The 18th Annual Appalachian Heritage Festival started off its concert weekend with performances Friday night from artists John Lilly, Chelsea McBee & The Random Assortment, The Hillbilly Gypsies, and a reading of the winning piece from the West Virginia Fiction Competition, Paul Kessler. The Appalachian Heritage program is a yearly event on Shepherd’s Campus, tying into such activities as the West Virginia
Fiction Competition and the Writer in Residence program.
Rachel Meads, The Director of Student Activities and Leadership, took the stage to introduce the evening’s host: John Lilly. An acoustic musician from Charleston, WV, Lilly walked onto stage guitar in hand and began the set by playing a brief song to audience members that ranged from toddlers holding tickets to adult couples, what Lilly called a “diverse and engaged crowed”.
Lilly also discussed the Goldenseal Magazine, of which he is the editor, a quarterly periodicals of West Virginia folk life. Editions of the magazine on sale at the show included an interview with Rachel Meads, which discussed her Appalachian Culture and Music classes, and featured other West Virginian colleges that have adopted Folk Life studies program similar to Shepherd’s Appalachian Studies Minor.
After introducing the Heritage Festival, Lilly went on to introduce the next act: Chelsea McBee & the Random Assortment. Bass player Jeremy Roger, mandolin player Ben Whitman, her mother Teresa McBee and sister Melody Massimino accompanied McBee. Chelsea McBee, local to Shepherdstown, started a set of fast moving songs. The Random Assortment played through several new pieces from their unreleased album: “The Whiskey Album”. The fast tempos and familiar songs sent the audience members into clapping and stomping along. Including what McBee described as a “just creepy enough” cover of “Country Roads”, Chelsea McBee & The Random Assortment played to a clapping crowd.
Following McBee’s performance, Dr. Sylvia Shurbutt, introduced Paul Kessler, the author of this year’s West Virginia Fiction Competition, selected by the Appalachian writer in Residence, Frank X Walker. Kessler read his piece “The Mountains of the Quiet Earth. Standing alone on stage, Kessler moved through the story and finished to an applauding audience.
The final component to the event was the performance of the musical group The Hillbilly Gypsies. The Gypsies, formed in 2001 are natives to West Virginia and perform in an “old fashioned style”. The group consisted of guitar, bass, a bare foot fiddle player, and a female vocalist. The Hillbilly Gypsies took the stage in their denim overalls and performed several pieces, including the unreleased track “West Virginia Line” from their upcoming cd.
Merchandise was sold at the concert, including CDs, vinyls, and t-shirts. More information, including full biographies, performance dates, and merchandise sales for the artists can be found at their websites:
For John Lilly: http://pages.suddenlink.net/johnlillymusic/
Chelsea McBee: www.chelseamcbee.com
The Hillbilly Gypsies: www.thehillbillygypsies.com