Families, Fiddles And Politics At The Dinner Table


This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia explores stories about families, friends, and how people on opposite ends of the political spectrum connect through music, food and conversations about tough topics. We’ll hear the story of one of the world’s best fiddlers, Clark Kessinger, from St. Albans, West Virginia. We’ll learn how he inspired his nephew, Robin Kessinger, to play the guitar.

We’ll also talk about how East African immigrant communities in a small town in West Virginia are connecting back to their home traditions through coffee ceremonies.

In This Episode: 

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Zack Harold
Robin Kessinger is a world champion flatpicking guitar champion, a style of music that transfers traditional fiddle tunes to steel string guitar. He learned much of his repertoire from his uncle Clark Kessinger, a renowned old-time fiddler.

Kessinger Brothers

Robin Kessinger is a national award-winning flatpicker and yet he still spends his days teaching kids and adults their first chords. One of his main musical mentors was a music legend in his own right.

Inside Appalachia folkways reporter Zack Harold has the story.

Trihas Kefele Pours Coffee For Guests - - Photo by Emily Hilliard .jpg.jpg

Emily Hilliard
Trihas Kefele Pours Coffee For Guests

Coffee Ceremonies

Moorefield, West Virginia, is home to about 3,300 people — about one in 10 are immigrants. That includes a small community from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Many of them work at the chicken processing plant in town, Pilgrim’s Pride. The hours there are long and don’t leave much time for socializing. Still, members of that East African community continue to practice a tradition they’ve brought from home: the coffee ceremony. Folkways reporter Clara Haizlett brings us this story, with help from former West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard.

Young Farmers Struggle To Find Land

For generations here in Appalachia, fall has been a time of harvest. On farms, there’s a mad rush to get all the last crops in before that first hard freeze. It’s a tough time of year in an already difficult job. For a lot of folks, farming is a constant uphill battle to get out of debt. And yet, people still want to farm, including a growing number of young people. But one of the biggest barriers to young farmers is accessing affordable land. WESA’s An-Li Herring reports.


Virtual Dinner Party 

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We’re in the midst of the holiday season, nearly two years into the pandemic, and some of us are getting to see our families for the first time in a while. But family get-togethers, even during non-pandemic times, can also be stressful, especially if you have family members who have political views that don’t quite line up with yours. Our colleagues at the Us & Them podcast started a tradition last Thanksgiving — a virtual dinner party of people with different political views. They returned this year with another holiday dinner party to talk about issues with the intention of finding some common ground between servings of turkey and pumpkin pie.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Jake Schepps, Wes Swing, and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to