A record store as eclectic as Roundabout was the last thing I expected to find in Whitesburg, a town of just 2,100 souls on the eastern edge of Kentucky’s coalfields. These coalfields stretch across the Appalachian Mountains, two hours’ drive east from Lexington, through winding roads that dip and rise so dramatically your ears pop.
I came here for a month-long research trip. My preparations had filled my mind with stereotypes -- well-meaning friends had warned me of a place reeking with hardship, simmering with hostile racial and political prejudices.
But these hoary clichés fell apart once I actually arrived and drove around eastern Kentucky for a few weeks. Appalachia absolutely has its quirks, but it will also blow up your stereotypes if you let it. A night of folk music can transform into a night sticking dollar bills into a drag queen’s G-string. Hollowed-out mountains stand beside sweating forests thick with trees. People welcome you onto their porch to sip moonshine, and make other brands of homemade fun you’re not likely to find unless you go.