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Jewly Hight

The perception that Appalachian culture is a hotbed of backwards thinking and crude expression is hardly new, but it's found renewed currency following the publication of books like Hillbilly Elegy and the political profiling of the hinterlands spurred by last November's election results.

More than ever, pop music is a hybrid form. We're utterly accustomed to the way that it metabolizes textures, flavors and cadences from far-flung corners of the musical landscape. The fusion of styles only strikes us as exotic when we sense incompatibility between the aesthetic values of the source material. A prime example? Any combination of old-time, bluegrass or string band elements — music understood to be unspooling unbroken threads of tradition with some degree of reverence — and the synthetic beat-making techniques of hip-hop and dance music.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Bryant Taylorr eyes the glass of milky-looking kombucha that his sister has placed on the table in front of him in an East Nashville tea shop. "I don't know what this is," he says, before taking a tiny sip, pushing the cup away and wryly expressing his skepticism: "Is it doing something to my soul? Is it cleansing it?"

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Going The Distance

Sep 7, 2017

I first stumbled onto a music festival-sponsored 5K race by accident. On a humid June morning in 2013 at Manchester, Tenn.'s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, I went out for a run, rounded a corner and came upon a group of festival goers safety-pinning paper race numbers to their clothes, very possibly hungover or sleep-deprived , but nonetheless motivated enough to rouse themselves from sleep and run 3.1 miles at 9 am, several hours before the day's first performances were scheduled to start. Glad to have found company, I slipped into the herd just before someone shouted, "Go!"

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

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