in front of a stage smiling. Two of them are wearing Avett Brothers t-shirts. In the second photo a young girl is wearing an Amythyst Kiah t-shirt.
Kids showing band love! Photo 1: My daughter Callie with her friends Branch and Ginny Sword, who were sporting Avett Brothers couture, at Kingsport’s Funfest in 2018. It was Callie’s first Avett’s show and we had yet to hit the merch table. Photo 2: Callie goofing with her Dad, but proudly wearing her Amythyst Kiah tank top on a summer beach trip.

This Christmas season, instead of buying stuff, consider giving your music-loving friends tickets to a concert and a cool band t-shirt to wear to the show. Every time they wear that shirt they’ll think of you and the great gift of a cool music experience that you gave them – plus, added bonus: it’s the perfect opportunity to promote hard-working musicians. Like St. Paul & The Broken Bones, they could be really huge one day, and your friends could have a great band story like mine to tell. It’s literally an unbroken circle of good vibes all around.

Shameless plug, but Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is a great festival for discovering new talent. Acts like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Amythyst Kiah, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, 49 Winchester, Moon Taxi, and Sierra Ferrell are just a few examples of talent we’ve hosted early on in their careers. Additionally, Bristol is a great example of how a thriving music scene breathes new life into a community, adds jobs, and supports its local economy through tourism, so make that investment and watch your local music scene thrive!

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion weekend passes make great stocking stuffers, and our festival tees are a great, quality purchase – just sayin’! We are nonprofit and a small business, so everything you give goes back into the festival and our community. Visit our website at for more information, we’ll be rolling out the 2023 lineup early in the New Year! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the following Bristol Rhythm Christmas Party Playlist on Spotify – filled with amazing artists that have performed at the festival – to keep you in the holiday spirit all season long!


From the Vault: National Fiddle Day

While December 13 – today – is National Violin Day, here at the Birthplace of Country Music, we celebrate it as National Fiddle Day!

The violin or fiddle is believed to have originated in 16th-century Italy, though there are certainly earlier instruments, particularly from the Middle East, that are viewed as part of the fiddle’s “family tree.” Soon after its appearance or development in Italy, the modern fiddle began to move into other areas of Europe, including England, Ireland, and Scotland, and it was primarily immigrants from these areas, along with French settlers, who brought the fiddle across the Atlantic to North America. 

As early as 1736, there are written accounts of fiddle contests in the South, and the fiddle was the primary musical instrument in southern Appalachia through World War II. It was often accompanied by the banjo, making them the foundational instruments for string band music. Despite the instrument’s common association with white rural musicians, a strong African American fiddle tradition developed in the 19th century and Native Americans and Mexican Americans also explored their own fiddle styles in the Southwest. 

The four-stringed instrument is played with a bow, though it can also be strummed or plucked. People tend to use the term violin when the instrument is played for classical or chamber music, symphonies, or orchestras, while the term fiddle is associated with Cajun, Irish, bluegrass, folk, oldtime, and country music – tunes where musicians can really let loose and play! Historically, the fiddle was sometimes referred to as “The Devil’s Box” because many people associated the fiddle with dancing, drinking, and merry-making – activities viewed by some as improper.

Two images: Left: Two people stand in front of a local history exhibit. A white woman with short grey hair and a colorful top holds a fiddle, while a white man with grey hair and glasses and wearing a blue shirt holds a camera.

Left: Blind Alfred Reed’s family brought the fiddle he played on the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings to the museum’s 90th anniversary in 2017. In this photograph, it is being shown to Ralph Peer II. Right: Charles McReynolds was a part of the Bull Mountain Moonshiners who played at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. McReynolds was a lively fiddle player and a pillow had to be placed under his foot during the band’s 1927 recordings. His grandsons Jim and Jesse McReynolds became big stars on WCYB’s Farm and Fun Time, and Jesse can be seen her playing Charles’s fiddle on Radio Bristol’s revival of the show!

The museum is fortunate to have several fiddles within our collection:

The fiddle on display in the museum’s permanent exhibit was made in 1935. Several artists played the fiddle on recordings from the 1927 Bristol Sessions, including Hattie Stoneman, Blind Alfred Reed, Kahle Brewer, Jesse and Pyrhus Shelor of the Shelor Family/Dad Blackard’s Moonshiners, J. E. Green with Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Baker, Jack Pierce of the Tenneva Ramblers, Charles McReynolds of the Bull Mountain Moonshiners, Norman Edmonds, Wesley “Bane” Boyles of the West Virginia Coon Hunters, and Uncle Eck Dunford. Our display fiddle is very similar to the fiddles that would have been played at the 1927 Bristol Sessions.

