Couples are in 'Appalachia in the Bluegrass' Spotlight as Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Stray Local Play UK

By Sarah Jayne Johnson

The University of Kentucky John Jacob Niles Center for American Music’s "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" will welcome Sparky and Rhonda Rucker and Stray Local to campus this October to continue the concert series. Storyteller and multi-instrumentalist Sparky Rucker and his wife, musician Rhonda Rucker, will perform Oct. 5. The following week, indie band Stray Local will play Oct. 12. The free public concerts, which begin at noon, will be presented at the Niles Gallery in the Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.

Old-Time ‘Ruck’us


Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform "Midnight Special."

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. They are recognized as leading musicians, authors and storytellers. The duo is versatile in their instruments using fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, blue harmonica, old-time banjo, piano, spoons and bones.

The audience can expect an uplifting presentation of toe-tapping music with the perfect mix of humor, history and tall tales from the Ruckers. With 50 years of performing to their credit, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as NPR's "On Point," "Prairie Home Companion," "Mountain Stage" and "Morning Edition." Their recording, "Treasures & Tears," was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology “Singing Through the Hard Times.”

Don’t ‘Stray’ Far


Watch Stray Local perform "We Run."

Stray Local is the songwriting team of soon-to-be husband and wife duo Jamie Rowan and Hannah Lomas. The couple’s indie folk band Stray Local was created in 2013 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Their newly released EP "Passenger," featuring catchy guitar riffs, atmospheric strings with driving rhythms and a powerful lead vocal, varies greatly from their folk past. Visit their Spotify discography or YouTube channel to hear Stray Local's one-of-a-kind sound.

"The Appalachia in the Bluegrass" concert series celebrates the old-time roots of American folk music by featuring a diverse range of traditional musical expression. The concert series will showcase 12 different artists, duos and groups from southern Appalachia ranging from artists straight off their front porch to those who have earned international acclaim.

The John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, host of the concert series, is a collaborative research and performance center maintained by the UK College of Fine ArtsUK School of Music and UK Libraries.

For more information on the concert series or the programs with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker or Stray local, contact Niles Center Director Revell Carr at or visit the website at

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