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Ashe County’s Got the Blues

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Aug. 28, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 2, 2013
Ashe County’s Got the Blues

Gaye Adegbalola will bring the blues to Grassy Creek for the 11th annual New River Blues Festival.

Photo by Marc Norberg



Ironing Board Sam
Gaye Adegbalola
Big Ron Hunter
Doctor Dixon
The King Bees (Headliners)

The hills of Appalachia are filled with music and laden with the rich traditions of folk and Americana harmonies.

The airwaves that have carved out a heavy following in every hollow and valley across the Southern mountains are typically devoid of smooth, bluesy baritones and crisp, carefully orchestrated interludes with deep and emotive lyrics.

For one weekend out of every late summer, the High Country becomes a beacon for celebrated and requested-by-name blues artists across the Southeast for the New River Blues Festival in Grassy Creek.

The venue for the Ashe County festival, which is now in its 11th year, has changed over the years, yet the satisfaction it brings to hungry blues fans has not waned.

For the third consecutive year, the River House Inn helps fill this niche by opening its grounds to the outdoor music festival at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1.

“The River House is a great location,” organizer Donovan Murray said. “It sits right on the river. I actually have the back of the stage set up pointing to the New River.”

The upcoming festival started on a whim by local act The King Bees, when they requested a jazz segment be added to the Todd Summer Music Festival.

Within a few years, the folks with the festival decided to take a year off. The King Bees, however, did not.

Due to Murray’s musical connections in the area — primarily in the arena of Celtic jams — the Bees were able to secure the continuation of the jazz festival at Jefferson Landing.

After a short run at the country club, the festival relocated a few miles up N.C. 16 to Grassy Creek in northern Ashe County.

“We try to feature Piedmont blues and Delta blues from folks you don’t get to hear from anymore,” Murray said of this year’s lineup. “We’re really lucky to have the talent we’ve had for the past 10 years.”

Murray said the outdoor venue gives the audiences several advantages an indoor concert would not present.

“We’ve had a really good pull the past few years, but weather is always a factor with any outdoor event,” Murray said. “We will have plenty available room, so no one is too crunched. They don’t even have to bring coolers, and, in fact, we suggest you leave those and pets at home because we provide all the food and drinks. Because we are at the River House, we have the availability of having adult beverages and a great lawn.”

For more information on the New River Blues Festival, visit


From Boone, take U.S. 421 South to Deep Gap, and turn left on U.S. 221 North. Follow U.S. 221 through Jefferson, and turn left as 221 joins N.C. 16 North. Follow N.C. 16 until reaching the North Fork New River bridge. Turn left at the north end of the bridge onto Old Field Creek Road, and bear right at the bottom of the hill. The River House property starts at the bridge, and the inn is the first building half a mile up on the right. For more information, call (336) 982-2109 or visit

Additional Images

Gaye Adegbalola will bring the blues to Grassy Creek for the 11th annual New River Blues Festival.
Photo by Marc Norberg

The King Bees, featuring Penny ‘Queen Bee’ Zamagni, will perform Sept. 1 at the New River Blues Festival.
Photo by Doug Mokaren

John Dee Holeman returns to the New River Blues Festival Sept. 1 in Grassy Creek.
Photo by Doug Mokaren

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