New special exhibit, concerts, film series, and much more in the birthplace of country music
Bristol, Va./Tenn. (February 25, 2020) – As March (hopefully) transitions winter’s frost to spring flowers, the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) blooms with a new special exhibit, exciting events, and – of course – live music! BCM is the parent nonprofit organization of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and WBCM Radio Bristol.
Bristol Rhythmand Roots Reunion MusicFestival
Earlier this month, BCM released the final lineup for its annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, which celebrates a milestone 20 years in Historic Downtown Bristol this summer. Headliners include Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, Blackberry Smoke, Dr. Dog, Yola, The Steeldrivers, Rhonda Vincent, Junior Brown, and many, many more. The festival is a celebration of the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings, the most influential in country music history. Scholars and musicologists refer to the Sessions as the “big bang of country music” and Bristol has been designated the birthplace of country music by Congress.
“As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we marvel at how Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion has affected so much positive change in our region,” said Leah Ross, BCM Executive Director. “Our downtown has gone from shuttered buildings to thriving businesses. New boutique hotel projects, craft breweries and restaurants – and a festival that draws over 40,000 music lovers each year. Yet with all that growth, we’ve managed to remain authentic as a music festival and as a community. People come here to pay homage to our great music heritage because they know the significant role Bristol plays in that history.”
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion honors both the roots of country music and its outreaching branches September 11–13, 2020. Weekend passes to the event are $90 (plus tax/fees) for a limited time – a bargain considering the weekend is jam-packed with more than 120 artists on 16 stages. For complete lineup and ticket information, click here.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, located in Historic Downtown Bristol, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and an authority on the 1927 Bristol Sessions. On March 6, in partnership with Virginia Folklife, the museum will open the new special exhibit Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program.
Real Folk gives audiences a look inside many forms of Virginia’s expressive culture, including letterpress printing, mandolin making, African-American gospel singing, quilting, old-time banjo playing, ham curing, and more. The exhibit also introduces the people who are keeping these valuable traditions alive to help ensure Virginia’s treasured folkways remain in good standing for years to come.
Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program will run through August 2, 2020. Complementary programming that will enhance the experience of the special exhibit will be announced soon.
There will be a Virginia Humanities Grant Workshop at the museum on March 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for individuals and organizations to learn more about grant funding opportunities in Southwest Virginia. Registration for the workshop is free. For more information visit the Events page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will also mark Women’s History Month in March by honoring bluegrass pioneer Hazel Dickens through two events. Dickens and Alice Gerrard were the first women to front a bluegrass band, and Dickens’ unflinching, intimate depictions of coal country in her native West Virginia earned her legendary status in the realms of songwriting and bluegrass music.
On Thursday, March 26 there will be free screenings of the Appalshop documentary Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song at the museum at 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. as part of its 2020 film series. Later that evening at 7:00 p.m., there will be a musical tribute to Hazel Dickens featuring Karen Collins, a Southwest Virginia native who carries on in the same traditions as Dickens with music about her own small mining community. Tickets to the concert are $10. For tickets and more information visit the Events pages at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
The museum continues its free monthly Community Jam on March 21, inviting musicians of all ages and skill levels to collaborate, pick, and just have a great time playing music. The Jam will be led by Michael Henningsen, the Executive Director of Corps Values Music Heritage.
Bookworms are invited to tune in to the Radio Bristol Book Club every fourth Thursday of the month at 11:00 a.m. EST as staff from the museum teams up with partners at the Bristol Public Library to examine literature from and about the Appalachian region. The March selection is Lord of the Mountain by Ronald Kidd, the story about a family secret that’s wrapped up in a song and set during the time of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. The next Radio Bristol Book Club discussion can be accessed on WBCM Radio Bristol’s free mobile app on March 26 at 11:00 a.m.
March 11–12 kick starts the annual WBCM Radio Bristol Fund Drive where the listener-supported station hopes to meet its goal of raising $15,000. A Radio Bristol DJ Showcase (many of the station’s on-air talent are musicians) on March 11 at 2:00 p.m. will be part of the festivities, in addition to the station’s monthly Farm and Fun Time live variety show March 12 featuring Grammy Award-winning artist Jim Lauderdale and genre-bending singer-songwriter Miss Tess. Tickets to be part of the studio audience for Farm and Fun Time are now sold out, but the show will stream on Radio Bristol’s Facebook Live. Additionally, the program can be accessed through Radio Bristol’s free mobile app or online at ListenRadioBristol.org. Radio Bristol can also be heard in the Bristol area on 100.1 FM.
For a complete list of events and a comprehensive look at everything the Birthplace of Country Music has to offer, click here.