More than 180 digital assets from the ​Virginia Folklife Program can be viewed online thanks to a new partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. By partnering with cultural institutions worldwide, Google is making important cultural materials easily accessible to a large audience and digitally preserving the materials for future generations. The Virginia Folklife Program’s Eastern Virginia Gospel exhibit was launched for Black History Month along with those from an impressive array of other exhibitions focusing on African American history, arts, and culture. The Virginia Folklife’s exhibit joins nearly eighty others created by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The King Center, and many others.

Launch in full screen »

The Virginia Folklife Program’s virtual exhibit entitled Eastern Virginia Gospel connects viewers worldwide with some of the Commonwealth’s most unique gospel treasures in just a few clicks. Key elements of the exhibit include:

  • National Heritage Fellows The Paschall Brothers’ legacy explored through twenty years of photographs and recordings featuring never-before-seen concert footage of the Tidewater quartet.
  • Selections from the late “Gospel Queen of Richmond” Maggie Ingram’s family audio archive, including “I Come to the Garden,” a unique recording that strays from the better-known and more raucous gospel tunes of Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes.
  • “Put Me Down Easy: The Charlie McClendon Story,” a 30-minute documentary feature exploring racial relations in the Tidewater region of Virginia through R&B music of the 1960s.

In the exhibit, rare recordings such as those from the archives of the late evangelist Rev. Maggie Ingram are paired with a family history by Richmond-based journalist Don Harrison and photo and video assets from the Virginia Folklife Program archive. “Maggie is a national treasure, not just in her interpretations of gospel standards and spirituals, but also in her own compositions. She’s one of the great writers of gospel music,” said Jon Lohman, Virginia State Folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program. “Through Maggie’s story and others, this exhibit will shed light on the largely unknown significance of Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Norfolk to the development of the gospel music tradition. The Google Cultural Institute’s recognition of these individuals as great American artists is an exciting opportunity and invitation for further exploration.”

Get Ready: The Blue Ridge Folk Festival at Ferrum College

This is, without question, one of the very finest folklife festivals in the country! The Blue Ridge Folk Festival returns to Ferrum College Saturday, October 28th, and it’s is as authentic as it gets. Where else can you take in real horse pulls, mule jumping contests, coon dog contests, traditional crafts, country foods, Blue Ridge roots music, moonshiner stills & storytelling, kid’s folk games, custom & vintage Cars, sheep herding demos, threshing & baling demos, vintage tractors & engines, and more at one place and one day?

For more information click here.

Terry Peters of J&P Meat Processing, LLC in Wirtz, Virginia rolls a hog carcass out of a scalding hair-removal bath before slaughtering the pig during a demonstration. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Steve Foster jumps his mule. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
One of Roy Johnson’s sheep dogs herds sheep during a demonstration. Johnson controls the dogs using just his voice. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
A team of horses pulls a 3,000-pound sled. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
George Saunders, original member of the Spiritual Four, sings during a gospel workshop. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
A dash-board hula girl sits on the cab of a Chevorlet Bel Air wagon. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Nell Townley works on a quilt in the craft area.Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Pigeon keeper Connie Marsh holds a flightless pigeon bred for rolling. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Hounds compete in a coon dog water race. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)
Michael Thomas holds tight on his hound, Blackie, before the treeing contest. Thousands attended the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (photo by Pat Jarrett)

Virginia Folklife Program’s Cape Verdean Musical Exchange to showcase at the Drum and Strum in Warrenton, Virginia.

This November, the Virginia Folklife Program will be returning to Cape Verde, a musically and culturally rich island nature off the coast of West Africa, for another musical exchange. Two of last year’s participants, Virginian multi-instrumentalist Danny Knicely and Cape Verdean master musician Zerui Depina, will be joined for this performance by Aimee Curl and Jared Pool, who will be joining Danny and Ze in Cape Verde this year as well. This is a concert not to be missed.

For more information click here.

Frankie Centeio listens as Zerui Depina plays the cavaquinho with Danny Knicely on fiddle in Ch‹ das Calderas, Fogo, in Cabo Verde on 11/5/16.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

Feed You Soul: Another Epic Richmond Folk Festival

For our 2017 Virginia Folklife Area presentation, we kept our promise to “Feed Your Soul.” From Saturday morning’s hair-raising a cappella hymn by the legendary Reverend Frank Newsome, to the final house-rocking, soul-shaking performance by the Ingramettes, audiences in our packed tent were delighted all weekend by the many diverse sounds of the Commonwealth. And on our adjoining Folklife Foodways Stage, audiences were fed more literally, while learning some of the secrets behind everything from Iraqi-style baklava to Mexican cochinita pibil. We are grateful once again to have had the opportunity to join forces with your friends at Venture Richmond and the National Council for the Traditional Arts to produce this amazing community event. See you next year!

To view this year’s participants click here.

Cora Harvey Armstrong hugs a fan after her set. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/14/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
The Ladies Vocal Workshop.
Peter Hedlund/VFH Staff
Clyde Jenkins at his booth. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/14/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Jon Lohman, right, and Harold Mitchell talk backstage. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/14/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Frank Newsome onstage.
Peter Hedlund/VFH Staff
Gina Sobel, right, and Susan Gaeta perform.
Peter Hedlund/VFH Staff
Luz Lopez demonstrated a number of Mexican cooking traditions. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/14/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Andrew Vogts backstage. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Jack Dunlap performs with Danny Knicely’s Next Generation on Sunday. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Aila Wildman sings and Andrew Vogts fiddles with Danny Knicely’s Next Generation on Sunday. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
A sousaphone player walking through the festival grounds. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Tony “Young Buck” Stewart performs with The Sherman Holmes Project. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/14/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Tina Ingram-Murphy serves supper to more than 600 guests. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
The Legendary Ingramettes perform. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Almeta Ingram Miller belts one out on Sunday. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Daneyelle Boynes, left, performs with The Legendary Ingramettes on Sunday. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Festival-goers dance during the Legendary Ingramettes’ set. Thousands attended the Richmond Folk Festival on 10/15/17.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Sondus Moussa demonstrates how to make baklava.
Peter Hedlund/VFH Staff
Rev. Frank Newsome
Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff

Feed Your Soul at the 13th annual Richmond Folk Festival

The Virginia Folklife Program has produced the Virginia Folklife Area at the Richmond Folk Festival since its inception as the National Folk Festival in 2005, and we are once again proud to showcase the finest in Virginia’s music, crafts, and food in 2017 with our theme, “Feed Your Soul.”

When: October 13-15, 2017
Where: Downtown Richmond along the James River, from 2nd to 7th streets and Brown’s Island
The Festival is FREE to attend 
Full Schedule»
Virginia Folklife Area Musicians and Craftspeople»

When we describe a musical performance as “soulful,” we are speaking about that almost indescribable moment when a singer becomes the song, when a teller becomes the tale—when artifice and inhibitions recede and we know we are witnessing something profoundly real. When we speak of “Soul Food,” we mean something that provides a deeper level of nourishment than can be measured in nutrients or calories alone. Soul food gives us strength but it also offers us comfort, lifts our spirits, gives us pause and gratitude. In these troubling times, we believe we all could use a little feeding of our souls, and the Virginia Folklife Program intends to feed audiences generously from our diverse Commonwealth’s bountiful cultural landscape.

When it comes to Soul Music, the Virginia Folklife Stage will be serving it up in ample supplies, starting with perhaps Richmond’s greatest secret, Southern Soul legend Big G. Also appearing: Sherman Holmes, the incomparable surviving member of Virginia’s beloved National Heritage Fellowship-winning trio, the Holmes Brothers, with his new bluegrass, gospel, and soul group called the Sherman Holmes Project. We dish out heavy helpings of soul in the stirring gospel voices of Richmond’s own Legendary Ingramettes and Cora Harvey Armstrong. And while “soul” is often used to describe the myriad variety of African American expressive traditions, we know too that soul speaks in many ways. There is deep, undeniable soul in the renditions of generations-old Sephardic Jewish ballads lovingly carried across the Atlantic by Flory Jagoda’s apprentice Susan Gaeta and Susan’s apprentice Gina Sobel, or in the longing, resilient, feisty, and gritty songs of remarkable Virginia women songwriters like Telisha Williams and Laura Leigh Jones, or in the soaring Hindustani ragas of the young Ved Sheth, or in the hair-raising Old Regular Baptist hymns of the amazing Frank Newsome, sung as if delivered straight from the soul through fire and coal dust. And there is deep soul in the instruments as well, from the gut strings of Griot Chieck Hamala’s n’goni to Sammy Shelor’s 5-string banjo. All this and more will be offered on the Virginia Folklife Stage.

And in response to your insatiable appetites from last year’s “Tasty Licks,” we will once again literally be feeding your souls as well, showcasing the diverse foodways of Virginia, and presenting some of its greatest practitioners. Throughout the weekend, we will be hosting cooking demonstrations that speak to the remarkable diversity of the Commonwealth, showcasing foodways both old and new to Virginia. From a backstage peek of Croaker’s Spot to a bird’s eye view of the Brunswick Stew pot, audiences will get to learn family-held recipes, share in closely-guarded kitchen secrets, and yes, taste the results.

The Richmond Folk Festival is one of Virginia’s largest events, drawing visitors from all over the country to downtown Richmond’s historic riverfront. The Festival is a FREE three day event that got its start as the National Folk Festival, held in Richmond from 2005–2007. In the tradition of the “National,” the Richmond Folk Festival features excellent performing groups representing a diverse array of cultural traditions on seven stages. The festival includes continuous music and dance performances, a Virginia Folklife Area featuring ongoing demonstrations, an interactive Family Area produced by the Children’s Museum of Richmond, a folk art marketplace, regional and ethnic foods, festival merchandise and more.

More information»

Baklava as Art

Sondus Asad Moussa (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

By Theresa Kubasak

“I love making baklava… It’s art!” Sondus Moussa sets up her wooden board, positions a warm pan of clarified butter and sniffs a mixture of ground nuts, smiling at the scent of cardomom. “When you cook you should be in a good mood. When you’re happy your food comes out delicious!”

Perhaps this is the true secret of the baklava that Sondus bakes several times each week at the Baghdad Market, her shop in Harrisonburg. Despite the hardships Sondus experienced in Iraq and the difficult transitions as a refugee, the sunny attitude she learned from her mother shines through.

“My mom had a strong faith in God. She never cared about tomorrow. I’m the same. Life is a gift from God.”

Anyone observing Sondus baking will notice how her face lights up and her eyes gleam with delight as she layers up delicate leaves of phyllo dough, brushing butter between each, sprinkling on her special blend of walnuts, almonds and cardomom. She is relaxed and at peace as she sighs, “See how beautiful it is!”

Sondas’s baklava (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Sondus tells of following her mother and grandmother around the kitchen asking a myriad of questions. “My grandmother put butter in everything!” she recalls. “So I use local, organic butter from Mount Crawford Creamery. It’s the best!”

In addition to the pride she has in her baking skills, Sondus is proud of her family. Her grandfather migrated from Turkey to Nineveh/Mosul during World War I and she attributes her family’s taste for baklava to this Turkish heritage. She tells of her father’s mandolin playing with the Baghdad Symphony for over 40 years. Her favorite story is when the legendary vocalist Fairuz came to town and her father played in the orchestra.

Her taste for exquisite baklava intensified as a child because her father would stop on his way home from work on Karrada Street at Abu Afif, the best sweets shop in the city. Between her father’s habit of eating half a tray of baklava in one sitting and her mother’s baking at home, Sondus developed a love of the multi-layered Middle Eastern treat.

“I love doing this! I taught my younger sisters how to make baklava but they are not passionate about it like I am. Food is my language!”

Sondus Asad Moussa will demonstrate making baklava at the Richmond Folk Festival on Saturday, October 14 as part of the Virginia Folklife Program’s Cooking Demonstration Stage. More information»

Theresa Kubasak is the coauthor of Never Can I write of Damascus: When Syria Became Our Home.

Sherman Holmes on NPR’s Mountain Stage

Sherman Holmes onstage at The Rex Theater in Galax. (Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Sherman Holmes kicks off this weekend’s Mountain Stage with selections from his first solo album in his fifty-year music career, The Richmond Sessions. Sherman, a Christchurch, Virginia-native, played bass in The Holmes Brothers, touring the globe with his brother Wendell and lifelong friend Popsy Dixon until their passings in 2015. The new album reflects Holmes’ musical inspirations, from country and blues to rock and traditional gospel songs featuring Richmond’s “first family of gospel” the Ingramettes; multi-time IBMA banjoist of the year Sammy Shelor and Grammy-nominated dobro player Rob Ickes among others.

Steve Earle and the Dukes follow The Sherman Holmes Project on the September 22 airing, along with other performers. More information on Sherman Holmes can be found here and information on this episode of Mountain Stage can be found here. This show will air on Friday, September 22 at 10 p.m. on WHRV, WHRE, WHRL, WHRG and WHRX; Saturday, September 23 at 2 p.m. on WVRU and 5 p.m. on WAMU; and on Sunday, September 24 at 8 p.m. on WMRA, WMRY, WMLU and WMRL.

Southwest Virginia the place to be this weekend for great music

Join the Virginia Folklife Program in Southwest Virginia this weekend for three great events:

Friday, September 1: Second Annual Show for Joe
** Concert now at Rex Theater at 4pm, 113 East Grayson Street, Galax, VA 24333**
*Workshop now at 2pm at Chestnut Creek School for the Arts, 110 N Main Street, Galax VA 24333*

Concert tickets: $25, general admission only or (866) 308-2773, ext. 245
More Information»

**Due to the possibility for severe weather, the Show for Joe concert has been moved to the Rex Theater in downtown Galax**

*A workshop remembering Joe Wilson will take place at the Chestnut Creek School for the Arts at 2pm with Linda and David Lay, Sherman Holmes, Frank Newsome, Riley Baugus, and author Fred Bartenstein*

Band of Ruhks, and Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley join Linda and David Lay, Reverend Frank Newsome, Stevie Barr, Johnny and Jeanette Williams, the Whitetop Mountain Band, and special guests the Sherman Holmes Project and The Legendary Ingramettes for a second annual A Show for Joe: The Joe Wilson Memorial Music Festival.

Fore the second year in a row, the Blue Ridge Music Center is ecstatic to bring a collaboration of some of the most well respected bluegrass, Americana, and old-time musicians from the Appalachian Mountains together to honor the late Joe Wilson. The memorial showcase is presented by the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in collaboration with the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia is for Lovers, and 98.1 WBRF Classic Country.

In 2015, the music community lost visionary Joe Wilson. From his brainstorming sessions with then Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Gary Everhardt to create the Blue Ridge Music Center to his influential work with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Wilson’s passion for the music of the Blue Ridge Mountains was immeasurable. He produced festivals, recordings, national and international tours, and helped create the Roots of American Music exhibit housed at the Music Center. A native of Tennessee, Wilson was instrumental in the development of The Blue Ridge Music Trails and The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trails. He was also the author of A Guide to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Many musicians can attest to Wilson’s guidance in their musical careers.

Virginia-state folklorist Jon Lohman recalls Wilson’s impact on artists and the music world. “It would not be an overstatement to say that Joe Wilson was one of the most productive and influential cultural figures of his generation. His tireless work on behalf of artists and the community-based folk traditions that they mastered transformed not only the lives of these artists but of countless communities and audiences he exposed to them,” Lohman said. “These artists include some who have gone on to gain global recognition. Joe famously brought a then-unknown teenage fiddler named Alison Krauss on an international tour of master fiddlers, and showcased the likes of Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, and Wayne Henderson early in their careers.”

Leading up to the concert at 4 p.m., the public is invited to enjoy a workshop led by Fred Bartenstein editor of Roots Music in America: The Collected Writings of Joe Wilson and Lucky Joe’s Namesake: The Extraordinary Life and Observations for Joe Wilson and featuring performances by special musical guests.

Saturday, September 2: Eleventh annual Albert Hash Memorial Festival
Grayson Highlands State Park

Legendary fiddlemakers Albert Hash and his daughter Audrey Hash Ham

The 2017 Albert Hash Memorial Festival  will be held Saturday, September 2nd at Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.The festival will take place at the park’s Henderson Stage picnic area. The day-long festival runs from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The festival honors beloved fiddler and fiddle-maker Albert L. Hash, a man known for his dedication to old-time music and his impact on generations of musicians. The festival hopes to preserve and promote traditional mountain music, dance, crafts, and instrument making, while honoring Albert Hash and giving back to the community through music. Local crafts, concessions, a farmers’ market, cakewalks, and plenty of dancing will take place along with special music, dance performances, and instrument making displays.

Performers include the Whitetop Mountain Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer, Wayne Henderson and Friends, Luke Bell and Kinman, Slate Mountain Ramblers, Kelley and the Cowboys, and Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy Cajun Group.

There is a $10 per person admission fee and a $5 per vehicle parking fee. Admission for children age 12 and younger is free. The Albert Hash Festival is a community event made possible by volunteers.

More Information»

Saturday, September 2, 7pm: Song of the Mountains with the Sherman Holmes Project and Jim Lauderdale
The Lincoln Theatre, 117 E. Main Street, Marion, VA 24354
Buy Tickets»

Sherman Holmes (left) with Jim Lauderdale (right) perform at Music City Roots. Photo by Jacqueline Justice.

Song of the Mountains is the official television show of Virginia and features bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, and Americana Music and currently airs on more than 120 public television outlets across the United States. On Saturday, September 2, a live concert featuring the Sherman Holmes Project, Jim Lauderdale, Webb Wilder, and Judy Marshall will be recorded for future broadcast.

Song of the Mountains is recorded live at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia.

More Information»


NPR’s World Cafe to feature Sherman Holmes Project

On Monday, August 7 NPR’s World Cafe will feature the Sherman Holmes Project. From WXPN studios in Philadelphia, host Talia Schlanger interviewed Sherman Holmes on June 21 at In Your Ear studio in Richmond, Virginia, where Sherman, performed with Almeta Ingram-Miller, Cora Harvey Armstrong, Jared Pool, and Jon Lohman.

The World Cafe segment includes scorching performances by Sherman and his band, as well as a lively discussion of Sherman’s childhood, the musical legacy of the Holmes Brothers, and his new album, The Richmond Sessions, his first solo recording in his more than fifty-year career. The album is produced by the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and released by MC Records.

TUNE IN: World Cafe can be heard on more than 200 stations nationwide. Fans can tune in to their local station at the scheduled World Cafe broadcast time by checking local listings. To listen live online, fans can hear the WXPN Philadelphia stream on Monday, August 7 at 2pm ET at by choosing WXPN from the ‘Listen Live’ drop-down at the top of the page. The segment will be archived for on-demand streaming at at approximately 5pm ET on Monday, August 7.

When Sherman sings “I want Jesus to Walk with Me” as if it was his last song for eternity, while Rob Ickes’ dobro lets out wailing, sorrowful glissandos, and the Ingramettes sing the Amen choir, it’s a magnificently moving moment, a soul-stirring song that will bring tears to a Hells Angel.

–Frank Matheis, Living Blues Magazine

Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child” manages to sound like a back catalog Holmes Brothers treasure while incorporating the newly minted bluegrassy feel as well. Ickes’ dobro slides greasily over and Shelor’s banjo skitters around the relentless funk as Lohman’s harp sneaks in and out, wailing mournfully, the Ingramettes scalding the paint off the mics with gospel fervor on every turn.

–Grant Britt, No Depression

Produced by the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, The Richmond Sessions genuinely represents a public appreciation for the music and memory of the Holmes Brothers as Sherman continues to perform and record music.

Black Grooves

Sherman Holmes’ solo debut album, The Richmond Sessions, drops July 21

Special guests include Sammy Shelor, Rob Ickes, the Legendary Ingramettes, Joan Osborne, and more

Now available from these retailers:

iTunes Amazon Best Buy Barnes & Noble

On July 21, musician Sherman Holmes will release his first solo recording in his more than fifty-year career. The Richmond Sessions by the Sherman Holmes Project carries on the spirit of the revered Holmes Brothers by reimagining songs and making them their own. Produced by the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the record will be released by M.C. Records and will be promoted with a tour in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and New York, beginning in June 2017 (see below for specific dates and locations).

Sherman Holmes’ solo debut The Richmond Sessions can’t help being a milestone: it’s the esteemed singer and bassist’s first recording since the passing of his brother and musical partners in the Holmes Brothers, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon, both in 2015. But his solo debut, dedicated to the memories of Wendell and Popsy, is no somber affair. The blend of bluegrass, gritty rock ‘n’ roll, and joyful gospel will be familiar to Holmes Brothers fans. And with some of his strongest vocals to date, the album demonstrates that Sherman is still an artist in his prime.

“Sounds pretty good for a 77-year-old, doesn’t it?” Holmes laughs. “I was overjoyed to do this, because I didn’t know how I was going to restart my career. We chose a good collection of songs that we wanted to do—we got some gospel in there, and some bluegrass. It’s a good mix of the Americana music, as I like to call it.”

Produced by Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman, The Richmond Sessions draws from Holmes’ longstanding Virginia roots. Its origins go back to 2014, when all three of the Holmes Brothers took part in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, sharing their expertise with young musicians. Wendell and Popsy both took ill before the apprenticeship could be completed, but Sherman stayed on to complete his mentorship. “I think that really helped him emotionally to get through it,” Lohman recalls. Sherman performed with his apprentice, a young singer named Whitney Nelson at the finale show; Lohman then persuaded him to take to the piano for a solo version of “I Want Jesus”—a gospel tune he’d sung in church as a child. “I was so moved by that, and went up to him right afterward and said, ‘We should really do a Sherman Holmes record,’ ” Lohman recalls.

Long beloved in the roots music world and beyond, the Holmes Brothers formed as a group in 1979, though the members had all been playing for decades by then. Sherman played behind the likes of Jerry Butler and John Lee Hooker in the early 1960s. The Brothers didn’t make an album together until In the Spirit in 1980, but word spread fast after that. Their fans were as diverse as Peter Gabriel (who not only signed them to his Real World label but had them back him on solo tracks) and Bill Clinton who had them play a presidential gala. They racked up numerous blues music awards and did further guest shots with Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, and Odetta. After their last album together—Brotherhood in 2014—they were honored with a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the government bestows upon traditional artists.

Producer Lohman made the new album a Virginia-style family affair, bringing in guests like the Ingramettes (Richmond’s “first family of gospel” of 50 years standing) and instrumentalists like dobro master Rob Ickes (twice nominated for a Grammy Award) and Sammy Shelor (multi-time IBMA banjoist of the year). Lohman added lesser-known but equally talented musicians Brandon Davis on guitar, Jacob Eller on bass, David Van Deventer on fiddle, and multi-instrumentalist Jared Pool. Manning the Hammond B-3 organ was Devon Harris (aka DJ Harrison), whose roots are in hip-hop and who has sat in with ?uestlove and the Roots. “The Holmes Brothers were always a group that transgressed boundaries,” Lohman explains. “They weren’t concerned with genre, they loved it all. We wanted to honor that on this album. It’s not a blues album per se, or a bluegrass or a folk album. But to me that’s an advantage, and people who loved the Holmes Brothers should really get into it. It was important to me to give Sherman his due, and jump start a new chapter for him.”

Another notable guest is Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Joan Osborne, who duets with Holmes on the Dan Penn and James Carr classic, “Dark End of the Street.” As Holmes explains, “I knew her before she even started singing. She came to New York to study film and one night she walks past Dan Lynch’s, the club we always used to play—we kind of put that place on the map. She heard our voices outside and walked in; she was almost afraid to say hello because you know, we were a little rough. But we’ve been friends ever since.”

Some of the song choices may be more surprising, like Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child,” Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” (nodding to The Band’s famous cover), and “Liza Jane,” the Vince Gill hit that Sherman says he’s wanted to sing ever since he first heard it on the radio. He’s loved the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Green River” even longer—in fact it was one of the last songs the Holmes Brothers worked on together. Sherman’s version features a fresh arrangement, with Ickes’ dobro talking the famous guitar lick.

The gospel tracks also come from the heart, including a version of the childhood church favorite, “I Want Jesus.” Especially notable is “Rock of Ages,” which Sherman performed with Reverend Almeta Ingram-Miller, who’s taken over for her late mother Maggie as the leader of the Ingramettes. “What she sings in that song is what she experienced, with the loss of her mother. It was a really powerful moment,” Lohman explains. Holmes’ assessment is more modest: “I had to sound like a real gospel singer on that one, and I never knew I could do that.”

With the album in stores in July, Sherman plans to hit the road for his first tour as a solo artist. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there,” he says. “That’s my life, man.”

