Zig-zagging more than 300 miles across southwest Virginia is the Crooked Road, a heritage music trail that leads to a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of authenticity. This area is known for legendary musicians lending an ear and encouraging today’s up-and-coming pickers and singers. You should see it all in action with the backdrop of the Christmas season in full swing.
Ten counties, 14 towns, and three cities make up the Crooked Road, so it goes without saying that there are far more opportunities than a single weekend can fit. Here are some highlights to give you an idea of where you could spend some time.
— Rocky Mount —
From Roanoke, take Route 581 to Route 220, which leads to Rocky Mount and the new Harvester Performance Center. Midweek and weekend performances are scheduled all December long. Highlights include The Embers, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Steep Canyon Rangers, Judy Collins, and John Anderson.
While in Rocky Mount, be sure to seek out a gift at The Artisan Center Along the Crooked Road, a one-stop-shop to explore the works of more than 50 local artisans.
Rocky Mount, Virginia
— Rocky Mount to Floyd —
The Floyd Country Store in Floyd is one lively place most any day of the week, but weekends? Oh, the weekend events make it a mecca for music enthusiasts and the curious. The Friday Night Jamboree, Saturday Americana Afternoons, and Sunday Afternoon Jam are the organized events you have to choose from each week, but don’t be surprised to find impromptu picking any time.
— Floyd to Galax and Grayson County —
- The Rex Theater in Galax is home to Blue Ridge Backroads, a Friday night live radio show featuring Bluegrass and Old-Time bands. Come watch!
- Shop Barr’s Fiddle Shop in Galax.
- Fries (pronounced “freeze”) welcomes you to their Saturday evening Gospel, Bluegrass and/or Old Time at Historic Fries Theater.
- In Independence, your Wednesday evenings can be livened up with the Old-Time Music Jam at Historic 1908 Courthouse.
- Shop Donley Violins in Independence.
- Every Saturday in Troutdale offers “Food & Fun,” a time of Bluegrass and a tasty, affordable country buffet. You’ll find it all at Flatridge Community Center beginning at 6 p.m.
— Grayson County to Abingdon —
Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway in Abingdon is a tremendous place offering handcrafted gifts, soaps, candles, quilts, instruments, stained glass, pottery, and so much more. You must stop here for your shopping, but in addition, Heartwood hosts The Crooked Road Open Jam every first, third, and fifth Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Bring your instrument or just gather around and enjoy the music.
As if that weren’t enough, Heartwood also opens its stage for a Youth Music Showcase. Look for local young talent to college-age bands to perform on the second Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
— Abingdon to Bristol —
Mondays at 7 p.m. are reserved for the Pickin’ Porch Show at the Foundation Event Facility in Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music. While you’re in town, check out the brand new Birthplace of Country Music Museum!
— Bristol to Hiltons —
Hiltons is home to the renowned first family of country music, the Carter Family. Be welcomed into the fold, so the speak, as the Carter Family Fold Old Time Music Center opens every Saturday night for traditional Appalachian music performances. “Keep on the Sunny Side,” y’all.
— Hiltons to Norton, Coeburn, and Pound, Wise County —
The Virginia-Kentucky Opry in Norton hosts a live Saturday night radio broadcast and seats up to 241 patrons. In this venue you’ll hear more than what you expect, as an occasional Big Band group takes the stage.
Lays Hardware Center for the Arts in Coeburn welcomes visitors, musicians — everyone — every Thursday night for their Jam Sessions. All ages, levels of talent, etc. are welcome to participate. Friday nights are reserved specifically for Bluegrass. It’s a family-friendly venue and food is on hand.
Town Hall in Pound is for important matters, including the long-standing “Pickn n ‘The Pound’ Bluegrass Jam every Thursday night at 7 p.m. Head out and let your voice be heard!
— Pound, Wise County to Clintwood, Dickenson County —
No visit to Clintwood is complete without a stop at the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center.
Shop for your favorite picker at Hill Mandolins in Haysi (pronounced hay-sigh). Luthier Bradley Hill has crafted the Stanley Tone mandolins endorsed by Dr. Ralph Stanley and available for purchase at the Ralph Stanley Museum. In fact, Stanley’s grandson, Nathan, picks a Hill-made Stanley Tone mandolin.
If you’ve traveled the Crooked Road and have a favorite venue, event, or artisan that you always visit, please leave a comment to share the knowledge!