bluegrass and traditional country
Rogersville, Tennessee

With a powerhouse voice and remarkable range, Linda Lay is one of the best singers in grassroots bluegrass and country music. She leads an exceptional ensemble of award-winning musicians in Springfield Exit, combining elements of bluegrass and country with sounds stemming from their Appalachian roots.

Linda Clayman Lay hails from Clayman Valley, a tiny community named after her family outside of Bristol, Tennessee. She grew up surrounded by music in a family that treasured songs, from old-time and bluegrass to gospel and traditional country. Her father formed a family band that he took to informal community gatherings to jam and perform with local musicians. Linda spent many a Saturday at the Carter Family Fold, a barn-like performing space at the Carter home place at Hiltons in Scott County, just west of Clayman Valley. Here she got to know Jeanette and Joe Carter, daughter and son of A.P. and Sara Carter of the original Carter Family. Linda enjoyed going to the Fold to flatfoot dance, but her father soon had her performing on guitar, and she later learned bass from the local fiddling barber, Gene Boyd. 

Linda later founded and led Appalachian Trail, an innovative bluegrass band that performed for more than 20 years. In Appalachian Trail, she found her voice, becoming not just the band’s lead singer but one of the most beloved singers in bluegrass. During her years with Appalachian Trail, she met the gifted guitar player and singer—and her future husband—David Lay. 

A preacher’s son, David Lay grew up in the coalfields of Virginia, and in the small towns of northeastern Tennessee. Along with working as everything from a plumber to an electrician and keeping up his own vegetable garden in Tennessee’s Goshen Valley, David has also always been a musician. He began singing in church at an extremely young age and soon developed a keen ear for the traditional music of the region. Before meeting Linda, David played bass for a gospel group. It was only after the two met that David picked up a guitar for the first time and quickly became an accomplished player. He brings a rock-solid rhythm guitar to the group’s sound, and spends most of his other time farming.

For the Lowell Folk Festival, Linda and David will be joined by veteran bluegrass musicians Randy Cook (mandolin), Tim Laughlin (fiddle), and Rusty Ferrell (banjo).