Elkin Roots Music Fest opens Thursday – Mount Airy News

The Harris Brothers will be performing at Elkin Roots Music Fest Thursday. – Courtesy photos
Wanda Johnson brings her brand of blues to Elkin Roots Music Fest on Friday. – Courtesy photos

ELKIN — The Seventh-Annual Elkin Roots Music Fest this year marks the event’s transition to a three-day music event.

Opening Thursday and running through Saturday, the musical lineup runs the gamut of styles and includes a night of “Blues with No Apologies” on Friday.

Presley Barker and The Harris Brothers perform Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m.

The Big Blues Show on Friday from 6-10 p.m. features Lathan Hill, Wanda Johnson and Big Ron Hunter, along with: The Boy from Kentucky Coty Robinett, The Fiddler Maker Bob Kogut, The Newbie Heaven Douglas, and the Wannabees.

Saturday’s performance from 8-10 p.m. will bring The Larry Keel Experience.

The event that ultimately became the Elkin Roots Music Fest began in 2013 on the banks of the Yadkin River at Elkin’s Crater Park, according to committee member Barry Carlton. It soon moved to the more expansive Municipal Park for a few years before relocating to the more intimate setting of Foothills Arts Council and its natural amphitheater.

In 2018, the festival moved to the newly opened Reeves Theater. “Now we don’t have to worry about rain and heat,” said Carlton, as the fest goes into its second season at the Reeves.

Go to ReevesTheater.com for tickets.


At age 14, Presley Barker has been playing acoustic guitar for six years. Living in the North Carolina mountains and listening to Doc Watson on the radio inspired Presley to begin picking fiddle tunes and bluegrass music. He has been influenced and mentored by Steve Lewis, Wayne Henderson and Bryan Sutton. He has quickly emerged as a gifted flat-picker.

Presley was invited recently by Country Music Hall of Fame and Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs to play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Presley released his first solo album entitled “JUST-TEN” in the fall of 2015 and has been on the Bluegrass Today Airplay.

Reggie and Ryan Harris are a brother duo born and raised in Western North Carolina where they were exposed to a wide variety of music from an early age. The intuitive nature of their interaction, in regard to both playing and singing, can only be achieved via the relationship between brothers. Reggie sings and plays guitar, banjo, and a kick-drum suitcase for percussion; Ryan sings and plays the bass. Their live repertoire consists of any number of genres including traditional roots music, rock & roll, jazz, blues, Appalachian mountain music, to vintage country and bluegrass.

“Reggie Harris is the best guitar player in the world,” claimed Carlton.


Lathan Hill has been involved with blues for the past 52 years. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, and playing all over the world, he has shared the stage and entertaining audiences with John Lee Hooker, Candy Staton, Luther Allison, Phyllis Hyman, Albert King, Little Milton, Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson and others.

Wanda Johnson is a natural-born singer who was brought up singing in church way before her professional musical career began in South Carolina’s upstate region in 1995. She has since received national and international success.

Known for her sultry voice and clever songwriting, Wanda has taken her music to many well-known festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival, Poconos Blues Festival, Cognac Blues Festival (France) and the Eutin Blues Fest (Germany). Over her career, Wanda has shared the stage with many well-known artist including Nappy Brown, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, Tinsley Ellis, James Cotton, Drink Small (“The Blues Doctor”), Kip Anderson and the “Ambassador of the Blues” himself – the late, great B.B. King.

Johnson’s fans have regularly compared her voice to the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone and Etta James.

“Big Ron Hunter, a native of Winston-Salem, learned guitar from his father when he was a young boy; he also received tutelage from the late Guitar Gabriel. Virtually unknown outside his circle of family, friends and acquaintances, Hunter would seem to be representative of the prototypical blues (or folk) ‘discovery’ — a working man who has spent most of his life playing and singing primarily for his own satisfaction.”

Bob Kogut is a fiddler and a violin maker, residing in Lenoir. He plays a wide range of music, including blues, gypsy jazz, bluegrass and contra dance music. His violins are being played all over the world and he is currently building his 225th violin.

From the hollers of Kentucky to the dirty streets of Baltimore, Coty Robinett has a unique and eclectic guitar playing style. He has been influenced by a mixture of blues legends like Leadbelly, Stevie Ray and Blind Lemon Jefferson to the soft melodic picking of Jim Croce. He’s also not afraid to get a little rough and rowdy, back to his punk rock roots like Cheetah Chrome, guitarist from the Dead Boys. He has toured the US and Canada playing guitar for acts like the Fishnet Stalkers and The Fast Boys, and is currently playing bass for horror punk legends, The Independents, and rock and roll newcomers Warboys U.S. He is always writing and performing his solo project that is blues-infused alternative melodies with a hint of classic country.


Larry Keel is described by music critics and reviewers as the most powerful, innovative and all-out exhilarating acoustic flatpicking guitarist performing today.

Keel has absorbed the best lessons from his bluegrass family upbringing, both sides deeply steeped in the rich mountain music culture and heritage of Southwest Virginia. From there, he has always integrated that solid musical grounding and natural-born talent with his own incomparable approach to playing amplified, acoustic guitar and composing original music.

He’s also got a knack for choosing interesting and appealing material from all realms of music with guts, whether it’s a tune written by a fellow song-writer/musician friend, or a surprise cover from any number of musical acts all over the map.

His fierce, high-spirited energy also appeals to young rockers, jammers and alt-country pickers and fans who are equally drawn to Keel’s blazing guitar power, the deep rumbling voice, his earthy and expansive songwriting, and his down-home-gritty-good-time charm. Keel convenes and collaborates with jamband and rock giants Greensky Bluegrass, Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Keller Williams, Jorma Kaukonen, David Nelson, Little Feat, Railroad Earth, String Cheese Incident, Fruition and Leftover Salmon, among others.

The Harris Brothers will be performing at Elkin Roots Music Fest Thursday.

Wanda Johnson brings her brand of blues to Elkin Roots Music Fest on Friday.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-258-4035.