As long as water runs downhill: The story of Popcorn Sutton

People have been making moonshine almost since the day water started running downhill, and it seems like people have been talking about enigmatic Appalachian moonshiner Popcorn Sutton for just as long. But now, for the very first time, a full-length biography attempts to explore the conflicted life and legacy of Appalachia’s most (in)famous moonshiner. 

Podcast series explores Black Appalachian music

A six-part podcast mini-series exploring the intersection of Black history and Southern Appalachian music through the Great Smoky Mountains Association is now launching. 

“Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music” is hosted by Dr. William Turner and Ted Olson, surveying the many Black roots and branches of Southern Appalachian music by sharing research, listening to recordings and interviewing contemporary Black musicians and experts in music history. 

Ginseng, family, friends and home

Many of us who read novels find ourselves in awe of authors who create a landscape and a place so well that we can see the fields and forests, hear the birds, and feel the sunshine and rain on our faces. 

F*ckface and Other Stories by Leah Hampton: the real stories of modern Appalachia

The name of Leah Hampton’s new book will likely grab your attention. If it does, let it pull you in. This is one book you will be glad to have judged by its cover. 

Don’t know where I’m going, all I know is where I’ve gone: Isaac Gibson of 49 Winchester

Hailing from the Southern Appalachian backwoods of Castlewood, Virginia (population: 2,045), 49 Winchester is a rapidly rising alt-country/rock act. 

For the better part of the last decade, the band has been relentlessly working its way through the Southeastern music industry — playing every stage and festival that’ll have ‘em — where now the raucous group is whispered in the same breath (of raw talent and sincere passion) as the Drive-By Truckers, Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, to name a few.

Caring for our own is what matters

By Catherine Sawyer • Guest Columnist | When I think of the stereotypes against Appalachia, what comes to mind is what popular culture has had to say about Appalachian people. The mockery, generalization, and misunderstanding that Hollywood has been producing for generations is the most glaring. I also think of the lesser known impacts of the stereotypes, such as the way the government and our fellow Americans treat the area. I’ve said before that growing up here, in a small town as widely known and simultaneously forgotten as Bryson City, was somewhat like growing up in a novelty store. “One of the cutest small towns in the country,” they boast. “Rated top in the nation for small town living” is displayed across the covers of national travel magazines. 

A poet of the mountains

This past weekend was given over to reorganizing the books in my home library. In the process, I relocated a volume of poems I had feared was long lost. 

My favorite “Appalachian” poets would be Robert Morgan, Kay Stripling Byer, and James Still. 

Something old, something new: Traditional string act Frank & Allie release album

About a mile from downtown Bryson City, on a dirt road alongside the swift moving Deep Creek, sits a bungalow. Inside the tranquil home of Frank and Allie Lee, there are several instruments hanging on the wall. And there’s also a stack of the duo’s latest album atop a nearby desk. 

Humor, mystery and a wonderful menagerie of characters

Although migrations have become a significant and controversial aspect of our current history, there is another annual migration that has been with us for centuries. That is the annual arrival of visitors to Appalachia that has become an honored tradition. It is customary for retired and/or wealthy families to make the annual trek to the Southern Highlands. The “summer home” visitors have reshaped the Appalachian economy and a large percentage of the native work force is now engaged in building, repairing and maintaining the homes of the summer folk. In fact, many of the men and women who once farmed this land are now the employees of the summer residents: wives become cooks and housekeepers and the men develop carpentry skills. They build sun decks, kilns and fireplaces and with luck, they become “almost” a part of the summer family.

New book details the history of the John C. Campbell Folk School

In Craft & Community, regional author Anna Fariello presents the early history of Western North Carolina’s John C. Campbell Folk School. 

Founded in 1925, the school was a dream of John and Olive Dame Campbell, a working couple who toured the Southern Appalachians in an effort to chronicle its people and their culture. 

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