By Patricia Leigh Brown
The heritage of handcrafted stringed instruments runs deep in this tiny Appalachian village (pop. 770) stretched along the banks of Troublesome Creek. The community has been known as the homeplace of the mountain dulcimer ever since a revered maker, James Edward (“Uncle Ed”) Thomas, pushed a cartload of angelic-sounding dulcimers up and down the creek roads, keeping a chair handy to play tunes for passers-by. Music is the region’s lifeblood: Locals like to say that “you can toss a rock and hit a musician.” But these strong cultural roots have been tested by the scourges that devastated Eastern Kentucky, an early epicenter of the opioid crisis.