Willard Gayheart to release first solo album at 87

Article Contributed by HearthMusic | Published on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Folk music in Appalachia is usually a family affair, handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, shared via backyard parties, kitchen jam sessions, or old-time fiddler conventions. For breakout Americana star Dori Freeman, this is the world she grew up in, singing old songs with her father Scott Freeman and her grandfather Willard Gayheart. It was in this spirit that all three of them gathered in the frame shop that Willard owns near Galax, Virginia, along with producer Teddy Thompson, New York recording engineer and producer Ed Haber (Linda Thompson, WNYC), and Dori’s husband Nick Falk, to record an album of Willard’s originals and favorite songs. The resulting album, At Home in the Blue Ridge, coming May 24, 2019 on Blue Hens Music, is Willard Gayheart’s first solo album, an “about time!” moment in his 87 years. Over two days, the family gathered to play Willard’s songs, crowding around mics and recording everything live. When a customer came into the shop looking for a frame or one of Willard’s original pencil drawings (he’s an internationally renowned pencil artist known for his bucolic drawings of the region), Willard would get up from the recording to go help them out. This isn’t music made for stages, or made for commerce, it’s music made for family, for sharing a common experience. “It was a special thing to get to do,” Dori explains. “I’ve been picking with him and my dad for a long time, since I was a teenager, but hadn’t recorded anything like that with both of them. Plus it was great to get to work with a lot of originals that he had written over the years.”