As far as music is concerned, that’s a wide-open question.
Bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, who hail from Brevard, NC, earned the top spot in WNCW’s listener poll of best albums of the past year. The album, “Tell The Ones I Love” beat out the latest offerings from such area favorites as Bob Dylan, Jim Lauderdale, the Avett Brothers, and Acoustic Syndicate.
WNCW is a public radio station located on the campus of Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC. It may be small, but it is powerful in both its broadcast reach and listener devotion.
Well-known artists who visit the Western part of the state to perform often end up at the station’s Studio B to play live and be interviewed by the knowledgeable staff. Rather than follow a typical hits playlist, WNCW introduces listeners to new and often obscure bands or reaches back several decades to spin an endearingly familiar gem. You get an eclectic mix, provided by live deejays, which few commercial broadcast outlets are willing or able to provide.
As an example of how this station’s choices differ from the national palate, Rolling Stone’s top album of the year, “Modern Vampires of the City” by Vampire Weekend, landed way down at 71 in WNCW’s list of best music in 2013.
Rolling Stone’s number two album, Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” didn’t even make an appearance in the radio station’s Top 100.
Such lists are always subjective, of course, and reflect regional tastes. You can always pull up sales records, radio ratings or awards to argue one way or another, but there’s just no objective way to prove to everyone’s satisfaction that one artist or collection of tunes is the best.
One thing I can say about the Rangers, with and without frequent guest banjo player Steve Martin, the band puts on a fantastic live show. And who am I to argue with the listeners of what I consider to be one of the best radio stations in the universe?
See the band’s website here: http://www.steepcanyon.com. And to listen to WNCW anywhere in the world go here: http://wncw.org/listen-live.