Abernathy, VanCleve, and Webb know it well as they were each born and raised in Appalachia. “I was 10 or 11 when I started singing in church,” says Abernathy, who grew up near the head of the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. His grandmother had a banjo, and despite being born with only one finger on his noting hand, he knew at the young age of 14 that he wanted to learn to play that banjo and Appalachian music. VanCleve, a North Carolinian by way of Florida, was gifted his first fiddle when he was six. His grandfather, a preacher, played acoustic music, as did his aunt, uncle, and father. By the age of twelve, VanCleve and his father were travelling all over the mountains of North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia, attending dozens of fiddle contests, bluegrass festivals, and old-time music festivals. Webb grew up in the coal mining country of West Virginia where he mastered old-time and bluegrass music through the influence of his father, a coal miner and bluegrass musician who passed away from black lung – an emotional topic which Appalachian Road Show tackles in its music.
“Appalachian music and its stories have been passed down to us, and we’re now passing our own interpretations of this to a new generation, while also shedding a reverent light on this culture,” says Abernathy. “We want to not only keep these traditions alive, but also honor the strong and dedicated individuals who made lives in the mountains over the past 200 years. Appalachian Road Show is meant to be more of a cultural experience rather than simply just a collection of songs. If we were to eventually be viewed as unofficial ambassadors of Appalachian culture, that would be an honor.”
With a full schedule of tour dates lined up and new music already in the works, Appalachian Road Show has big plans for the future. Abernathy, VanCleve, and Webb intend for Appalachian Road Show to become much more than just a concert, but to eventually grow into a full-on production and immersive experience, offering interpretations of culturally appropriate tunes, telling the stories behind the songs, offering visuals which support the emotional content of the songs, as well as offering new original songs which are born out of the emotion and spirit of traditional Appalachian music.
For now, Appalachian Road Show invites us into the music and stories of Appalachia’s culturally-rich heritage. As they say, “It’s part of who we are. It’s natural for us. It is authentic. This music is so vibrant, and it has its own vitality and its own life, and we mean to carry that forward.”