Appalachian Road Show's Jim VanCleve And Barry Abernathy On 'Tribulation' The people of Appalachia have traditionally relied on music in times of hardship. A new bluegrass supergroup is putting a 21st-century spin on old-time music in an album perfect for our dire times.
NPR logo

Appalachian Road Show's New Album Confronts 'Tribulations' Past And Present

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/831876467/836424412" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Appalachian Road Show's New Album Confronts 'Tribulations' Past And Present

Appalachian Road Show's New Album Confronts 'Tribulations' Past And Present

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/831876467/836424412" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For centuries, the people of Appalachia have relied on folk music in times of hardship. The group Appalachian Road Show grew up in that age-old tradition, and now they have released an album that puts a 21st-century spin on an old-time sound.

JIM VANCLEVE: This is Jim VanCleve. I play fiddle with the Appalachian Road Show. I'm coming to you from Nashville, Tenn., today.

BARRY ABERNATHY: This is Barry Abernathy. I'm coming to you from Ellijay, Ga. And I'm the banjo player and lead and harmony singer in Appalachian Road Show.

VANCLEVE: We had made the decision back in the summer that this project was going to be called "Tribulation."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRIBULATIONS")

APPALACHIAN ROAD SHOW: (Singing) Trials, troubles, tribulations...

VANCLEVE: The whole album speaks to the human spirit and the human condition and trials and tribulations that we all have to endure. And then, about the time we started to release this record, COVID-19 epidemic started reaching the top of the national news. And next thing we know, we're living in hard times, trials and tribulations.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRIBULATIONS")

APPALACHIAN ROAD SHOW: (Singing) When the fire comes down from heaven and the blood shall fill the sea, I'll be carried home by Jesus and forever with him be.

VANCLEVE: The opportunity to express, you know, your spirit through music, it's a human need. We're lucky to live in times - when we're confined to our house, we can still reach out to one another with music. You know, the majority of the settlers that landed in the Appalachian region, they think over half of the people that settled in the region were of Scots-Irish origin. I play the fiddle in our band. And the fiddle is very much associated with the Scots-Irish ancestry. And then on the other side of that, the African ancestry. The banjo was a West African instrument.

ABERNATHY: Those things came together and merged. To me, there's not a big separation in two separate genres right now or even all the - you could call folk music.

VANCLEVE: When you hear banjo and you hear fiddle together, you're hearing Scots-Irish ancestry, and you're hearing African American history. A cool snapshot of that would be "I Wish The Wars Were All Over" (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WISH THE WARS WERE ALL OVER")

APPALACHIAN ROAD SHOW: (Singing) Down by deep water, where the sweet linden stands, I saw pretty Polly wringing her hand. The song that she sang made the whole grove to ring. My Billy has left me to fight for a king, and I wish the wars were all over.

ABERNATHY: This song is a classic tale of love that was lost through war back in the old world, but our take on that was pretty cold and pretty dark. But Jim's wrote a tune on our new album which was our first single. It's the same tale, but it's uplifting. It's a funny take on love and how somebody lost love. It's a whole different way of losing love, I guess, would be the way to put it.

VANCLEVE: The heaviness of "Wish The Wars Were All Over," it is a love lost kind of song. This song here that we're going to play now, it's kind of a tongue-in-cheek lost love kind of song. This guy, he is in love with this girl, and she does not seem to care.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOIN' TO BRING HER BACK")

APPALACHIAN ROAD SHOW: (Singing) Oh, lord, I'm going cross the yonder mountain, (unintelligible) on the choo-choo train. And sweet gal, you see, has gone to Tennessee, and I'm going to bring her back.

VANCLEVE: This song is a lot more uplifting than the last. And in times like this, I think we all could use that.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPALACHIAN ROAD SHOW'S "GOIN' TO BRING HER BACK")

CHANG: That's Barry Abernathy and Jim VanCleve, two members of Appalachian Road Show. Their new album is called "Tribulation."

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.