Tradition and Diversity: A New Appalachia with Dori Freeman

Time travel is real. Not in the science fiction sense of the term, but you really can travel back in time by simply going to Galax, Virginia and seeing Dori Freeman play music with her husband Nicholas Falk and her father and grandfather. Three generations of musicians in a family is extraordinary today, but in centuries past in the South, it was practically normal. Listen to Dori Freeman’s music and you will hear the echoes of an outlook and a way of life that is centuries old at the same time that it is grounded in a new, diverse Appalachia that her ancestors would likely be surprised to see.

It was a gorgeous spring day in May at the Albino Skunk Farm as I walked the festival grounds and thought about my upcoming interview with Dori, and on the spur of the moment I invited Sloane Spencer to join us. If I did have an real time machine and could go back to that day, I would not do it any differently because Sloane is a pro, and added a lot to our conversation. We spoke ahead of Dori’s performance with her husband Nicholas as well as guest bandmates Rachel Baiman and Daniel Kimbrough, talking about Dori’s deep Appalachian roots, recording her family album in Nick’s newly constructed studio in their backyard, how she draws inspiration and ideas from listening to rap artists, and even her love of Topo Chico brand seltzer. All of that and more awaits you in this episode, which includes some of the band’s set at the festival plus an excerpt of Dori Freeman’s duet with Logan Ledger from her latest album Ten Thousand Roses.

Nicholas Falk and Dori Freeman perform at the Albino Skunk Music Festival in Greer, SC 05-14-22

Songs heard in this episode:

“Appalachian” by Dori Freeman, live at Albino Skunk Music Festival 05/14/22

“You Say” by Dori Freeman, live at Albino Skunk Music Festival 05/14/22, excerpt

“I Am” by Dori Freeman, live at Albino Skunk Music Festival 05/14/22, excerpt

“Ern and Zorie’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog” by Dori Freeman, live at Albino Skunk Music Festival 05/14/22

“Walk Away” by Dori Freeman featuring Logan Ledger, from Ten Thousand Roses

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Southern Songs and Stories is a part of the podcast lineup of both public radio WNCW and Osiris Media, with all of the Osiris shows available here. You can also hear new episodes of this podcast on Bluegrass Planet Radio here. Thanks to Corrie Askew for producing the radio adaptations of this series on WNCW, and to Joshua Meng, who wrote and performed our theme songs. This is Southern Songs and Stories: the music of the South and the artists who make it. – Joe Kendrick