Welcome to our website trailer. Here you have the opportunity to meet many of the characters appearing in our episodic documentaries exploring Folklife in the Cumberland Region.

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Trail Guide - Select Points of Interest along the trail, or start at the trailhead.

VIDEO - Introduce yourself to some pretty special people as they articulate what is truly special about where they reside.

MUSIC - Hear songs and instrumental tunes born of this region. These sounds lay bare the story of mountain music and its proud, rugged lifestyle.

PHOTOGRAPHS - The land preserved by the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, as well as the creative traditions inspired by its terrain.

ORAL HISTORY - A great number of audio interviews and stories have also been gathered as part of this process. These words spoken will forever be remembered.



This is a look at—and celebration of—cultural heritage. We seek to document traditions as they are manifested today in a most distinctive region, gifted with abounding creativity and innovation. Arts, crafts, and music are our focus.



A major mountain crossing point for buffalo, Native Americans, and the first American settlers, Cumberland Gap is steeped in rich history. Today, this mountain passageway resides in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, where the National Parks System preserves this precious land.



Powell Valley native Vic Graves is a rare talent on the dobro, while also a powerful performer of bluegrass guitar-picking and gospal singing. Not to mention, he is a true character. He loves mountain music more than anything.



The granddaughter of the great fiddling Jimmy McCarroll, Tammie carries on her family’s musical tradition with great pride and gusto. Here she remembers a musical childhood and celebrates her father’s memory.



Since losing her father Tom, with whom she played with for half a century, Tammie has taken to playing with her elderly Uncle Charlie to keep the family music alive.



Headed by patriarch Joey Beason, the Beason family practices a wide array of traditional handcrafts, specializing in Appalachian toys and wood-carving. They reside in Middlesboro, KY.



The Kentucky Coal Crafters are a local business located in Stearns, Kentucky, spearheaded by Rosetta Waters. Here, they literally mine their coal heritage by transforming the raw substance of coal into artistic sculptures. History prevails as hope for the future dwindles in this fading coal community. However, some promise remains: after this interview was conducted, rumors emerged that the mines might re-open again due to recent legislation.



Don Gulley began his musical career with the celebrated Pinnacle Mountain Boys bluegrass band. Today, his son Steve carries on this tradition, earning numerous honors and awards for a repertoire performed in many different bands, most recently with his band New Pinnacle.



Steve chooses to remain in Cumberland Gap, TN, living next to his father and composing internationally renowned music in his own hollow of Gulley Curve.



Though born legally blind, ballad singer Curtis Byrge walks many miles to perform old-time music at the local flea market where he is a most beloved figure. He frequently writes his own material based on characters he meets in his everyday life, like this woman who rings up groceries at Food City.


Eugene Hensley

Fentress County resident Eugene Hensley leads the Jesus Rocks Ministry. Born again while dwelling in the Conatser Hollow cave, Eugene now travels in an old school-bus to go where no other preachers will go in order to convert new congregation members. His hand-crafted slates of stone and rock are given as gifts in thanks of his lord Jesus at his church: the Jamestown WalMart parking lot.



The Sharp Family’s musical traditions span centuries. Fiddling John Sharp’s daughters Evelene and Opal kept playing and singing well into the 21st century. Today the sheer vitality of such musical performances fades, yet the family still remembers it with poignant fondness at their old homeplace near Jamestown, TN.


Get in touch. The producers of this project work closely with many different organizations. We love to keep communications open and accessible. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.


What is Cumberland Folklife

This is a series of documentary films produced as part of the Cumberland Gap Folklife Project. Slated for public television, this project will reflect upon Appalachian heritage, focusing on its unique artistic and musical traditions in a series of episodes. The final episode on the Sharp Family is a distinct feature-length documentary film that will be submitted to international film festivals.

Accompanying the documentary series will be an interactive website. The website will act as a portal for viewers to interact with texts, images, and audio that support the films. Ultimately viewers will have access to the films and the supplemental material through the website, creating a seamless interactive experience.

How does Cumberland Folklife fit into the Cumberland Gap Folklife Project

The Cumberland Gap Folkife Project has been generously funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to celebrate the respective anniversaries of the NEA and the National Parks System. It is a multipart fieldwork, educational, and public programming initiative centered on the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (CGNHP) and its gateway communities. Audio, photographic, and video documentation will showcase regional bearers of creative traditions, resulting in a formidable archive. A series of inter-generational apprenticeships have been established to ensure the longevity of these traditions, as well as funding jobs in an economical depressed rural setting. The materials gathered throughout this project will be carefully curated to result in an art exhibit, craft demonstrations, and musical performances on the occasion of the annual White Lightning Trail Festival in Cumberland Gap. The Cumberland Gap Folk Life series of documentary films will share the fruits of our labor with an international audience.