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Twin Creeks Stringband: Old-time from the Mountains of Virginia

Twin Creeks Stringband finds its origin in Franklin County, Virginia, where its predecessor – Dry Hill Draggers – brought hard-driving old-time dance band music to shows and dances for 35 years.

About five or six years ago, after losing the band’s banjo player for medical reasons, three members of the long-standing outfit soldiered on, grabbing up a fresh banjo player and re-forming as Twin Creeks.

Today, the full lineup includes that new banjo player, Jared Boyd; Chris Prillaman, founder and owner of Twin Creeks Distillery in Rocky Mount, Virginia; Jason Hambrick; and Stacy Boyd. Some current members have relatives who were once part of Dry Hill Draggers, so the band has a legacy filled with family ties.

The culture and landscape of Virginia influenced the band’s music, for sure.

“Being based in southwest Virginia – where all of our band members were born and raised – has led to a few things becoming tied in with our style of music,” Jared Boyd explained. “The first is the tradition of flat footing and square dancing, where the favorite type of bands to play for these dancers are those with a strong, solid rhythm.”

Like the Draggers before them, he continued, “Twin Creeks Stringband puts the focus primarily on the driving rhythm and leaves out unnecessary extra notes or fancy licks.”

He said another undeniable influence is the mountain landscape of home.

“The rural, mountainous area where the band is located also serves to explain how our style of

old-time is unique and can’t be found even in just the next county or two over.”

Boyd said, “Believe it or not,” he took “a little time to warm to the banjo. My parents made me start taking clawhammer banjo lessons in middle school, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I got to where I actually enjoyed playing. I had started a youth old-time and bluegrass band with some friends, and we played gigs together for a few years. At that point, I enjoyed playing with that band, but I still wouldn’t say I was absolutely in love with the banjo.”

It wasn’t until a few years after – following participation in competitions at fiddler’s conventions, including the notable Galaz convention – that he “realized there was so much I was missing out on in my playing compared to what everyone else was doing.”

He taught himself “missing licks or techniques to better compete against the best banjo players in the area.”

That process of learning and improving – that challenge to become top-notch – led him to “discover a ton of different clawhammer players of the past and present” and realize how unique each of their playing styles were. “It was at that point that I realized how much the banjo meant to me,” he explained, “and how much I wanted it to be a part of my life.”

His decision has paid off. In addition to the whole band winning first place in the 2022 Galax old-time band competition, Boyd also placed first as an individual for old-time banjo and won the “Best All-Around Performer.”

Twin Creeks Stringband released its first album – “Lee Highway Blues,” – in the spring of 2020, and its sophomore release – “Up Jumped Trouble” – followed last fall.

Boyd said all band members have “day jobs” and don’t perform every weekend. This summer, however, various members will participate in several of the fiddler’s conventions in the southwest Virginia region, and they’ll return to Galax again in August for a “full week of fun and jamming.” They’ll also make a few appearances at the beloved Floyd County Store during late summer and fall.

Boyd said one of the reasons he loves old-time music so much is because it is a group effort.

“Everyone in the band is always playing together equally, compared to when bluegrass musicians take breaks, and the rest of the band is mostly just providing backup to whoever is taking the break,” he said. “This also ties back to the fact that old-time music, especially in southwest Virginia, is primarily for dancers. It’s not so much of a performance art as it is a community event.”

He explained that bluegrass is an evolution from old-time, a precursor genre all about dancing and having a good time, saying,

“Of course, neither of those things are mutually exclusive. Plenty of good old-time bands can put on a great show, and plenty of bluegrass bands have a solid, consistent rhythm that is friendly to dancers as well. Old-time music primarily focuses on the overall energy that music creates, and any showiness or showmanship can be added on afterward if they so choose."

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