Great Lakes Folk Festival brings you Elizabeth LaPrelle and her sweet songs from the Blue Ridge

8 mins read

Once again, the sweet ballad sounds of folk singer Elizabeth LaPrelle will be wafting over Michigan’s Great Lakes Folk Festival the weekend of August 13-14 in East Lansing.

LaPrelle and her mom, Sandy Newlin LaPrelle graced the stage during the 2008 festival.  Traveling from the Crooked Road of southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to the blue lakes of Michigan, the mother-daughter duo brings you the tuneful treat of a lifetime.

Sandy and Elizabeth LaPrelle

It’s a rare opportunity to hear authentic mountain music, sung as it was a hundred years ago, with many familiar folk songs that have stood the test of time.

I was introduced to Elizabeth and Sandy’s music during the spring of 2008, when spending a week in the Blue Ridge. Before, I’d never heard such beautiful mountain sounds. I was hooked, as I know you’ll be, if you get a chance to visit the festival.

For the story of Elizabeth, now a graduate of the College of William and Mary, read my article from the 2008 Festival summer below and in her own words on her page.

For the schedule of performances,  go to the Great Lakes Folk Festival website.

For a snippet of Elizabeth’s soulful sound, CDs and video clips, go to

Great Lakes Folk Festival has an MP3clip of East Virginia.

For a beautiful article about Elizabeth and her music in the William &Mary AlumNews, read the words of  Alexandra Hart.

Her newest CD — “Birds’s Advice” – was released in spring 2011.

Songs of Appalachia: Elizabeth LaPrelle and the Crooked Road Revue bring mountain ballads to the Great Lakes Folk Festival

By Susan Parcheta (for  2008)

Imagine a pleasant  summertime journey…walking winding crooked roads,  exploring the nooks and crannies of the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Think of music in the air…music that  travelers of the beautiful crooked roads might be singing. Songs like: Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Gal or  Over the River Charlie . Or maybe join in on a favorite childhood lullaby, Whole Heap A Little Horses, as you stroll along … or  Sweet Roseanne. Then pick up the pace a bit with Sail Away Ladies, Sail Away.

Think Appalachian mountain tunes…authentic to the sonorous voices of a hundred years ago.

Wind down that lovely road with  Elizabeth LaPrelle and the Crooked Road Revue, one of a select number of groups being highlighted at the East  Lansing, Michigan Great Lakes Folk Festival this weekend August 8-10.

Enjoy foot stompin’… banjo strummin’ … acapella singin’ in the traditional mountain way…the way the songs were sung in old-time mountain style. The Crooked Road Revue spans the generations, from 61-year old guitarist Wayne Henderson to 20-year-old LaPrelle.

As Henderson told Mike Hughes of the Lansing State Journal, “For a young person to sing those old songs so beautifully is really surprising.”

Old-time ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams says, “Anyone can learn the old ballads. There are numerous collections in libraries and books that are available on-line.”

“But,” she comments, in describing LaPrelle’s enchanting touch to the music, “Elizabeth is interested in the feel, the sound, the ornamentation of these songs. She is, in my opinion, one of maybe a handful of young singers able to capture the rhythm, the intensity, the breaks and sighs, that make this style of singing authentic.”

“The only problem I have while listening to Elizabeth,” she adds, “is that I’m always listening through tears. She reminds me so much of my older relatives – the same profound feeling for the ballad, yet with such a clear voice.”

Say’s Elizabeth ,  “I grew up surrounded with all kinds of music. We had lots of singing around the house, children’s songs, folk songs, ballads, popular songs, silly songs that we made up, anything that we wanted to do. My mother came from a musical family and was a little more serious about her singing. She loved singing with us, but she also performed with concert choruses and traditional groups.”

Elizabeth’s mom, Sandy, sometimes accompanies her daughter in concert. And, often, she’ll find herself being called up on the stage…like the time Elizabeth sang with Garrison Keeler when Prairie Home Companion radio show did a show in Virginia.

Elizabeth and Sandy carry on the legacy of the authentic mountain tunes. “At the time they were recorded,” Elizabeth explains, “most folks singing the old songs in the traditional way were very old, and the voices that could reputedly sing to be heard from ridge to ridge had lost some of their power. I try to sing ballads the way these folks and their ancestors might have sung when they were my age. I also try to sing with the emotion that I feel when I listen to the stories and poetry in the songs.”

“Right now I am balancing my performance schedule and my classes at the College of William and Mary,” she says. She manages a few concerts and appearances throughout the year.

Last year she traveled on the West coast tour with the Crooked Road Revue. This assembly of artists, organized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, represents musicians from the real Crooked Road…a stretch of US Highway 58  winding 200 miles through the mountains and valleys of LaPrelle’s  home corner of Southwest Virginia.

In any case, there’s magic in the air there…musical magic from down the generations of rural Appalachia.  Elizabeth LaPrelle captures that tuneful mountain magic, now available on her CDs  Rain and Snow and Lizard in the Spring.

Listen awhile, and you’ll find your self whooping it up along with her, as she  trips along with finger shappin’ Liza Up a Simmon Tree: You know, the one that goes….

Whoopty Liza pretty little gal.
Whoopty Liza Jane.
Whoopty Liza pretty little gal
A’ridin’ on that train.


Elizabeth LaPrelle at

Clip of LaPrelle’s “East Virginia”

Elizabeth’s Great Lake Folk Festival Venue and Schedule

Elizabeth LaPrelle in her own words

Susan Parcheta may be reached at











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