NPR Music’s Mountain Stage radio show—produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and an on-air home for live country, folk, and blues performances—comes to the Berklee Performance Center with a star-studded lineup that spans generations of folk luminaries.
Host Kathy Mattea, a Grammy-winning country and folk artist, takes the stage alongside special guest Rosanne Cash—hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most ambitious and literary songwriters of her generation”—in her return to Celebrity Series for the first time since 2014.
“There’s something quintessentially West Virginia about 'Mountain Stage,'” says Kathy Mattea, who took over hosting duties from Larry Groce in 2021. “It’s a culture steeped in humility and generosity, which makes for a groundedness, for a sense of continuity and community that I think artists are really drawn to.”
Loudon Wainwright III, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, and Ali McGuirk make their Celebrity Series debuts alongside Cash. For more than fifty years, Wainwright has written and performed heartfelt songs that continue to chronicle all the ups and downs of his life with his characteristic wit, honesty, and humor. Tuttle, praised for her "expressive, crystalline voice and astounding flat-picking guitar skills" (Rolling Stone Country), represents roots music's new generation and appears with Golden Highway, her brand-new bluegrass band. Singer-songwriter Ali McGuirk—who began her career in Cambridge and Somerville and now calls Burlington, VT home—has drawn acclaim for her powerful, soulful voice and her songwriting that blends and spans genres. WGBH praised her “fervent blend of R&B, folk, and classic soul.”
This performance will be recorded for future on-air broadcast on the Mountain Stage syndicated NPR radio show. It is expected to air later in December 2022.
This performance features American Sign Language interpretation by Donnie Gibbons and Claire Lombardo Miller.
For nearly forty years, Mountain Stage Radio Show has stood as one of the most acclaimed and enduring programs in public radio history, broadcasting thousands of raw, unforgettable live performances by rising stars and veteran legends alike from the series’ home in Charleston, West Virginia.
Launched in 1983 by Larry Groce, former executive producer Andy Ridenour, and the late chief engineer Francis Fisher, Mountain Stage began as a regional production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting before quickly gaining NPR distribution and expanding its reach to a national audience. Bookings on the two-hour, Sunday afternoon program were eclectic, with each episode showcasing a handful of artists across a broad range of styles and genres, and audiences responded favorably to the unique mix of down-home talent and household names. Though any number of early events could be credited with helping to fuel the show’s remarkable rise—some point to the breakout success of West Virginia natives like Tim O’Brien and Kathy Mattea—most agree that it was R.E.M.’s 1991 appearance that marked an indelible turning point in the Mountain Stage story.
“We got a call out of the blue asking if we’d like to have R.E.M. on the show,” says Groce, who’d hosted Peter Buck on the program the year before. “The band had just hit #1 with Out of Time, but they’d announced that they weren’t going to tour, so the demand to see them was stupendous. I think they only did three shows: SNL, MTV Unplugged, and Mountain Stage.”
While the performance raised Mountain Stage’s profile with artists and audiences around the world, the series remained true to its Appalachian roots, maintaining the same small, tight-knit staff and commitment to embodying the warmth, honesty, and openness of West Virginia and its people in everything they did. The decades to come would yield countless more iconic performances from an incredibly diverse array of guests—but each and every artist found themselves treated with the same respect and hospitality as the last, regardless of whether they were Grammy-winning superstars or fresh-faced rookies making their radio debut.
These days, Mountain Stage can be heard on nearly 300 public radio stations nationwide (and globally via NPR Music), but its heart and soul remain firmly planted in Charleston, WV, where the series continues to present world class performances with the same passion, dedication, and curiosity that’s guided it from the start.
“Rosanne Cash has been making great records for forty years, but she's never played or written better music than she's doing right now.”NPR
“Mr. Wainwright has proved to be far and away the most candid diarist among the singer-songwriters who...brought confessional poetry into popular song.... Mr. Wainwright wrings more human truth out of his contradiction than any other songwriter of his generation.”Stephen Holden The New York Times
“[Molly Tuttle's] songs, singing and solos, much like her demeanor, tend to have an inward-looking elegance to them; they’re the outward expressions of a searching mind and a longtime dedication to cultivating her craft.”Jewly Hight NPR
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway