Southwest Virginia Today

It’s taken local photographer Susi Lawson nearly a decade, but she has finally finished her book, a beautifully photographed tribute to mountain music and the men and women who create it. Inside the pages, musicians talk about their passion for the melodies that echo through the hills and valleys they call home.

The seed for Lawson’s book, “Singing at the Clothesline: Our Music, Our Mountains, Our Memories,” was planted in 2010, when she saw a poster advertising a Song of the Mountains concert by legendary musician and guitarist Doc Watson at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion.

“I saw the poster of him, and it lit something in me,” she said.

She asked Tim White, another musician profiled in the book and host of Song of the Mountains, if she could photograph Watson.

“He said sure, and told me to come in the side door,” Lawson said. “Afterward, he asked me now that I had the photo, what was I going to do with it? I said, ‘Maybe I’ll write a book.’”

And she did.

Inside the book’s 222 pages, are interviews with more than 50 artists, including Wythe County musicians Jim Lloyd, Leigh Beamer, Ron Ireland and Sam Gleaves. The group Cane Mill Road, of which Rocky Gap guitarist Casey Lewis is a member, is profiled in the book as well.

“I started taking photos in 2010; the interviews started in 2012,” Lawson said. “Jim Lloyd was my first interview. The last was Donnie Dobro (Scott), a dobro player from Mt. Airy.”

Lawson met most of the musicians on the front porch of the Tom Wassum home in Wythe County.

“I called it lets-get-together-and-have-a-conversation, and I recorded it on an iPad,” she said. “It’s a 200-year-old house. There’s something about that porch that helped people open up, with trains passing by, lightning bugs and honeysuckle. They would start talking about their lives because of the sentimental quality of it.”

The home and its clothesline are featured on the cover of the book.

“For five years, I was blessed with the magic of this place that is frozen in time and conjures up my own memories of Grandma singing at the clothesline and wiping her brown with her faded flower apron,” Lawson wrote in the book. “I do believe that the atmosphere of the farm and the spirit of Aunt Virginia (the home’s original owner) created a perfect blend of memory and trust, which aided in the natural flow of all the conversations we had there! There is nothing like a real place to bring out real memories in a person.”

After the interviews, Lawson transcribed the conversations – in longhand.

“I don’t know how to type, for one thing,” she said, adding that she filled six composition books with the interviews. Then, she typed up the interviews using a hunt-and-peck method she made her own.

Next, Lawson taught herself InDesign desktop publishing software. A night owl, she worked through the night learning about the software from YouTube videos.

“Everyone was asleep when I needed to ask questions, so I just taught myself,” she said. “It’s been a big education.”

The book was printed by Edition One Books in Berkley, California.

“I wanted to honor our music and culture from this area because I think it is unique and part of our lifestyle,” Lawson said, adding that there is a difference in how young people and veteran musicians talk about their music.

Young musicians talked about their teachers and the music they enjoy. Older musicians were more reflective and shared memories of the life and music.

“The older musicians remember learning organically from neighbors, family and friends who passed knowledge down. There was no ready music; they learned to play by ear. If you are surrounded by it, it’s your language. It’s so embedded in you. The tunes are already there, they just had to figure out how to play them on their instrument. It’s a language of its own. We learn to speak from sounds; you pick up music in that same manner.”

Here are some thoughts by and about some of the local musicians in the book.

• Leigh Beamer felt she had a natural inclination to learn guitar. “I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I never had to work hard to play. It just came to me like I had known it my whole life,” she said.

• Ron Ireland talks about his love of gospel music. “I may be all over the map and my voice may be crappy, but I can really feel that music when I play it, and I hope the audience does as well,” he said. Later in the interview, he said, “It’s all about self expression. I think where there is an interest, or a love to make music, dance or sing, it is always coming from a good place inside you, and it should always be supported.”

• Wytheville bass player Debbie Larson said, “I have trouble watching the celebrity award programs and see those folks patting themselves on their backs for no good reason. I know many locals who are ‘unknown’ but can play circles around the famous ones.”

• Sam Gleaves remembers being inspired to make mountain music by the people around him. “When I was in high school, Jim Lloyd told me that if I was interested in traditional singing, I should look up Mildred and Joe Alexander who live outside Rural Retreat. I did just that, and after a short phone call, Mildred invited me to come out to their house and visit with them. Mildred and Joe welcomed me in and we sat in their living room, getting to know each other and singing old time gospel songs for hours. I was moved by Mildred’s singing, the strong mountain sound of her voice that makes you believe every word she sings.”

• On Casey Lewis and Cane Mill Road, Lawson wrote, “I must say that Casey’s vocal rendition of “Summertime” is one of the best I have ever heard and the way the whole band does their superb instrumental breaks is just gorgeous and impressive.” All of the band members “know who to make their instruments sing, ring, cry and wail!”

Southwest Virginia Today

Ron Ireland will be playing First Fridays at The Listening Room in Wytheville on Friday, Dec. 1, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. This is the final show of 2017.

The Listening Room is an intimate, house concert venue in the historic Phelps, Peck & Company House at the corner of East Main and 5th streets. Reservations are required. For reservations, call or write (888) 265-0324 or email Admission is free. A donation for the musicians is recommended.

Ireland, a musician and guitar teacher, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and began making music as a teenager, playing tenor and alto sax. After he found an old Silvertone guitar with three strings and taught himself to play, his attention turned almost entirely toward acoustic guitar and folk music.

Ireland’s voice is a gentle, time-worn instrument, with hope and cynicism co-existing in every note. He is also a fine finger-picking guitarist whose music ranges from hauntingly beautiful to heartbreakingly sad to quirky and humorous. His original lyrics are often punctuated by literary references and jokes. Ireland says his his music features “a touch of country, a little blues, a pinch of rockabilly, and some old fashioned finger-picking folk songs.” In addition to guitar and tenor sax, he also plays mandolin, banjo, harmonica and keyboard.

Ireland started writing songs in the late 1960s but the necessities of life interrupted his music until 2007 when his son, a New York musician, told him, “Some of your songs aren’t too bad.” After receiving that high praise, Ireland picked up his resonator guitar and started writing and performing again. His live performance schedule began in 2007 at Piano’s in NYC, at Mason Dixon, and at Musica in Hudson, New York. Ron has also performed several times for Tidewater Friends of Folk Music.

In 2011 after retiring from his career with NCIS, Ireland became a full-time performing musician and guitar teacher. For several years, he performed 150 shows a year, mostly in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. He now performs 25-30 shows a year, having curtailed his performance schedule to meet the growing demands of teaching guitar and running his studio.

Ireland has performed locally at many venues, including Floyd Country Store, Heartwood, Blue Ridge Music Center, Chautauqua Arts Festival, Bolling Wilson Hotel, Henderson Music Festival, Goose Creek Farms, Rockwood Manor, Draper Mercantile, Appalachian Spirit Gallery, Blacksnake Meadery, WSLS TV, Our Daily Bread, West Wind Winery, Wytheville Public Library, Rural Retreat Winery, several area farmers markets, Gillie’s Restaurant, Palisades Restaurant, Volvo Trucks North America, VT Pamplin School of Business, Wohlfarht Haus, Harvest Table Restaurant, Rural Retreat Depot, Draper Valley Golf Club, Matterhorn Lounge, Wytheville Golf Club, Wytheville Community Center, MacDowell Music Club, Bland County Festival of Leaves, Ft. Chiswell Mansion, Hilton Garden Inn, Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Ron also performs at private parties, benefits and house concerts throughout the year. He is also a member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 674.

Ireland has released eight albums. His debut album, Resonator Ghost - Live, released in 2010, was recorded live at the Tidewater Friends of Folk Music. All songs on the CD are originals. His other albums are My Better Days, Handmade, Handmade Too, Traditions, Gospel, Time Is a Meadow, Grandes Exitos and Sweet Corn Eggs & Milk. These albums contain a mix of original and traditional songs, as well as several favorite songs that Ireland had licensed just for his recordings.

An admirer of the guitar style John Fahey called “American Primitive,” Ireland calls his own style “American Clumsy.” While it’s not fair to compare artists to one another, this does need to be said: “If you like John Fahey, you will love Ron Ireland’s music.”

The Roanoke Times

Area musicians will be showcased at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum on Saturday, Oct. 14, during the Newbern Fall Festival. The two-day festival, hosted each year by the Newbern Volunteer Fire Department, features food and craft vendors and seasonal fun for all. This year, the museum will offer music all day Saturday on-site and along Newbern’s leaf-strewn street. The museum is located at 5240 Wilderness Road.

Ron Ireland, locally renowned musician and songwriter, has put together the program featuring some of the area’s best talent. Coyote Edwards, a young musician from Wytheville, will play Delta-style blues and contemporary folk music. Other young talent from Wytheville includes Misty Jackson, who “sings with a voice like an angel,” and Chase Altizer, an accomplished guitarist and singer. Eric Pratt, one half of The Pratt Brothers, the talented duo from Draper, will perform solo that day, bringing his amazing talent to Newbern for Fall Festival.

Music at the museum will also include Rob Neukirch, a professional actor, writer, and musician from Floyd, who will be on-hand to offer anything from jazz to bluegrass; Jim Crandall, an experienced folk singer and guitarist from Bluefield, West Virginia; Adam Musick, a Wythe County native songwriter, musician and teacher; and Nate Montgomery, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist singer from Dalton, Georgia, who is an active community advocate, teacher and youth pastor.

Carrie Hinkley will perform with the Waiting to Exhale Band, including musicians Maggie Blankenship, Sue Winchester and Alan Graf, and hailing from Radford, Dublin and Floyd.

Jim Lloyd, a local legend in the Southwest Virginia music scene will also be performing. Raised in the coal country of Southwest Virginia, Jim is a master of several instruments and an expert in American music. His barbershop in Rural Retreat is a music venue on the Crooked Road.

Ron Ireland, organizer of the Fall Festival Music at the museum, will be performing his signature combination of traditional, classic country and blues. An exceptional musician, teacher and songwriter from Effna, in Bland County, Ireland has been promoting through Facebook this 47th Annual Newbern Arts & Crafts Festival in the Newbern Historic District. His page says it best: “The annual festival is an enjoyable, easy-going day for the whole family. The entire one-mile stretch of Newbern is a historic landmark. It’s the type of place to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the past.”

The Southwest Times

Evening at Goose Creek Farms benefits Newbern museum

Ron Ireland teaseAn Enchanted Evening at Goose Creek Farms in Pulaski, which will feature a catered dinner and live music in a pastoral setting, is scheduled to benefit the Wilderness Road Regional Museum.

The special evening begins at 6 p.m. July 16 at the extraordinary property situated in the heart of Pulaski County near the historic village of Newbern. Goose Creek Farms, 4588 Hurston Road, features a stunning residence with separate guesthouse and cottage, pool, barns, fenced rolling pastureland, wooded areas and hills. It also offers captivating views of the mountains and valleys.

Goose Creek owner Randy Vaughn is hosting the event in memory of Ann Bolt, who hosted the Hillcrest Garden Dinner and Old Christmas at Hillcrest, both benefiting the museum.

The museum’s signature Cold Harbor dinner, including ham and cold salads, will be catered by Lindy’s Good Foods, and served in a picturesque garden setting under a canopy of trees. For additional fees, guests have the options of a cash wine bar, silent auction and tours of the house, which features more than 6,000 square feet of beautiful art and décor.

Locally renowned singer-songwriter Ron Ireland will provide traditional folk, country, blues and gospel music as guests socialize among the flowers, cool off near the fountain or watch the lively koi pond. Ireland calls his music style “American Clumsy,” with songs that feature “a touch of country, a little blues, a pinch of rockabilly and some old-fashioned finger-picking folk songs.”

Tickets may be pre-purchased at the museum for $30 per person or at the event for $35 per person. All proceeds benefit Wilderness Road Regional Museum, 5240 Wilderness Road, Dublin. The museum can be reached at 674-4835. Hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Roanoke Times

SWVA Today

From Sept. 25-28, the third annual Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest will fill the grounds of Heartwood in Abingdon with the sounds of rich history and musical heritage of Southwest Virginia, home to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

The four-day event includes performances and workshops that illustrate the wide variety of heritage music forms the region is known for, including old time string band music, hard driving bluegrass, guitar virtuosos, duets, and more.

We always try to provide a nice mixture of the traditional music forms that have been preserved in Southwest Virginia for generations,” said Jack Hinshelwood, Crooked Road executive director. “People not that familiar with traditional music are often pleasantly surprised at just how diverse it is.”

The festival ends on Sunday, Sept. 28, with Heartwood’s Sunday Gospel Brunch with music by guitarist and singer Ron Ireland performing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All festival events take place at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway off I-81 at Exit 14 in Abingdon. Heartwood features food, music, and craft of Southwest Virginia.

Wytheville Enterprise

Bland County musician opens listening room in Wytheville

By MILLIE ROTHROCK | Staff | Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 5:15 pm

Shh… Listen.

That’s exactly what Ron Ireland wants. The local folk musician has created an intimate venue where the audience can enjoy listening to live music. Period. There’s no food, no alcohol, no dancing; just music.

“I’ve been playing a lot around here since 2011, and there are plenty of opportunities to play, but one thing common to most venues available to most musicians is that the musician is not the primary reason the people come. They visit, eat, have drinks with friends,” Ireland said. “I wanted to have a place that is exclusively for listening, where people are able to sit down and enjoy a very intimate concert.”

Ireland didn’t have to look far for a location: the room behind his Main Street studio, where he teaches guitar lessons. The old, partial log home also houses the office of his partner, counselor Mary Sue Scott.

“The room holds about 30 people, but the acoustics are great,” Ireland said. “We have been toying with the idea for about two years and finally, we said, OK, let’s do it.”

Together, the Bland County residents opened the doors to The Listening Room, where local musician and storyteller Sam Gleaves entertained a full house for two hours Friday evening, along with special guests Leigh Beamer, Linda Kay Justice and his grandmother, Brenda Bradbury.

“In high school, when everybody else was listening to Kanye (West), I was listening to Kitty Wells,” the singer/songwriter said.

“Oh, you just put me in a spot,” Bradbury said after Gleaves called her up to the stage to sing with him.

“But it’s a good spot,” somebody hollered.

Gleaves thanked Ireland and Scott for creating The Listening Room.

“Sometimes you want to play where people are not drinking beer and eating,” he said.

That’s precisely why Quinten Boyles of Wytheville took a seat in The Listening Room.

“Because it’s so quiet and peaceful, you can actually hear the music,” he said. “You don’t have to listen above the noises that are in a bar or pub.”

The concerts are free, but donations are accepted. Ireland guarantees a minimum of $100 for each headlining artist. If donations do not reach $100, Ireland makes up the difference.

“Many places ask you to come and play for tips,” Ireland said. “It’s just a gamble whether you will get good tips or not. We wanted a place where musicians can come and play and make at least $100. The musician keeps every nickel and every penny.”

Every musician who performs will be paid the same and treated the same.

“If Paul McCartney shows up, we will give him $100 bucks, guaranteed,” Ireland said.

The Listening Room will host performances once a month. Ireland said the room is booked through July 2015. On Sept. 26, Jim Lloyd of Rural Retreat will perform old time and tradition music.

“Sam Gleaves, Leigh Beamer and Jim Lloyd, they are all truly gifted and I wanted a place where people could come and really listen and realize what fine, fine artists are right here in their midst,” Ireland said. “Almost every musician wants to be listened to; it’s our raison d’être for what we do. We want people to listen.”

For information on The Listening Room, contact Ireland at (888)265-0324 or

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 228-6611, ext. 35, or email

Marion Star

Songwriters fundraiser is Nov. 3

MARION - A Songwriters' Night will be hosted by bluefusion entertainment at 6 p.m. Nov. 3.

Featuring a lineup of singers and songwriters from near and far, this event will offer four hours of all original songs by the writers who crafted them.

Headlining the event will be award-winning R.J. Cowdery from Columbus, in addition to Tim Wallace from Elyria; Opossum from Marion; Ron Ireland from Effna, Va.; Sur Lawrence Trupo from Elyria; and Jim Schafer from Lakewood.

Co-sponsoring the event will be Stix & Stones Wood-Fired Pizzas, which will be on site preparing a fresh hot pizza for each ticket purchased.

Bluefusion also is offering a $5 Fuser card for each ticket purchased.

In addition, 100 percent of the ticket sales from this event will be donated to the Ohio Wildlife Center.

Ohio Wildlife Center is a leader in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education, according to a news release. They treat nearly 5,000 animals in their wildlife hospital every year and reach thousands of adults and children through education programs.

They are a private, non-profit organization relying almost entirely on the generosity of individual and corporate donors, private grants, endowments and service fees.

For more information see their site at http://www.ohio

The event will be at bluefusion entertainment, 1340 Mount Vernon Ave. in Marion.

Wytheville Enterprise

These days, Ireland’s songs can be heard in and around the Matterhorn Lounge at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre and West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery, where he plays regularly.

 “We are lucky Ron has moved to this area,” said David Manley, general manager at West Wind Farm. “He has great original songs and also sings some familiar favorites. He is always entertaining and everyone enjoys his music. Ron sets just the right mood out here when we are having events.”

Ireland describes himself as a folk country cowboy songwriter. His style successfully mixes traditional country, folk, blues and gospel.

“I’m mostly a songwriter trying to sing my songs,” the Ceres resident said.  “It’s not bluegrass music. It’s not old-time music. It’s 60s folk singer combined with old-time country music like Hank Williams and Ferlin Husky.”

Once he started writing and singing again, Ireland found an entire network of older musicians just like himself who put music on the back burner for various reasons.

He said. “Thousands of us have come back to music after postponing that dream.”

So how does a man who has travelled the world, end up making music in the Blue Ridge Mountains?

“For me, it’s personal,” he explained. “I’ve been all around this world, but when I came here, I just knew. This is the place I wanted to be.”
Sweet Corn, Eggs & Milk