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Ozark Highlands Radio: Folk Music for the World


When I tell someone I hail from Mountain View, I get one of two responses.

  1. I love going up there for the weekend!
  2. What instrument do you play?

When you grow up in the Folk Music Capital of the World and don’t retain any more musical ability than playing four basic chords on the guitar, you feel a tiny bit like a musical traitor. I’ve often suspected the music is so intertwined with the air and rocks of the Ozarks that one can almost hear it intermixed with bird sounds as you walk down a dirt road.

One of my adult regrets is not availing myself of all the musical talent and knowledge that I grew up with, but that’s not to say I haven’t loyally retained a solid love and appreciation for folk and bluegrass music. I was once catching a train at the 34th Street subway station in New York City and heard someone playing a fiddle. I completely forgot my original destination and began pushing my way through the crowded underground station toward the sound. I had a homesick lump in my throat while muttering to myself, “That’s St. Anne’s Reel!” Even in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, I was for a moment, home.

Mountain View has long been an epicenter of sorts for music. The history of folk music in the Ozark Mountains is fascinating and travels all the way back to the area’s settlers. They came in large part from England and Scotland, bringing with them old folk songs that dated back in a few cases to the Middle Ages. Knights, nobility, outlaws, Civil War battles, church, and other American themes whirled and twirled themselves together in a musical culture unique to the Ozarks.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of Jimmy Driftwood, Almeda Riddle, and many other talented musicians, the tradition of Ozark folk music ventured beyond the hills where it was born, and the old songs made their way out into the world. The Rackensack Society and the Ozark Folk Center became lynch pins, carrying on the tradition of folk music in the Ozarks.

And now, thanks to vast opportunities created by social media and the internet, the Ozark Highlands Radio is an opportunity for the world to listen in on the rich musical talents in the Ozarks. It’s a weekly radio program featuring live music and interviews from the Ozark Folk Center auditorium in Mountain View. In addition to the music, the “Feature Host” segments give listeners an opportunity to, in the words of their website, “go on a musical journey with historians, authors, and personalities who explore the people, stories and history of the Ozark region.” These musicians and historians are not only Mountain View and Arkansas residents, but also span the country. Listeners can tune in on Itunes, Google Play, and also listen through traditional public radio stations (KUAR in Little Rock broadcasts on Friday nights at 8:00 on 89.1FM, and KUAF in Fayetteville broadcasts the show on Saturday at 6 pm on 88.9 FM).

In addition to being an invaluable source of folk music available through the internet and radio waves, the Ozark Highlands Radio offers its listeners a chance to be part of the audience. The shows run from Thursday through Saturday (mid-April through the end of October). Admission to most evening shows is $12, with seating as general admission. Nightly concerts start at 7 pm, and the doors open at 6 pm. To tune in and find out more about Ozark Highlands Radio, you can visit them at http://www.ozarkhighlandsradio.com/.

Thanks to the Ozark Highlands Radio, you can keep a little piece of the Ozarks with you, whether you’re listening while driving on a dirt road in north Arkansas, or traveling the globe with your phone. Personally, I’ve found that the music here in the Ozarks gets in your blood and stays there, no matter where you find yourself in this big world.

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Arkansas Women Bloggers member Elizabeth Harrell is a native Arkansan, author, and freelance writer. Her book, My (not so) Storybook Life, was published in 2011. Her blog projects have been featured in At Home Arkansas, Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and Better Homes and Gardens. Visit her at https://elizabeth-harrell.com .

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