Joe Penland was born and raised in rural Madison County in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. He is the proud steward of twelve generations and over 350 years of the rich oral tradition of his Scotch and English ancestors.
From his birth, he has listened to and learned the stories and “love songs” these travelers brought with them across the ocean, then southwest to the narrow coves and high meadows that many consider the richest repository of Great Britain's folk songs in the world .
He inherited the instruments of his grandfather who died long before his birth and was taught to play by his Aunts. He learned the “love songs” from them and the great singers of Sodom Laurel. Thee singers include Lee, Berzilla, Doug and Cas Wallin and Berzilla’s sister and brother Dellie Norton and Lloyd Chandler.
Joe was content to continue this tradition in his front room, the porch or campfires of his secluded farm. His daughter Laurin along with lifelong friends Sheila Adams, Mary Eagle and David Holt convinced him to share his life and music with a broader audience. Since then, he has appeared at numerous festivals, toured Great Britain eight times, and has been awarded the coveted Bascom Lunsford Award, named for his cousin and founder of the longest running folk festival in America, for his “significant contribution to preserving our mountain music."
Determined that folk music includes the present as well as the past, Joe writes and sings his own “love songs," which he calls “just more stories of love and life here in the mountains."
Whether singing the traditional ballads of the mountains of western North Carolina or performing his original and stirring folk songs, Joe Penland's music offers an honesty and power that is a testament to both his unique character and our shared humanity.