The first weekend in June was hot and humid along the Orby Cantrell Highway in Hiltons, VA. Sunday church services were over for the most part, and the windows were down with Folk Soul Revival playing a little louder than usual. I was headed to shot photos, and video of a concert with Marty Stuart and The Superlatives at the Carter Family Fold and my thoughts were reflecting on the time I played this iconic stage in Southwest Virginia.

The Carter Fold is a local mecca for bluegrass and old-time music. A few years back, I had the opportunity to perform on this stage with Folk Soul Revival, and the memory is still vivid. It’s been a while since I’ve played music live and although it was a little sad not share the stage with Folk Soul again, I was still thrilled to be a part of another unforgettable moment at the Carter Fold.

Folk Soul had always wanted to open for Marty Stuart. After all, Marty has won multiple Grammy Awards and worked his way up through the mentors of Country Music. He started his career playing with Lester Flat and among others, also played guitar for Johnny Cash around 1980. Since then, Marty has become a legend in his own time too.

The fact Marty and his band The Superlatives was playing such a small venue in the valley’s of Mace Springs, Virginia might be his relationship to the Cash/Carter family. He’s also an avid collector too and dedicated to the preservation and memorabilia of the art form.

The Carter Family Fold is an old-time music venue started in 1979 by the descendants of the Carter Family- the earliest recordings of Country Music. Joe and Jeanette Carter opened the doors to “The Fold” to preserve the music and the history of their family. The Ap Carter Store located next to the Carter Fold is where AP Carter had a family business and ultimately served as both patriarch and architect of the family legacy.

In 2008, the old AP Carter Store was officially designated as a museum, and many of the Carter Family relics returned to the museum. Marty and the Superlatives performed at the dedication of this museum in 1979.

There’s no doubt Johnny had some influence here too. June would often visit with her family and bring her husband along with her to the hidden hollers of Virginia. I recall meeting Johnny and June Carter Cash many times when they would visit the area and drop in at the Kingsport Times-News just down the road.

The first time, I played the stage, Johnny’s photos and his wife are visible from just about every corner – in fact, he played his last live performance here in 2003. The video of that frail and organic performance is preserved on YouTube.

As I arrived at the venue, there was a long line of cars and trucks already forming. Volunteers were helping to park the vehicles in the fields around the venue. It’s not a big place at all – in fact – it seats just over 840 people. From one perspective, this concert hall is a plywood shed that has open exteriors to allow the breeze to come through – there is no air-conditioning.

My role this year was capturing photos and video for Scott County Tourism. It was an excellent opportunity to enjoy the music of Folk Soul and Marty Stuart and quite the privilege to document the story.

Inside, Folk Soul was warming up their vocals to ‘Chinatown,’ and I took a moment to say hello to my old friends whom I had the privilege to perform with for a few years. Daniel, Vinnie, Brandon look just as I recall and the new members Justin and Chad gave the band a polished sound that breathes a bit more honkey-tonk these days.

Back outside, I put the drone up to capture some of the traffic and the scenery around The Fold. Marty’s bus was right up front, and you couldn’t miss the black caravan that was parked next to the East entrance.

Before the show, I had plenty of opportunities to capture some unique faces in the crowd. One of my favorites was a 70something gentleman by the name of Bill Hicks. I was making my way outside, and he was sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette. He had a ball cap on and a weathered face and beard. He was sitting cross-legged with a long sleeve shirt on this Summer day with two packs of cigarettes – one in each pocket, locked and loaded for the day.

Folk Soul played their set and sounded great. Chad Light is an excellent addition to the band as his multi-instrumental voicings give the group a professional color that might have been lacking a bit during the days of their rowdy roots.

In between the sets, I had a chance to photograph Marty Stuart and Rita Forrester. Rita is the manager of the facility and part of the Carter Family lineage. We were in the green room, and several people were smiling for a chance to get a snapshot with the dapper performer dressed in black getting ready to perform.

I only had a few songs to shoot photos as their manager made it very clear that any more than that, “would become distracting.” Albeit, I was glad I had a chance to enjoy the show.

My favorite photo in the first set didn’t turn out quite as I wanted. I had hoped to capture Marty with a picture of Johnny and June looking over his shoulder, but time passed too quickly, and my aperture settings didn’t help much either.

Nevertheless, I sat down after taking a few photos and appreciate the artistry of Marty and The Superlatives. They didn’t play a long set, but they were entertaining and covered several older songs, a few novelty songs (Bonanza and Wipeout) and a standard or two including a solo version of Marty ripping up his old mandolin with a version of the Orange Blossom Special.

I supposed Marty tailored his set to the audience and the venue for this show. It’s an acoustic gig for the most part, and the musicians, vocals, and entertainment qualities were all as you would expect from a CMA and Grammy Award winner.

Marty was humble enough to stick around after his show too. I’m almost sure he was able to meet and greet everyone who came to the show this afternoon. That’s a character trait you have to appreciate too because Marty and his band seem never to forget their roots. There’s no better place to see that in a backroad venue near Macy Springs and The Carter Fold has another “remember when” story to tell for future fans of old-time music.