Tyler Childers performs at Healing Appalachia
Jonathan Newsome

Healing Appalachia Brings Music To The Mountains For A Great Cause

Music met with a noble cause this past weekend at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in the quaint hamlet of Lewisburg with the third in-person gathering of Healing Appalachia and first since 2019 after going dormant in 2020 and virtual in 2021 due to COVID-19.

Founded in 2018 by Whizzbang Booking And Management and non-profit Hope For The Hills after their hometown of Huntington, West Virginia suffered 26 overdoses in a single day, the event raises both funds and builds community for those going through substance abuse recovery while also showcasing some of Appalachia's best musical talent. 

Healing Appalachia

Hunter Way/Impact Media

This year's gathering was no exception with performances from Tyler Childers, Margo Price, Arlo McKinley, Lost Dog Street Band and others alongside speakers documenting their journeys of recovery, dozens of tents with information on recovery resources, a V.I.P. tent (pictured above) with the only rule of admission being having to attend a 15 minute mini-seminar on how to properly use opioid overdose reversal drug Nalaxone, and more.

From Tommy Prine to Childers and Cole Chaney, we've gathered our eight favorite moments from the two-day festival below.

Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle

Healing Appalachia, Buffalo Wabs, Casey Campbell

Hunter Way/Impact Media

Cincinnati based collective Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle brought a boot (and chain) stomping good time to the early part of Friday's music schedule. Led by guitarist Matt Wabnitz and drummer/chain commander Casey Campbell, the group previewed several new songs including "Heathens," "No Love At All" and "Long Way To Go" in addition to blistering originals like "Oh, Ramona!" and their trademark cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Four Walls Of Raiford" that saw Campbell incorporate a cluster of rusty chains into his percussive repertoire.

Margo Price

Healing Appalachia, Margo Price

Hunter Way/Impact Media

Fresh off announcing her new album Strays out in early 2023 and just a couple of weeks out from the release of her memoir Maybe We'll Make It, Margo Price wowed the Healing Appalachia crowd with a stellar co-headlining performance on Friday night ahead of Galactic. The first two singles from the upcoming project, "Been To A Mountain" and "Change Of Heart," both found their way into the show's rotation along with everything from ballad "Hands Of Time" to driving rock'n rollers "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Heartless Mind." In a set full of only highs, some of its other best moments included the hootin' and hollerin' jam "Tennessee Song," a cover of Tom Petty's "Ways To Be Wicked" and a set closing "Hurtin' (On The Bottle)." 

Tommy Prine

Healing Appalachia, Tommy Prine

Hunter Way/Impact Media

Tommy Prine started day two of Healing Appalachia off with a collection of songs filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and a lust for life similar to that of his father, the late John Prine. He previewed several songs from his upcoming Ruston Kelly and Gena Johnson produced debut album, including its first single "Ships In The Harbor," Kelly co-writes "Turning Stones" and "Piling Up" and "This Far South." The latter he sent to Kelly and Johnson last year, which ultimately led to them to recording his forthcoming project.

Lost Dog Street Band

Healing Appalachia, Lost Dog Street Band, Benjamin Tod

Hunter Way/Impact Media

Led Benjamin Tod, who's currently in recovery from addiction, Lost Dog Street Band's music was tailor made to be center stage at Healing Appalachia. The message of resilience and hope through dark times rings throughout the band's music, acting as a rallying cry for Tod during his ongoing journey that can be applied to most everyone suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Songs like "Sorry For The Things," "Hayden's Lament," "Terrible And True" and "Using Again" all touched on this directly, many of them being introduced with brief narratives from Tod about his own struggles and the moments in time that inspired each tune that serve to highlight his own rock bottom while also bringing attention to just how far he has come to show that recovery is possible for all.

Laid Back Country Picker

Healing Appalachia, Laid Back Country Picker

Jonathan Newsome/Capture Kentucky

With two mini 15 minute sets before and after Arlo McKinley, the last also preceding Tyler Childers, Laid Back Country Picker brought forth a rockabilly revolution to the West Virginia crowd with renditions of cheeky originals like "Magoffin County Cadillac," "Party Line" and "Amen John Glenn." Also sneaking its way into frontman David Prince's five-song round-up was a cover of Blue ?-yster Cult's "Go Go Godzilla" accompanied by his own shredding guitar and thunderous drums from wife Theresa "Honey" Prince as the two former high school professors of Childers set the stage for his primetime performance.

Cole Chaney

Healing Appalachia, Cole Chaney

Jonathan Newsome/Capture Kentucky

Following Tyler Childers and kicking off night two of Healing Appalachia's late night stage, Cole Chaney illustrated why many folks around Kentucky are already lauding him as the next Childers-like talent from the area ready to break out and take the nation by storm. It's already happening across Appalachia, as fans on Saturday night were singing along to Chaney from his set opening "Ill Will Creek" to its finale "Coalshooter" about his grandfather who worked as a minor in the Eastern Kentucky coal mines to help support his family. Also making appearances were several cuts from his newly released OurVinyl Sessions EP including "Charlene," "Grind" and "Spirit," each exhibiting the brutal honesty and blue collar appeal that have already made him so revered by many.

49 Winchester

Healing Appalachia, 49 Winchester

Jonathan Newsome/Capture Kentucky

Another group of Appalachian artists on the rise, 49 Winchester followed Chaney with a fiery set of their own to close out the festival. With brother Cole Chafin in place of bassist Chase Chafin following the birth of his son Leo earlier in the week, the band moved through songs new and old. Prominent were ditties from their New West Records debut from this past spring including "Fortune Favors The Bold," "Annabel," "Neon," "Russell County Line" and "Last Call." Also mixed in were older favorites like "Hayes, Kansas," "Everlasting Lover," "Long Hard Life" and "Chemistry." However the show's highlight was an encore performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" transformed into a country and funk-fueled finale by lead singer Isaac Gibson.

Tyler Childers

Healing Appalachia, Tyler Childers

Jonathan Newsome/Capture Kentucky

After becoming a first-time father just days prior, Tyler Childers capped off main stage festivities at Healing Appalachia with a catalog spanning set of music that included several cuts from his forthcoming triple album Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven? out Sept. 30, including show opener "Old Country Church," "Way Of The Triune God" and "Purgatory" revamped from a traditional bluegrass number on his album of the same name to a slowed-down, country soul breakdown. Throughout the set, Childers' signature Appalachian drawl rang throughout the nearby West Virginia mountains as he channeled every bit of energy within him, belting out hits like "Country Squire," "Shake The Frost," "Bus Route," "Honky Tonk Flame," "House Fire" and "Universal Sound" with with the full power of his band, The Food Stamps, backing him. 

However, halfway through the performance Childers ushered the band off stage for a brief solo excursion that saw Childers joined by the crowd in reciting hits "Lady May" and "Nose On The Grindstone" and yielding one of the show's most profound moments. Another came later on when Childers and company closed out the show with "Space & Time," a cover from fellow Kentuckian S.G. Goodman's 2020 debut Old Time Feeling that Childers first covered during last year's Healing Appalachia live stream that took place in lieu of an in-person event due to COVID-19. 

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