This collection showcases fourteen years of live recordings from Appalshop's Seedtime on the Cumberland festival, an annual celebration of traditional mountain arts, music and culture. The recordings encompass a wide range of artistic lineages including old time fiddle and banjo music, piedmont blues, gospel singing, bluegrass, celtic music, storytelling, and Cherokee hunting music. The recordings were preserved in 2016 with generous support from the GRAMMY Foundation.
While many of the artists featured in this collection made popular studio recordings, these live recordings show another way into their music. Live performance creates breathing space for certain qualities of a performer's personality and musicality, sometimes more so than a professional studio recording would. These qualities come alive in the context of a community festival like Seedtime, where performers know their listeners and listeners know the music. Sounds, and the people who make them, behave according to their environments; listening to these live recordings, one hears not only the performer, but also the roomful of listeners.
Notable performers include Morgan and Lee Sexton, who represent two different generations of old time banjo music in Letcher County, Kentucky; North Carolina piedmont blues guitarist Etta Baker; West Virginia's "First Lady Of Gospel Music" Ethel Caffie-Austin; Cherokee singer and banjoist Walker Calhoun; legendary bluegrass singer Hazel Dickens; and countless others. Also included in this collection is a recording from Seedtime 1998 of a panel on civil rights and social justice, featuring activists and musicians with ties to the Highlander Research and Education Center in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Most of the performances, which are presented here in digital format, were originally recorded onto 8-track, 1/2 inch open reel audio tape (from 1987 to 1994) and onto Digital Audio Tape (from 1995 to 2000). They were recorded by the staff of Appalshop’s non-commercial community radio station WMMT-FM, using the station’s equipment. Both the station and Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival are divisions of Appalshop, Inc., and the physical materials generated by the activities of these divisions are part of the Appalshop Archive.