Album produced by ETSU faculty earns Independent Music Awards honors

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

JOHNSON CITY — “Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition,” the fourth album released by the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) in conjunction with East Tennessee State University faculty, was recently named Best Compilation Album in the 17th annual Independent Music Awards.

Released in 2017, “Big Bend Killing” features recordings of old and new world Appalachian ballads performed by leading U.K. and American roots music luminaries, such as Rosanne Cash, Doyle Lawson, Alice Gerrard, Archie Fisher, Sheila Kay Adams and Martin Simpson, as well as emerging artists, including several former students of ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies program.

Several faculty and staff of ETSU’s Department of Appalachian Studies, of which Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies is a part, were involved in the production of “Big Bend Killing.”

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They include Dr. Ted Olson, who produced the recording and wrote the liner notes for the album; Roy Andrade, associate producer; Ben Bateson, tracking engineer; and John Fleenor, mastering engineer. About half of the 32 ballads on the album were recorded in the ETSU recording lab, and only one of the ballad recordings had been previously released.

Sales of “Big Bend Killing” support the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Several years ago, Olson and Fleenor collaborated with the GSMA in the production of two CDs compiling and curating historical recordings from the Great Smoky Mountains.

Then, in 2016, Olson and Fleenor worked with Andrade and Bateson on the GSMA album, “On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music,” which offered contemporary interpretations of those historical recordings by such artists as Dolly Parton and Norman Blake.  That album was named Best Tribute Album at the 15th annual Independent Music Awards.

“Big Bend Killing” previously received a Grammy Award nomination and two International Bluegrass Music Association Award nominations, and in 2018, the album received the Jack Spadaro Best Documentary Award from the Appalachian Studies Association.

The Independent Music Awards program celebrates the best in international independent label releases in every genre. To learn more, visit