BY CAROLYN R. WILSON Special for the Bristol Herald Courier
ABINGDON, Va. — Spend some time with Jack Hinshelwood and it’s easy to see that he loves music.
The porch of the Abingdon house in Hinshelwood is filled with the sounds of his evening guitar playing, a way to end the day on a high note, he said.
The accomplished guitarist, fiddler, singer and songwriter has been playing Appalachian music for over 50 years.
He has won the Wayne Henderson Guitar Championship, the Knoxville World’s Fair Guitar Championship and the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention guitar competition twice.
He’ll quickly tell you that his favorite song is “Shady Grove,” a traditional Appalachian folk song that has held a special place in his heart since his fingers learned to navigate guitar strings as a young musician.
“I loved this song from the first time I heard it,” Hinshelwood said. “I was electrified. It’s sentimental. It tells me ‘mountains’ and ‘Appalachian life’. In a way, it reminds me of my grandmother.
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New recording and concerts
The song “Shady Grove” is part of a 22-track anthology of early, bluegrass and blues music featured on Hinshelwood’s new recording, “Fifty Years in the Making” — a two-year project that brought together talent artistry of 25 masterful musicians.
He has made music with many musicians over the years and some he has worked with while promoting music including Phil Wiggins, Rob Ickes, Michael Cleveland, as well as local musicians Doyle Lawson from Bristol, Tennessee, Debbie Yates of Konnarock, Virginia, and Sandy Shortridge of Grundy, Virginia.
“These songs and tunes have been gathering in my repertoire for about 50 years, some patiently waiting to be heard,” Hinshelwood said. The songs also offer touches of western swing, Celtic, country and folk.
The recording contains songs like “Something Told the Wild Geese”, “I’ll Be Losing My Mind”, “Magpie” and “Wreck of the Number 9”.
The recording will be released on Monday April 4 and can be purchased online at www.bandcamp.com by searching for “Jack Hinshelwood” or “Fifty Years in the Making”.
Following the recording project, Hinshelwood will host two live concerts, celebrating the music of the Appalachian region.
The first concert will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 4 at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts on the Emory & Henry College campus. All proceeds from concert tickets will benefit Appalachian Sustainable Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to support local agriculture, explore new economic opportunities, and connect people to food. healthy.
The second concert, benefiting the Montgomery Museum of Art and History, will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5 at Virginia Tech’s Moss Art Center in Blacksburg, Va.
Ten of the masterful artists featured on the recording will perform live at the concerts, including Phil Wiggins, Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, Butch Robins, Ivy Phillips, Scott Freeman, Jacob Eller, Debbie Yates, Sandy Shortridge and Hinshelwood, who will serve as as a host.
A special feature of the concerts will feature two European artists, uilleann piper Ronan Browne from Ireland and euphonium maestro Steven Mead from England, performing century-old ballads via YouTube on the big screen.
“It’s definitely the biggest recording project I’ve ever put together,” said Hinshelwood, who produced eight traditional music recordings, liner notes for additional recordings and contributed music to two tapes. movie sound.
Through concerts and recording, Hinshelwood hopes people will develop an appreciation for the breadth and diversity of music.
Bringing all the musicians together for a recording was nearly impossible in 2020 due to the dispersal of artists across the country and rising pandemic concerns.
Hinshelwood arranged for the musicians to record their songs at studios near their homes, while some artists were able to use their own home recording systems for the project.
Playing music has come naturally to Hinshelwood all these years.
He grew up on his grandmother’s farm in Riner, Virginia. At the age of 4, he goes up to his attic where he discovers an old guitar with only four strings.
“I dragged it everywhere I went. He accompanied me to the hospital to remove my tonsils,” he laughed.
“Piping a rope really touched me.”
When he was 6, his mother took him to a store in Christiansburg, Virginia, where he bought an orange-striped Harmony guitar along with a book.
“I remember the book had ‘Casey Will Waltz with a Strawberry Blonde’ and a couple more ditties in it.”
Hinshelwood took a break from guitar until he found a friend in high school who shared the same interest.
“I didn’t want to do anything but play guitar,” he said. “We were both completely addicted.”
Hinshelwood said the musicians he met at local fiddler conventions had a huge impact on him as a young musician. “This is where the oral tradition really thrives. This is where people—from an 80-year-old fiddler to a 14-year-old novice pass on all that great music.
After graduating as a civil engineer from Virginia Tech in 1986, he went to work for a civic and environmental firm, later becoming executive director of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail in Abingdon where he developed and presented festivals music and concerts to 19 counties in southwestern Virginia.
From 1994 to 2008, Hinshelwood led the Appalachian and Celtic music group Celtibillies. He produced three recordings and toured Alaska. He has also toured the country and Canada with author Sharyn McCrumb.
Their collaboration resulted in “If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O”, Hinshelwood’s recording of the ballads from McCrumb’s novel of the same name.
Tickets for the Fifty Years in the Making concerts are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Children 12 and under are $5. Places are limited and tickets are available online at https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/ehc/4926/event/1257594.
Tickets for the Emory concert can also be purchased in person at the McGlothlin Center box office. For more information, call the box office at (276) 944-6333.
(Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Va. Contact her at [email protected])