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.
Linda and Sammy come from legendary musical communities on Virginia’s Crooked Road. The Meadows of Dan and Clayman Valley are tiny mountain places separated by 150 miles of hairpin turns, old mills, crossroads stores, mom and pop eateries, and towns with one stop light or none, but only 90 miles by the way the crow flies.
On a hot summer night in 2006, two friends took the stage at the storied old-time and bluegrass music festival in Galax, Virginia. One would would sing while the other played along. When the next friend’s turn to compete arrived, they would switch roles. While neither friend is a musical virtuoso, their love for the music and their belief in each other resulted in a very special sound that embodies much of the great musical tradition of southwest Virginia.
Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland play with an exuberance and joy that is infectious. Whether they are jamming in the sawdust of their instrument-making shop, at a local performance in Grayson County, Virginia, on a festival stage, or in the recording studio, Gerald and Spencer play from the heart and never hold back.
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.