music and spoken word performances

Kentuck has a full two days of music and spoken word at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts! Scroll down to learn more and see the schedules for the Brother Ben Music Stage and the Kathryn Tucker Windham Spoken Word Stage. This year, performances include Alabama's Poet Laureate, GRAMMY-awarded gospel, and GRAMMY-nominated Zydeco Blues.

kathryn tucker windham
spoken word stage

In celebration of Kentuck's 50th anniversary, Kentuck Art Center is renaming the Spoken Word Stage to honor the late journalist/storyteller/Alabama legend Kathryn Tucker Windham. 

The Spoken Word Stage at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts would not exist if not for Kathryn. 

In the early years of the Kentuck Festival, there was no storytelling stage - just a circled spot on a map, where someone would tack up a sign with her name, and times. She'd walk the festival grounds, then wander back whenever a crowd of children gathered. 


Kentuck Art Center and Festival is honored to dedicate the stage to Kathryn. In addition to the performances listed below, attendees can look forward to listening to old recordings of Kathryn telling her ghostly tales. The Windham family will be in attendance for the official dedication on October 16 at 12:00pm to say a few words. 


Kathryn used to say "Storytelling is a way of saying 'I love you.' I love you enough to tell you something that means a great deal to me."


The power of spoken word transcends time and generations. It is Kentuck's hope that honoring Kathryn Tucker Windham with this stage dedication will stir feelings of nostalgia for those who grew up reading her stories, and introduce a new generation to the magic of storytelling. Or, in Kathryn's words, the magic of saying, "I love you."


Learn more about Kathryn's life and legacy here. 


kathryn tucker windham
spoken word stage schedule


  • 11:00AM – The Rude Mechanicals, reading works by Kathryn Tucker Windham, including stories from 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey

  • 12:00pm – Kathryn Tucker Windham Stage Dedication

  • 1:00PM – University of Alabama Undergraduate Writers

  • 2:00PM – ASAP (Alabama Student Association for Poetry)

  • 3:00PM – Pure Products, a reading lecture series run by University of Alabama English Department Faculty



  • 11:00AM – University of Alabama Undergraduate Writers

  • 12:00PM – ASAP (Alabama Student Association for Poetry)

  • 1:00PM –  The Rude Mechanicals

  • 2:00PM – Jeanie Thompson, Alabama Writers Forum Executive Director 

  • 2:30PM – Ashley M. Jones, Alabama Poet Laureate

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Ashley M. Jones, Alabama Poet Laureate

Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press 2017),  dark / / thing (Pleiades Press 2019), and REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press 2021). Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches Creative Writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and in the Low Residency MFA at Converse College. Jones co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival. She recently served as a guest editor for Poetry Magazine.


Jeanie Thompson, Alabama Writers Association President

Jeanie Thompson is a poet, editor, literary arts educator, and arts advocate in Montgomery, AL, USA.  She began publishing poetry while in the University of Alabama’s MFA Creative Writing Program, where she and her classmates founded Black Warrior Review literary journal. Her collections include The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller, The Seasons Bear Us; White for Harvest, Witness, How to Enter the River.  She has been awarded Individual Artist fellowships from the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. 

Jeanie is founding director of the Alabama Writers' Forum, a statewide literary arts organization which advocates for literary arts and arts education.  The Forum’s signature literary arts program is an award-winning program for justice-involved youth called Writing Our Stories.

Jeanie is a poetry faculty member of the Spalding University School of Professional and Creative Writing.  Photo courtesy of Jerry Siegel.

brother ben music stage


The Brother Ben Music Stage is named in honor of folk artist B.F. Perkins. 

About BF: 

Alabama farm boy, underage Merchant Marine, U.S. Marine and Presidential bodyguard, FBI agent, revival tent minister, celebrated folk artist from Fayette, Alabama. All are chapters in the remarkable life of Benjamin Franklin Perkins who, like his namesake, followed his curiosities, ambitions, and higher callings to explore the world, serve his country and free his soul. His artwork is in many private collections and museum collections around the world. 

