LISTEN: Why West Virginia music is more than just banjos


LISTEN: Why West Virginia music is more than just banjos

Joni Deutsch does more than spin West Virginia tunes. She geeks out over it (check out, and she wants you to do the same. So for this week’s UpThink, the NPR Music-contributing Mountain State native is highlighting a few emerging acts who are making the #WVmusic scene wild and wonderful.

Photo Credit Josh Saul

Hello June (Morgantown, WV)

John Denver referred to West Virginia as “almost Heaven.” If that’s true, then it would only make sense for the state to be occupied by ethereal rock bands like Morgantown’s Hello June. Fronted by Sarah Rudy, with Whit Alexander on drums and Chad Brown on guitar, the three-piece creates organic indie pop rooted in the darker rock of Jason Molina, Daniel Johnston and Beach House (all of whom have connections to West Virginia). Recommended track: “Dance”

Photo Credit Lori Kilgore Miller

The Dividends (Huntington, WV)

If Charleston gypsy rock band Qiet had musical relations with the soulful Alabama Shakes, The Dividends would surely be the result. The five-piece just released their debut EP Shakesy (named after the Alabama Shakes, naturally), which has enough funky-folky-rocky sounds to toot a horn at (which they do, thanks to trumpeter Heath Holley). Recommended track: “Ain’t Been Missin’ You”

Whiskey Victor (Morgantown, WV)

Meet Anna-Kate and Shannon Bean. They’re your new favorite sister folk duo. Especially if you’re in the market for excellent harmonies and dreamy melodies à la Lucius or First Aid Kit. Recommended track: “The Answer”

Photo Credit J.R. Smiley

Matt Deal (Bluefield, WV)

Matt Deal is singer-songwriter who likes his tunes like he likes his AMC television shows: disarming, disturbing and, most importantly, entertaining. Most definitely, his music is made all the sharper by his wit. Recommended track: the post-apocalyptic “Front Porch”

Katelyn Read (Parkersburg, WV)

Although currently residing in North Carolina, the Mid-Ohio Valley native has kept to her #WVmusic roots with a soulful sound that calls to mind Bill Withers (who, himself, is a native of Slab Fork, West Virginia). Recommended track: “Brick + Mortar”

Joni Deutsch is host of the indie/alternative music program “A Change of Tune” on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and assistant producer/occasional guest host of “Mountain Stage.” In 2017, she was named to The State Journal’s “Generation Next: 40 under 40” for her work in promoting #WVmusic through radio programming and live events (see below for one coming up on September 3!). When she’s not speaking into a microphone, Joni can be found curled up with a good cup of tea (Tazo Passion, if possible), a great podcast and her lovable Polish Lowland sheepdog. You can follow more of Joni’s work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Like party favors, but for your brain. Enjoy these weekly goodies including viral videos, interesting articles, curated playlists, and more!

Want to discover even more music from near and far? Then join us for #WhyListen, a first listen music party on Sunday, September 3 at the amazing Bahnhof in Huntington (seriously, have you seen their pretzels?) Enjoy local brews and noms as you listen to brand new tunes, rate them with handy-dandy cards and have a lively music discussion with Joni Deutsch, Mountain Stage’s Larry Groce, Huntington music producer Bud Carroll and Hello June rocker Sarah Rudy. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP + find more information here.

Be sure to subscribe to get UpThink, a new email series designed by young people for young people around topics that matter to us, sent right to your inbox each week!   

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