An epic collection of songs from the Appalachian Mountains - that showcases some of the greatest mountain ballads as performed by some of the most influential Blues & Folk singers and songwriters of the 20th century. It features classic performances from a wide variety of regional instrumental and song styles. These diverse styles and songs from the mountain communities of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee include old-time fiddle and banjo pieces, early bluegrass, and traditional ballads, with a special emphasis on Appalachian vocal traditions. Doc and Merle Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley, Josh White and Dock Boggs are just a few of the revered roots artists who appear on this epic collection....
The term "Appalachian music" is in truth an artificial category, created and defined by a small group of scholars in the early twentieth century, but bearing only a limited relationship to the actual musical activity of people living in the Appalachian mountains. Since the region is not only geographically, but also ethnically and musically diverse (and has been since the early days of European settlement there), music of the Appalachian mountains is as difficult to define as is American music in general.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the 1920s, nearly all of the early scholarship on Appalachian music focused on "ballad-hunting" or "song-catching," the discovery of New World variants of ballads and other songs that had originated in the British Isles. Francis James Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1898) served as the canonical text. One of the most famous of the ballad hunters was Cecil Sharp. He and others helped create an unassailable historical connection between some of the songs of Appalachia and those of the British Isles.
The early assessments of Appalachian music by non-Appalachian writers reflected the values and interests of the writers much more than those of the subjects. For example, Robert Winslow Gordon, founder of the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress in 1928 (now the American Folklife Center), saw Appalachian folk music as defined by its direct relation to British song as the more "authentic" or "American" alternative to African-American and Jewish-American popular music: "Personally, I frankly believe that the whole project of reviving and making known our true American folk stuff is one of the most worthwhile things to be done today. From the point of view of true Americanism.] That stuff is the very soul of our past, of pioneers, of the men who made America. It's not modern Hebrew Broadway jazz." Sarah Gertrude Knott, founder of the National Folk Festival, tempered its supposed multiethnic program with the statement: "No one doubts that the Anglo-Saxon expressions should predominate at the National Folk Festival." Contemporary and topical songs of town dwellers, mine workers, and any others "spoiled" by too much contact with non-British culture or with economic realities overtaking the U.S. at the time were considered unfit for study by scholars such as Sharp.
This preoccupation with a pure British heritage was not absolute. Folklorists and activists such as John and Alan Lomax, Ziphia Horton, and others collected topical and contemporary songs in the 1930s and 1940s, often in tandem with efforts at organising the Appalachian population for leftist causes. Among the few examples of early scholarly attention to non-white Appalachians are James Mooney's Myths of the Cherokee (1901) and Louis Chappell's unpublished work of the 1920s, which uncovered the story of the African-American railroad ballad "John Henry."
Actually, in spite of the image promoted by early scholars, Appalachia was not settled only by Scots-Irish or other British peoples. Settlers from a multiplicity of European ethnic groups populated Appalachia, including Germans, French Huguenots and East Europeans. In the early twentieth century, African Americans were reported to make up 12 percent of the Appalachian population. Furthermore, isolation between these groups was not necessarily the norm. The mountain dulcimer, now almost an icon of Appalachian music, is a direct descendant of the German Scheitholt. African-American banjos, string bands, and many of the tunes that came with them arrived sometime around the 1840s as minstrel shows began to make their way around the U.S. Jane Becker notes that "Southern mountaineers still sang the old Anglo-Saxon ballads and traditional hymns, but they also enjoyed new ballads on contemporary topics as well as the popular music of the day. They used homemade fiddles side by side with guitars, banjos and mandolins purchased by mail." Even in isolated areas, the ideal of mountaineers passing down a pure tradition did not match the observations of Lester Wheeler, who saw "the residents of Nicholson Hollow in the Blue Ridge gathered at one cabin to listen to music programs on the radio."
A slightly more accurate picture of what "Appalachian music" might have meant in the early twentieth century is provided by the recordings made at Bristol (on the Tennessee-Virginia state line) in the summer of 1927 by Ralph Peer for the Victor Record Company. In the process of selecting performers and repertoire to record, Peer did urge performers to keep out anything modern. But even this small cloud had a silver lining. The Teneva Ramblers, a group that operated out of Bristol but had recently acquired the talents of a young Mississippi singer named Jimmie Rodgers, were told that before they could record they had to find "older, more down-home songs than the ones they had been doing." Unfortunately, while trying to comply with this request, the band broke up. Consequently, