Deep in the most rugged mountains of southwestern Virginia, on the slopes and in the hollows of Mt. Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, a rich tradition of old-time music has endured through many decades of changes. As the popularity of bluegrass, rock, and rap flooded the country, and as the popularity of old-time music came and went, and arose again throughout the Appalachians, the old-time musicians of the Whitetop area maintained their pure, rich musical heritage like burning embers in a banked fire.
As this recording demonstrates, Eddie Bond has talents that can bring an audience out of their seats. He is a powerful singer in a soulful Blue Ridge Mountain tradition, as well as one of the most respected old-time fiddlers in the Blue Ridge.
Anyone concerned that traditional bluegrass and old time music may no longer resonate with today’s youth need only witness the masterful playing of Montana Young to allay these fears. At the tender age of 12, Montana has already been delighting audiences at fiddling conventions, festivals, and community jams for years, along the musically rich Crooked Road.
At the eastern end of the Crooked Road lies Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute. Among their folk music archives is a scratchy 1970s recording of a bluegrass jam session at the Pulaski, Virginia Fiddler’s Convention. On it, a fiddler walks up with case in hand and asks if he can join in. After being invited to join, he gets his fiddle out and runs, no, blazes through a warm up scale – three octaves worth! Instantly, all present sense something extraordinary is about to happen. And it does, as the fiddler leads the group on a mad dash through a jaw-dropping rendition of Soldiers Joy, Liberty and Golden Slippers. When it’s over, someone from the thoroughly stunned group says, “Say, Mister, what’s your name?” “Pendleton, Buddy Pendleton” comes the reply in a modest unassuming tone.
Galax, the friendly town on the border of Carroll and Grayson counties is named for the galax leaf, a broad green leaf that carpets some woodlands, and has been used for generations for decorative purposes. Galax has produced musicians in prodigious numbers that has puzzled and delighted musicologists for almost a century. This process continues.
It’s easy to forget that most songs—particularly those in American folk, traditional, or popular music—rarely last more than three and a half minutes. We often forget this because the best of songs exude a timeless quality, and tend to unexpectedly revisit us—some might say even haunt us—throughout the course of our daily lives. A good song exists in a kind of “time out of time.”