Bristol Rhythm & Roots festival

January 22, 2008 12:35:13 PM PST
Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson, two pillars of Appalachian music, will headline this year's Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

It will be the first time either has performed at the annual festival celebrating the region's musical heritage. The festival runs Sept. 19-21 in downtown Bristol.

"They are such great artists, and both are from this area," said Leah Ross, the festival's executive director.

In the 1950s, Stanley and Watson performed in Bristol on the "Farm and Fun Time" radio program, which helped promote their careers.

Stanley, 80, a native of southwest Virginia, is a member of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

He and his brother, Carter, formed the Stanley Brothers and their Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. The duo helped define the music that would become known as bluegrass, fusing Bill Monroe's rapid rhythms with the mountain folk of groups such as the Carter Family.

After his brother died of liver disease in 1966, Stanley continued recording and adopted the a cappella singing style of the Primitive Baptist church in which he was raised.

Stanley gained a new generation of fans when his music was featured in the 2000 film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Watson, a western North Carolina native, became a key figure in the 1960s folk movement with his mix of mountain tunes, blues and gospel. He helped revolutionize folk guitar with his flat-picking, evident on his signature song, "Black Mountain Rag."

Watson, 84, has received seven Grammy Awards.

Besides Stanley and Watson, the music festival's lineup includes T.G. Sheppard, Sam Bush, Cherryholmes, Blue Highway, The Infamous Stringdusters, Kelli Willis, New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Otis Taylor.