Sherman Holmes Project Tour Dates
June 23: River and Roots Festival – Berryville, Virginia
July 13: Summer Arts Festival – Huntington, New York
July 17: Mountain Stage – Charleston, West Virginia
August 2: Music City Roots – Nashville, Tennessee
September 1: Joe Wilson Memorial Festival – Galax, Virginia
September 2: Song of the Mountains – Marion, Virginia
October 14: Richmond Folk Festival – Richmond, Virginia

The Richmond Sessions is available online and in stores July 21. Pre-order from these retailers now:


Argentinian Bluegrass Band Che Apalache Tours Virginia


The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the summer tour of Argentinian bluegrass band, Che Apalache. The band will perform across North Carolina and Southwest Virginia, in communities including Galax, Floyd, and Abingdon. The tour runs from Thursday, July 20 to Sunday, August 20; see full tour dates and sample media links below.

The Che Apalache tour offers a unique opportunity for the social and cultural integration of the fast-growing Latino community in Galax and surrounding counties. Mexicans and other Latinos are one of the largest and fastest-growing immigrant communities in Southwest Virginia. The tour will provide cultural exchange opportunities for the Argentinian musicians with both Appalachian musicians and Latino communities in Virginia.

Notable tour spots include the Old Galax Fiddler’s Convention, the Fries Fiddler’s Convention, Heartwood, and Floydfest. The band will also perform at several schools in Galax and Grayson County, coordinated by the Chestnut Creek School for the Arts.

About Che Apalache

Che Apalache was formed in Buenos Aires by North Carolina-native Joe Troop, who has lived in Argentina teaching music for the past 10 years. Troop, who plays fiddle and sings lead, came into contact with local multi-instrumentalists and singers through his teaching. Other band members include: Pau André Barjau Mateu from Tepoztlan, Mexico, who plays banjo and sings bass; Martin Bobrik from Buenos Aires, who plays mandolin and sings tenor; and Franco Martino, also from Buenos Aires, who plays guitar and sings baritone.

Che Apalache carries a clear Argentinian root in the word che, which in Argentina, is used in casual conversation as a term of endearment toward a friend or loved one. The word’s meaning is equivalent to the American English terms “brother,” “sis,” or “homie.” Apalache means Appalachian, thus the band’s name can be roughly translated into “my Appalachian homeboy.” Che Apalache symbolizes the band’s hope of achieving unity in the Americas from North to South.

Tour Dates and Locations

  • Thursday 7/20 – 1:30pm – El Buen Pastor (discussion & presentation) – Winston-Salem, NC
  • Thursday 7/20 – 5:00pm – Scuppernong Books (discussion & presentation) – Greensboro, NC
  • Friday 7/21 – 10:00am – The State of Things (WUNC radio interview with Frank Stasio) – Durham, NC
  • Friday 7/21 – 7:30pm – Triad Stage – Greensboro, NC
  • Saturday 7/22 – 5:00pm – Fernandez home (house concert) – Durham, NC
  • Sunday 7/23 – 6:45pm – Rooster’s Wife – Aberdeen, NC
  • Wednesday 7/26 – 7:00pm – Ted’s Fun on the River – Wilmington, NC
  • Thursday 7/27 – 7:00pm – Vimala’s Curryblossom Café- Chapel Hill, NC
  • Friday 2/28 – 7:00pm – The Bullpen – Durham, NC
  • Saturday 7/29 – 7:00pm – The Blue Ridge Center – Galax, VA
  • Sunday 7/30 – 10:15-11:00am (VIP Stage), 3:15-4:15pm (Healing Arts), 6:15-7:00pm (Workshop Porch), Floydfest – Floyd, VA
  • Monday 7/31 – Saturday 8/5 – The Appalachian String Band Festival – Clifftop, WV
  • Sunday 8/6 – Sunday 8/13 – The Old Galax Fiddler’s Convention – Galax, VA
  • Wednesday 8/9 – 1:00pm – Chestnut Creek School for the Arts (discussion and presentation) – Galax, VA
  • Thursday 8/10 – 6:30pm – Heartwood – Abingdon, VA
  • Tuesday 8/15 – 6:00pm – The Bywater – Asheville, NC
  • Thursday 8/17 – Friday 8/18 – School visits in Galax and Grayson Co, VA
  • Friday 8/18 – Sunday 8/20 – Fries Fiddler’s Convention – Fries, VA
  • Sunday 8/20 – 2:00pm – Muddy Creek Music Hall – Winston-Salem, NC; 6:00pm – El Buen Pastor – Winston-Salem, NC