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For most of the country, September means the beginning of football season and the end of ninety-degree weather. But in Northeast Tennessee, most calendars mark the month for a completely different reason.

Here, the toast of September is Bristol’s annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a three-day downtown music festival celebrating the best in folk, Americana, bluegrass and old-time music. Celebrating Bristol’s heritage as the “Birthplace of Country Music” (dating back to the discovery of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in 1927), the festival is now in its 12th year and attracts crowds upwards of 45,000 people.

In fact, just three years ago, the Reunion was named “Best Destination Event of 2009” by the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus—a lofty designation for such a young event.

True, the festival is one of the most anticipated and talked-about events in the Tri-Cities all year, but it’s not because of the richness of culture on display, or because Bristol’s State Street is such a picturesque backdrop (though both are certainly true).

Quite simply, it has gained acclaim because of the wealth of high-caliber artists it attracts.

In the past, headliners have included Ralph Stanley, Sam Bush, The Avett Brothers, Doc Watson and Del McCoury. And in keeping with that tradition, this year offers one of the best lineups yet.

Headlining the event is Texas-based troubadour Robert Earl Keen. Known for such popular hits as “The Road Goes On Forever” and “Feelin’ Good Again,” Keen has become a treasure of the singer-songwriter and alt-country genres.

Another highly-anticipated act at the 2012 festival is Billy Joe Shaver. I fell in love with his music after hearing “Live Forever,” but it was “Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Old Chunk of Coal” that made Shaver one of my all-time favorite songwriters.

The bill also includes festival-favorites Sam Bush, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and Dr. Dog, as well as more than 120 other local, regional and national acts. Simply put, it promises to be a festival to remember.

For a full list of performers, event details and tickets, visit BristolRhythm.com. And I will most-definitely see you there. This is one event I wouldn’t miss for the world.

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