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Hip-Hop, Animals In Love And More Favorites Inside Appalachia

Two otters play in the water.
A. Lukin/Adobe Stock
Two otters play in the water.

This week, we’ve pulled a few gems from our archive. We’re listening back to some of our favorite Inside Appalachia stories from the past year. We’ll go on a hike in one of Appalachia’s most gorgeous wild places — West Virginia’s Canaan Valley. We’ll also meet musicians who are growing Appalachia’s hip-hop scene. Those stories and more in this best-of episode of Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

Animals In Love

If you’ve ever observed how animals interact, it seems like they feel love. Penguins mate for life, and elephants form bonds by wrapping their trunks together before they mate. So, do animals actually feel love? Our producer Roxy Todd and co-host Caitlin Tan set out to search for an answer.

Spoiler alert: A few months after we originally aired this story, The West Virginia Wildlife Center got two new otters. There are now three otters at the center. Roxy went to visit them recently and reports that two of them were snuggling on a rock.

What do you think? Let us know. You can email us insideappalachia@wvpublic.org.

Banjo Player Meets Punk Rocker

Earlier this year, we aired a story that later got picked up nationally. Lots of people wrote us about the story, so we knew it had to be in the best-of episode.

Bradford Harris
Nicole Musgrave
Bradford Harris plays an old-time tune in the backyard of their Harlan, Kentucky home. Harris' dad helped build the banjo.

During the pandemic, 21-year-old punk rocker Bradford Harris wanted to learn to play the banjo. This led to the search for a 97-year-old banjo maker. Nicole Musgrave brings us this story about the unexpected pairing.

Since the story originally aired in February, Al Cornett, Harris’ mentor in instrument-making, passed away at the age of 97. Harris still has a few handmade instruments for sale. Unfortunately, the community college closed its woodshop. Harris is working to get tools together to build their own woodshop in their backyard. Their punk band, Lips, has done some live shows again recently in Whitesburg, Kentucky.


Hip-Hop Appalachian Artists

When people talk about Appalachian music, banjos and fiddles are often the first things to come to mind — but what about hip-hop? In the United States, rap and hip-hop are usually associated with big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. But hip-hop lives all over, including in small towns and hollers across Appalachia.

Folkways reporter Nicole Musgrave spoke with a group of hip-hop artists in the coalfields of Wise County, Virginia. The group is drumming up attention for the music, but they’re also supporting other artists in the scene.

Music featured in this story is off rap artist geonovah’s latest EP, “25 to Life,” and is available on Soundcloud.

dolly sods madams
Mason Adams
A rainbow emerges in a valley viewed from the Allegheny Vista Trail.

Wildflower Walk

Dolly Sods is federally protected public land — full of rocky ridges, soggy bogs and beautiful views. It’s also the site of an annual nature walk called the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage. This year was the 59th time that wildflower and birding experts descended on the area for the event.

Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams made the pilgrimage from his home in Floyd County, Virginia to Dolly Sods for the annual event, and brings us the story.

High School Students Swap Audio Diaries

Last school year, high school students in Fayette County, West Virginia exchanged audio letters with teenagers in Wales. They talked a lot about the pandemic, and it turns out that much of what they’ve experienced is universal.

Courtesy Sam McCarthy and Ela Cudlip
Sam McCarthy and Ela Cudlip are from Merthyr Tydfill, Wales and have been exchanging audio diaries with teens in Fayette County, West Virginia.

Sam McCarthy and Ela Cudlip are from Merthyr Tydfill, Wales. Brooke Thomas and Mackenzie Kessler are from Fayette County, West Virginia. The students shared their audio letters as part of our Folkways Project, reporting on the connections between Wales and Appalachia.

New Fathers And Pandemic Babies

Becoming a parent can be scary. Add a global pandemic into the equation and that can make things even scarier. Last summer, only a few months into the pandemic, we heard from two new dads — Chuck Kleine, a video producer at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Joe Buckland, who worked in a restaurant but was furloughed due to COVID-19. This week on the show, we listen back to their conversations which aired in June 2020. We’ll also hear an update from May 2021.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Marisa Anderson and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture.
Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.
Kelley Libby is a Virginia-based public radio editor and producer. She currently edits for Inside Appalachia and its Folkways Reporting Project at WVPB. You can reach here at kelleylibby@gmail.com