At The Rex Theater in Galax, Virginia, a hush falls over the crowd. Local banjo player Stevie Barr and his protégé, 14-year-old Houston Caldwell, step on stage.
"We're going to play a little song called 'Shucking the Corn,' " the self-effacing 30-year-old announces. "This is the song I played when I won at the Old Fiddlers Convention last year."
Stevie's agile fingers dance along the strings as he launches into the song. Houston matches his teacher note for note. As the music skids to a stop, the crowd roars its approval.
Follow The Crooked Road
Stevie and Houston are among the talented local and regional musicians you might see performing on Friday nights at The Rex. Both The Rex and the town of Galax are among the many stops along Virginia's Crooked Road Music Trail. This new project links together mountain communities, performance venues, and musicians in this remote southwest corner of the state where old-time music still flourishes. It provides a road map that directs visitors to these hidden treasures.
The trail meanders through southwest Virginia from Rocky Mount, south of Roanoke, to Bristol and then up to Clintwood, near the Virginia-Kentucky state line. Following the trail takes planning--if you want to arrive when the musicians are actually playing, that is. Many of the venues along the trail host regular performances, many on Friday and Saturday nights, but it pays to call before you go. On most days, though, you can find impromptu jam sessions if you know where to look.
"We call it homemade music," says fiddle-maker Tom Barr, owner of Barr's Fiddle Shop in Galax, where musicians often gather. "It used to be that this was the only entertainment we had. Some of it may have lost something or gained something along the way, but basically this is the same music people played when they came here in the 1700s."
The Crooked Road
Virginia's Heritage Music Trail: 851 French Moore Jr. Blvd., Suite 174, Abingdon, VA 24210; (276) 492-2085, toll-free 1-866-686-6874, or www.crookedroad.org.
"The Undiscovered Crooked Road" is from the May 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.