(Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington, and Wise Counties and the Cities of Bristol and Norton)
The West Zone features, in its southeastern corner, a small section of the Blue Ridge range; in its central section is the wide valley that carries Interstate 81 travelers headed south to Tennessee or north to the Shenandoah Valley. The western section of this zone incorporates a section of Central Appalachia’s coalfields region, and coal has been a dominant influence on the life and culture of the region for many decades. The steep eastern slopes of the Cumberland range form the western border of the zone, and flowing through the zone is the Clinch River, one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. The West Zone is home to five Crooked Road Major Venues: the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center (in Clintwood), the Country Cabin II (in Norton), the Carter Family Fold (in Hiltons), the Birthplace of Country Music (including the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion), and Heartwood, an architecturally stunning visitor center that showcases the music, craft, history, and outdoor splendor of Southwest Virginia (in Abingdon). As in the East and Central Zones, the many Affiliated Venues and Festivals in the West Zone provide a vibrant year round opportunity to enjoy heritage music in many different settings. The West Zone is home to several legendary American musicians, including the Stanley Brothers (Clintwood), bluegrass pioneers Jim and Jesse McReynolds (Coeburn), the old time banjo player and singer Dock Boggs (Norton), and the Carter Family (near Hiltons). Visitors can see several sites of historical and cultural significance: in Lee County, the eastern approach to Cumberland Gap, through which Daniel Boone and other settlers entered what at the time was considered “the West”; in Big Stone Gap, the setting for popular literary works by early twentieth century author John Fox and contemporary author Adriana Trigiani; in Abingdon, the world-famous Barter Theatre, officially designated as the Virginia State Theatre; and in Bristol, the site of legendary 1927 and 1928 location recording sessions for Victor Records, known as the Bristol Sessions (Bristol was also the site of the influential WCYB radio program “Farm and Fun Time” and the birthplace and boyhood home of Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Tennessee Ernie Ford). The West Zone is home to two important institutions of higher learning: Emory and Henry College (in Emory) and the University of Virginia at Wise.