The Clifftop Reels

Every year, Craig travels over a thousand miles to attend the Southern Appalachian String Band festival, commonly know as Clifftop. Up to four-thousand Old-time musicians from around the world and all 50 states gather to commune and celebrate the music.

Want to see more like this? this is an excerpt from the Conversations with Old-Time Performers documentary series.

Explore the Film Series


Here’s an excerpt from an “extra” included in Volume 3 of the “Conversations with Old-time Performers” documentary series.  To some, Clifftop is a yearly highlight… a not-to-be-topped, exuberant event. To others, it’s a spiritual retreat among like minds and hearts. To all that attend, it’s a major lifetime event… self included.  Here’s just a small sample of my first experiences at Clifftop.


My second year at Clifftop. Ended up with way more jam footage than I could include here (so… highlights only). ​


My third trip to Clifftop. Love how this community celebrates the music and tradition.


My fourth trip to Clifftop.  And it just keeps getting better.   


Fifth trip to Clifftop.  The music was exceptional this year!  I tried to condense 4+ hours of footage into a 12 minute “highlight reel” but failed miserably. So here’s a 39 minute sampling of the sounds of Clifftop 2019. Enjoy!  Oh, turn it up loud and play full screen. 🙂

2019 Extras

I put together a second reel of additional footage.


Sixth trip to Clifftop. WAY past due… lost 2 years to Covid Cancellations. Here’s my first film of Clifftop 2022. I arrived early this year to experience the people and the night before the “land grab.” Got some fun memories of that event. Figured out it’s a great way to meet new friends that can steer you to jams and such once the regular crowd arrives. ​

2022 Fo Da Fun Folks

The Fo Da Fun Folks, named for a section of the campground (Fo Da is short for Fort Davis) had such an incredible jam, it warranted its own post! Don’t just watch this once, watch it a couple of times. There’s lots of “Traditional Music Community“ good happenin’ here.

First, they’re all circled up and smiling. They’re anticipating a good time. This group especially enjoys playing with each other, not just because they’re good at it, but because they all love fun. Then they’re playing an old, Old-time chestnut, Sail Away Ladies. They all know the tune and they respect it’s history. But with this group, you never know what’s gonna happen.

Notice how Edwin starts singing the traditional lyrics, but a couple of times around and he’s making up his own lyrics… first dissing on the weather, then himself, then Richard. Its not just one-way, Richard gives it back to him. The whole crowd shares the moment and the humor. Then toward the end, Richard circles back and sings one of the traditional verses. It ends on a high note.

Now, what’s with the magic hollow tree?

All of you will wonder what they’re talking about… the magic hollow tree. Edward had a couple of travel mishaps on his way to Clifftop. He arrived without clothes and more importantly without instruments. He was able to stop by a Goodwill store to get his body covered, and his friends covered for his instruments. The magic hollow tree actually did produce a tent stake for Edwin when he expressed his need. And no, he did not get his three wishes (folklore total), but he did get a second wish which was for money so he could afford a potato or two. Earlier in the day, Richard and Caitlin had stash some spare cash in an envelope and placed it in the tree. They were waiting for Edwin to discover the second gift. It wasn’t exactly a potato but as Richard points out, Edwin could buy many potatoes with the community-donated cash.

It’s just more of the Fo Da community taking care of each other. In addition to talent, there’s a lot of kindness in this group.

​These folks represent the best of Clifftop as well as the Traditional Music Community.

The Road to Malvern

Played by Roger Netherton (fiddle), Rachel Eddy (guitar), Brian Slattery (banjo) and Charlie Shaw (bass).

This short film – an excerpt from the Clifftop 2019 highlight reel – represents (to me) the “best of the best” in our music, community and Tradition:

  • Music. Here is musicality… listening and letting it “flow” through you, tastefully exploring thoughts/arrangements together, all while honoring the tune
  • The exponential power of a group vs an individual player (Gestalt effect)
  • Contagion of art for mammals. No one within ear shot cannot be drawn in. Music is in our DNA. It’s a bond!
  • “Living in the Moment.” Clearly this was filmed at a festival. “Turn off your phone and indulge-in/enjoy the moment!”
  • Playfulness. Roger the fiddler’s ever-present smile is impish. The group shares a wonderful syncopated moment with him and Brian
  • Communication. Watch the eyes and smiles between all of them. You can bask in the love and respect they have for each other
  • Community. Onlookers are all engaging and enjoying… taking the ride
  • Connection and timeless Communion… with the past and present through this music. It’s freaking magic! ​​

To me, these precious people and this scenario embody the best of Traditional Music. Lots and lots of soul-shared joy and love. I can’t watch this without crying at the beauty that’s represented here. If I could see into the spirit world, I KNOW this jam was surrounded by celebrating angels shouting “Yee-ha!”

Clifftop 2022 - Photo courtesy of Sandra Parks

Clifftop 2016

(L-R): Craig Evans with Mac Benford, John Grimm and Beverly Smith
Photo courtesy of Chloris W. Noelke-Olson