Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Crooked Road Venue

As of this writing we are one day into our three-day drive from Big Stone Gap, VA, to West Memphis, AR. It's only a little over 500 miles, but we have become accustomed to drives of 200-250 miles on travel days.

We had been in the Big Stone Gap area of southwest Virginia for about two weeks, but because of thunderstorms and, like much of the country, it was just too hot to be outside, we did not do much exploring of the area and we missed some jams and concert performances.

But we did get a chance to drive to nearby Norton (VA) for a brief
walk through the downtown.

Two items with some history attached to them were this Coca-Cola sign

and this building, which now housed the offices of Adkins and
Hunnicutt, attorneys. Unfortunately, I was not able to find anything about the history of this building and its decorative sculptures on its facade.

Our destination was the Country Cabin II, but a slight diversion took us past this remnant of the past--the Central Drive-in Movie. "Remnant" may not be accurate, because as you can see from the marquee, one can see current films--in fact, a double feature of Brave and Spiderman.

(I couldn't tell if all the speakers were still attached to the poles--or what technological changes had occurred in the field of speakers that hook onto the window of cars.)

The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail” is a 300-mile route that winds through the scenic terrain of ten counties in southwest Virginia, focusing on the region’s unique musical heritage. Along the route, eight venues have been identified for their particularly important role in the region's musical heritage.

One of these major venues is the Country Cabin II just outside Nortion. "The Country Cabin with its descendant, Country Cabin II, is the oldest mountain music/cultural venue currently operating along the Crooked Road.

"The original Country Cabin was built in 1937 under President Roosevelt’s WPA program as a community recreational facility and is a National and State Historic Landmark. Local musicians gathered at the cabin every Saturday night to perform and carry on traditional bluegrass and country music.

"The popularity of the weekly event soon outgrew the log cabin and in 2002, a new larger facility was built" (

The night we visited the venue, the Blue Stone River Band, whom we had not heard before, was performing and we were treated to a very skillful and entertaining performance. We later learned that even though they had been together for only a little over a year they were to be the opening act for Dr. Ralph Stanley at the upcoming Russell County Fair.

(Regretably, we had missed two performances by Dr. Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys because of the weather. About Dr. Stanley: "When legends come to mind there is one star that shines above them all that is none other than the legendary icon Dr. Ralph Stanley. For over 6 decades he has become one of the most influential artists of all time." Fortunately, we had heard him perform at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA, about a dozen years ago.)

So,...opening for Dr. Stanley is quite an honor for (l. to r.) Pete Stoughton, bass; Tami Stoughton, banjo; Al Beaman, mandolin; and Bill Faust, guitar.

At one point in the evening, Bill Jones, president of Appalachian Traditions, a nonprofit group that aims to promote the local mountain heritage, brought out a broom and called for a broom dance.
Similar to the distress facing participants in musical chairs, one person begins "dancing" with the broom, when the leader calls "Change," the person drops the broom and finds a partner. The partner-less person now has to dance with the broom until the next "Change."

And there was plenty of dancing.

Flat footing compared to clogging. To us, flat footing is a relaxed dance (although one's feet are constantly moving) with the individual dancer setting the pattern and style and with the person's feet staying close to the floor.

Clogging usually involves a group dancing to the same pattern and rhythm, and the dance is often marked by extra kicks, stomps, and taps to generate more sounds per beat. The sounds are produced by the metal pieces on the shoes (photo below). (To me it sounds like castinets on the feet.) A group of cloggers produce a striking sound.

So that's our interpretation and we're sticking to it.

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