Close up of a fiddle hanging in a display case. A black-and-white photograph of an older bearded white man is seen to the side of the fiddle. He is holding a fiddle and he wears a checked shirt, overalls, and a hat.

This fiddle was owned and played by Herbert Sweet, who played with his brother Earl in the 1920s and 1930s. The inside of the fiddle’s case has handwritten details of several places where they played, including a Gennett Records session in 1928 with Ernest Stoneman and WOPI, a Bristol radio station. Herbert played this instrument well into the 1980s, as told by Ruth Roe, who donated the instrument to us. 

A fiddle in its case. There is writing on the top inside part of the case, and the rest is lined in red velvet.

A few years back, we received two fiddles from Tennessee Ernie Ford Enterprises. The fiddles belonged to Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Ford, the parents of Tennessee Ernie Ford. They lived in the area throughout their lives, and Ernie referenced his Bristol roots often in his radio and television shows. 

An old and worn fiddle seen in close up over the main body of the instrument.

This fiddle was owned and played by Charlie Bowman, an East Tennessee museum whose distinctive fiddling style was a major influence on early country music in the 1920s and 1930s. Inside the f-holes on the instrument, there are etchings of “Charlie Bowman” and “1934.” This fiddle is currently on loan to us from Bowman’s great-nephew Bob Cox. 

Close up of a well preserved fiddle with rich wood, looking at it from its base and up towards the neck. There is a strap attached to one side.

Matchstick modeling has its origins as a pastime of prisoners during the 18th century. Many things can be built out of matchsticks – from architectural structures to tea cups. The museum has two matchstick fiddles in our collection where the bodies of the instruments are made completely out of matchsticks. Made by Wade Nichols and donated to the museum by Anita Morrell from her father Joe’s collection, it would be interesting to know how this unusual construction and wood source affected their sound! 

Close ups of the back and front of two matchstick fiddles. You can see the individiual matchsticks placed in a variety of directions to form the bodies of the instruments.

The image at the top of this page is of Ernest Stoneman’s band, known by different names including The Stoneman Family, the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers, and Ernest V. Stoneman & His Dixie Mountaineers. Two fiddle players are seen on the back row: Uncle Eck Dunford and Hattie Stoneman. From the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records, #20001, Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Julia Underkoffler is the Collections Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.





The World of Marty Stuart: Country Music’s Legacy in Mississippi

Today we welcome guest writer Miriam Meeks to the BCM Blog as she shares stories and objects from a wonderful special exhibit currently on display at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) in Jackson until December 31. Focused on Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion favorite Marty Stuart and his collection of country music artifacts, this exhibit is sure to be of interest to Birthplace of Country Music fans and friends! Enjoy!

As the year begins to wind down, many people are feeling nostalgic for the past. Until December 31, fans of country music will be able to take a walk down memory lane through the golden age of country music at The World of Marty Stuart, a collaboration between Grammy-winning musician Marty Stuart and MDAH to tell the story of country music with emphasis on its lasting role within Mississippi. The World of Marty Stuart exhibit covers his life and legacy of preserving country music’s stories, photographs, instruments, costumes, and more.

A white man with grey hair stands against a black background. He is wearing all black and holds an electric guitar.

Marty Stuart with his electric guitar. Photo by Alysse Gafken; courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History

As a young boy, Stuart began playing music in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He joined The Sullivans, a family bluegrass gospel group based in Alabama, after being drawn to bluegrass and gospel music. He played guitar and mandolin with them until eventually meeting bluegrass musician Roland White, who invited Stuart to back Lester Flatt’s band.

After touring with Flatt, Stuart recorded his first solo album, With a Little Help from My Friends, and performed with various artists like Vassar Clements and Doc Watson before joining Johnny Cash’s band in 1980. Stuart collected memorabilia from shows played by fellow musicians, many of whom were friends and mentors of Stuart. His greatest passion to safeguard the legacy of country music strengthened as he continued to produce solo albums.

Over the years, Stuart’s trove of treasures grew as he recognized the importance of preservation. “Somewhere along the way, about the early ‘80s, those artifacts were being discarded,” said Stuart. “So it became a self-appointed mission to curate, protect, and preserve that end of country music: authentic, traditional country music. The people and their treasures.” Hundreds of these priceless artifacts are currently housed at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson as part of The World of Marty Stuart exhibit.

A full drum set against a white background. The drums are a deep blue color and the large drum in the front has the band name -- Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives -- on its head. Several cymbals can also be seen.

Drum set used by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. Artifacts courtesy of Marty Stuart; photography by Mark Geil

Stuart and the MDAH worked together to curate a truly timeless exhibit, one that gives a small glimpse into Stuart’s dedicated collection. A plethora of pieces from the golden age of country music are on display, including Stuart’s first guitar; original manuscripts from Hank Williams; guitars that belonged to Merle Haggard and Pops Staples; and costumes worn by Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash, including Cash’s “Walk the Line” performance suit.

Eagle-eyed visitors will recognize the connection to the namesake for Stuart’s second solo album from 1982. Stuart first experienced rhythm and blues as a young boy at the Busy Bee Café, now the Busy Bee Suites, in Philadelphia. Virgil Griffin and the Rhythm Kings frequently played there, and now the group’s original bass drum head rests at the Two Mississippi Museums. A school essay also hangs in the halls of the exhibit. A young Stuart was asked by his teacher, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to which Stuart wrote, “a musician.” Now his answer has come full circle. The exhibit is the living embodiment of Stuart’s musical journey resting in the state that raised him.

One of the exhibit displays from The World of Marty Stuart. Several stage costumes can be seen, along with posters and prints in the background. There are also a several instruments on display.

Various performance costumes featured in The World of Marty Stuart exhibit. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

What you see in the exhibit is only the tip of the iceberg – in actuality, Stuart has collected over 20,000 pieces of country music memorabilia and historic items, which will settle in the future home of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music in Philadelphia. This Congress will be a celebration of country music and a culmination of the musician’s ultimate goals.

The World of Marty Stuart exhibit is brought to you by the title sponsor, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, as well as by AT&T and Visit Mississippi. The World of Marty Stuart runs through December 31, 2022, with regular exhibit hours: Tuesday—Saturday, 9:00am—5:00pm and Sunday, 11:00am—5:00pm. For more information, visit You can also check out Stuart’s memoir, The World of Marty Stuart. The book covers his life with photographs and artifact reproductions straight from his collection. It was published by MDAH and distributed by the University Press of Mississippi.

Finally, check out the interview with Nan Prince, Director of Collections at MDAH, that we conducted last week on the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Museum Talk radio show.

Image at top of page: Marty Stuart and his acoustic guitar. Photo by Alysse Gafken; courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Miriam Meeks is the Content Writer of Moore Media Group in Jackson, Mississippi.

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Star Fisher

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

This month’s book is The Star Fisher by Laurence Yep, a book featured in Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature, a special exhibit that was on display at the museum in 2019. Based on Yep’s mother’s childhood, The Star Fisher tells the story of 15-year-old Joan Lee, a Chinese-American girl who moves to West Virginia from Ohio in 1927. Joan and her siblings speak English but her parents only speak Chinese, and while she knows that they are all Americans, no one else seems to see her and her family that way. As they struggle to put down roots in their new town and run their laundry business, Joan encounters prejudice and racism but also kindness. Amidst these experiences, Joan believes that her desire for respect and acceptance mirrors the Chinese legend of the star fisher, a half-bird/half-human creature that sees with two sets of eyes – and so Joan sees life as an Asian and as an American. Aimed at upper elementary and lower middle school readers, this book wonderfully explores the story of an Asian American’s experience and the importance of treating everyone with empathy and respect.

Book cover with the drawing of a young Asian American girl standing at a fence with a house behind her. You can also see the expansive blue night sky and mountains behind her. She is wearing a blue top or dress, and her black hair in in pigtails/braids. She has her chin on one hand and gazes at the sky.

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Laurence Yep published his first story – a science fiction piece – when he was only 18 years old. Yep has said that he often felt torn between mainstream American culture and his Chinese roots when he was growing up, and this theme has often come to fore in his writing throughout his career. Focused on children’s literature, Yep has written over 70 books and other works, including two Newbery Award winners in his Golden Mountain series. The Star Fisher was published in 1991 and was followed by a sequel called Dream Soul in 2000.

A Chinese American man with dark, slightly graying, hair is smiling at the camera. He wears glasses, a greenish-blue checked shirt with a dark blue fleece or sweater vest over it. He has his arms crossed.

Portrait of Laurence Yep from a 2001 article in the Seattle PI

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, December 22 at 12:00pm for our discussion of The Star Fisher. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time – the librarians will be happy to help you find it! We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for January 2023 is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, January 26. Check out a full list of the books we will read in 2023 here, where you can also listen to archived shows.

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.