brother ben music stage schedule


  • 9:30 AM-10:30 AM--Ray Reach Trio

  • 11:00AM-12:00 PM– John Calvin Abney

  • 12:30 PM-1:45 PM – Red Dirt Boys

  • 2:15PM-3:30 PM – CJ Chenier

  • 3:45PM-5:00 PM – Coffee Black



  • 10:00AM-11:00 AM – University of Alabama String Ensemble

  • 11:30AM-12:30 PM – Amy McCarley

  • 1:00PM-2:15 PM–  Fairfield Four

  • 2:45PM-4:00 PM –Red Mountain Yellowhammers

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Ray Reach Trio: Raymond E. Reach, Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama, Ray is a pianist, vocalist and educator, now serving as Director of Student Jazz Programs for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. In addition, he is an accomplished guitarist, arranger, composer, conductor and music producer. He is known and respected for his work in Pop, Rock, Classic Rock, R & B, Soul, Motown, Classical and Jazz, and is perhaps best known for his work in the Jazz idiom.


John Calvin Abney: Abney is a songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist sideman who’s spent nearly 10 years in the studio and on the road in instrumental service to the songs of other writers, including John Moreland, Samantha Crain, and, recently, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, along with a veritable swath of writers and musicians that quickly become friends. Recently, he has also spent time scoring short films and documentaries between session and show, and even picked up part time work cleaning and repairing old video games from the 80's and 90's at a local shop. Before the Kentuck Festival of the Arts on October 16, Abney is opening for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in Oklahoma City October 10th.

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Red Dirt Boys: Special brew of New Orleans-influenced music, with a tradition of mixing it up. Red Dirt Boys is the name Emmylou Harris gave to her back up band made up of Chris Donohue, Will Kimbrough, Phil Madeira, and Bryan Owings. When we approached Emmylou and asked her if we could use the name on our upcoming record she said, "Only if I can sing on it". We are proud to work with her, and to have recorded with many fine artists.The Red Dirt Boys have two albums - "Red Dirt Boys" (2019) and "The Real Deal" (2021). Both feature guest performances from Emmylou Harris herself!

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CJ Chenier: Creole-born C.J. Chenier was raised in an indigenous American culture with its distinctive language, cuisine and music. He delivers soulful vocals along with masterful accordion-driven Zydeco and Blues. Chenier, a GRAMMY®-nominated,  world-renowned musician and recording artist, has performed alongside many internationally recognized artists including his GRAMMY® awarded father, Clifton Chenier (“The King of Zydeco”), Paul Simon, Joe Sample and Ray Parker, Jr.

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Coffee Black: Coffee Black is a retro funk and soul band based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Founded in 2017 by CJ Anderson.

String Quartet

University of Alabama String Ensemble: More information about The University of Alabama School of Music here.


Amy McCarley: Amy McCarley is a singer-songwriter based in Huntsville, Alabama. With poignant and thought provoking lyrics, Amy McCarley finds balance in a new perspective with MECO, her 3rd studio album released February 8, 2019. After collaborating in writing new songs with Bluebird Cafe round-mate and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer, Pat Alger, McCarley returned to the studio with esteemed colleagues, co-producers Kenny Vaughan & George Bradfute to work on MECO, her highly anticipated follow up to 2014’s Jet Engines. MECO was recorded and mixed by Bradfute in his Tone Chaparral Studios in Madison, Tennessee and mastered by Jim DeMain at Yes Master Studios in Nashville.

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Fairfield Four: Founded in 1921 in Nashville, TN the Fairfield Four have maintained their authenticity by carrying on traditional stylings exemplified by the Bessemer Sunset Four, the Birmingham Jubilee Singers, and the Famous Blue Jay Singers with Silas Steele. The Fairfield Four are the recipients of multiple honors including 3 Grammy Awards, (1) Best Traditional Gospel Recording "I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" in 1997, (2) Album of the Year for the "O Brother Where Art Thou" Soundtrack Recording in 2001, (3) Best Gospel Roots album "Still Rockin' My Soul" in 2016, and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. They were also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

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Red Mountain Yellowhammers: The Red Mountain Yellowhammers, formerly known as just Red Mountain, is a five-member string band that plays high-energy dance tunes, old-time blues and vintage country music. Jim Cauthen, who plays the fiddle, and Joyce Cauthen, who plays guitar, are Hoover residents and members of the Senior Center. Others in the band are Phil Foster on the mandolin, Nancy Jackson on the bass and Jamie Finley on the harmonica and banjo.