Music is a vital part of the storytelling tradition of Kentucky’s Appalachian region and has woven a colorful tapestry of unique sounds, harmonies and songs throughout its hills and valleys over the past 250 years. The Kentucky Wildlands has a rich musical heritage that can be traced back to the traditional Appalachian folk music of the Scottish, Irish and English, as well as the African-American blues and ballads of some of its earliest settlers.
You can hear the sweet strains of the region’s mountain dulcimer, fiddle and banjo in everything from old-time mountain melodies and traditional bluegrass numbers to contemporary country music songs. From the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland to Billie Jean Osborne’s Kentucky Opry in Prestonsburg, you’ll find plentiful opportunities to experience the sounds that have captured the imagination of artists and music lovers for generations. There’s even a museum dedicated to the mountain dulcimer in Hindman.
Known for its bluegrass legacy, eastern Kentucky also influences country music, with the Country Music Highway producing more hit country stars per capita than any place in the United States. The Country Music Highway, which is a stretch of U.S. 23 from Ashland to the Virginia border, is birthplace to more than a dozen country music legends, from Loretta Lynn to Chris Stapleton. The U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum tells the story of the many country music stars who hailed from the area and features live mountain music performances.
The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum delves into the lives and influences of more than 50 Kentucky country and bluegrass artists. And just down the road you can catch barnstorming classic bluegrass, country and Americana performances at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.
If you enjoy a festival experience, southern and eastern Kentucky is home to many great music festivals, including the Master Musicians Festival, held annually in Somerset.