Carla’s music contains the best elements of traditional Appalachian Music, including purity, intensity, integrity, and vivid imagery.”

— Old Time Herald

God, that girl can sing.”

— Doc Watson


  • Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest 1st Place Winner 
  • Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Contest 1st Place Winner 
  • Flatrock Songwriting Festival 1st Place Winner 
  • Kentucky Folklife Program Master Artist in Traditional Dance 
  • Berea College Promise Neighborhood Teaching Artist
  • Kentucky Arts Council Teaching Artist Roster

Bio & Artist Statement

There are lots of musicians out there claiming to be “authentic,” but Carla Gover is more than that: she’s the real thang. Born and raised in Eastern Kentucky, she was exposed to all the ingredients that go into making a true Appalachian musician of the first order. Growing up in the rural coal town of Whitesburg, Carla's early years were filled with music. She was first immersed in the a capella hymn-singing of her grandmother, Ollie Gilbert Hudson (who also taught her herbalism, cooking, sewing, quilting, gardening, and many other things.) Later she absorbed the old-time banjo and fiddle at the dances on Saturday nights at the schoolhouse, the twang of local bluegrass festivals, and the soul of mountain church music. Her older brother also made a point of exposing her to great songwriters and singers of many genres, including the Beatles, Steve Goodman, John Prine, Tom Waits, and Dolly Parton. Like one of her mentors and inspirations, Jean Ritchie, Carla has a heart for both social justice and preserving the ancient tunes of the mountains, and combines both of these sensibilities in her music, her original songs, and her personable performances.

She is an award-winning singer-songwriter, with wins at the Kerrville Newfolk Festival, Merlefest’s Christ Austin Song Contest, and the Flatrock Festival Songwriting Contest. 

In addition to her performing career, she has twenty-five years of experience as a teaching artist in Appalachian music and dance. Her ventures include educational performances, residencies and workshops, a variety of music and arts camps, and music festivals.

Carla performs solo on banjo and guitar, with a mix of original and traditional songs, and also brings additional musicians when a bigger sound is called for. She frequently adds some lively flatfoot dancing to the set, and gives audiences a sense that they have had a trip to the Appalachian Mountains. 

Carla also performs with the acclaimed trio Zoe Speaks, touring all over the country and performing at such venues as The Kennedy Center, Merlefest, Godfrey Daniels, and The Freight & Salvage. Acoustic Guitar Magazine calls her "one of the 30 essential artists of the next generation." Gover has recorded projects and performed with a bevy of accomplished musicians, including Dirk Powell (Cold Mountain, Van Lear Rose), the legendary Jean Ritchie, fiddler Stuart Duncan, renowned guitarist/banjoist Tony Furtado, mandolin player Mike Compton (O Brother Where Art Thou?) and many others.

Carla is also an actress, with appearances in the feature indie film Red River Moon, the bilingual theater/music/dance performance entitled "Cornbread & Tortillas", and the Folk Opera  "In These Fields", by Silas House and Sam Gleaves.

I am passionate about this music I play, for so many reasons.”

"I believe that the things I feel in my heart and the life experiences I have had are a big part of what I am sharing when I perform. I believe that music is as much about the emotions and ideas that lie behind it as it is about the notes being played. When I share my music, I am sharing my own spirit, but also the spirit of the place and people that I come from--The Appalachians. The following items are particular concerns of mine, and many of my programs address the following groups and issues.  

I seek to be a voice speaking of the beauty and dignity of Appalachian culture in a world filled with stereotypes, half-truths, and outright lies about what it means to be from the region. I seek to share a native’s perspective of the culture and traditions of the mountains, and instill pride within the region and understanding outside the region.  

In an era where everyone is talking about sustainability and stewardship, I seek to highlight the living mountain traditions that are rooted in those things, and to bring the best aspects of our self-reliant past into the future. In addition, I seek to raise awareness of the environmental outrages which are occurring in the mountains today, that a positive change might come from within and without the region.  

I seek to be an example of an artist who is living her dreams, and to inspire young people to pursue their talents and work for positive change in the world. As a mother of three who has made a career in the arts, I also seek to be an example to women who are artists and mothers.”