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Playlist: Hellbilly Hits

Playlist: Hellbilly Hits

"There's no denying it — these Appalachian musicians were punk before punk was even a thing."

Hard-driving hillbilly music ain't nothin new. From the day Earl Scruggs hit the Nashville scene in 1945 with his earth shaking, three-finger banjo picking style — something that had never been heard before — mountain music was electrified.

And Southernly artists never looked back. Today, performers like Hackensaw Boys and Hank Williams III build careers around genre-bending "hellbilly" tunes, drawing from bluegrass, old time, punk, and rockabilly styles.

But even more mild-mannered musicians have whipped crowds into a frenzy with good barn burners. Take "Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)." Dolly Parton used her best instrument, a voice clearer than a mountain stream, to shatter everyone's expectations — and possibly nearby wine glasses. She hits and holds notes so high dogs howl and aqautic mammals leap out of the water when they hear it.

Loretta Lynn did someting similar. Her best tool was arguably her storytelling lyrics, and with "You Aint' Woman Enough" she gives more attitude than Sid Vicious could ever muster. Addressing a woman who is trying to steal her man, she sang:

For you to get to him I'd have to move overAnd I'm gonna stand right hereIt'll be over my dead body, so get out while you can'Cause you ain't woman enough to take my man


There's no denying it — these Appalachian musicians were punk before punk was even a thing. And in preparation for Applestack, our punk-tinged, Appalachian-themed, flat-out funky fall festival, we've put together a preview of the 'hellbilly" tunes Roanoke-based DJ Stills will spin during this October 21, 2023 event.

If you're anywhere near The Star City, please join us for rad music; free hooch; Appalachian eats; a sexy overalls contest; and handmade goods from some 275 craftspeople.

But even if you're 10,000 miles away, you can still bang your head to this hard-core mountain music. We just ask that you yodel a little while you do.

Mark Lynn Ferguson founded Woodshed. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Virginia Living, and many Appalachian publications. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia, where he loves cooking a mess of fried taters, picking pawpaws, and exploring the old family farm he and his husband bought in 2021.

Earl Scruggs: Bluegrass Ambassador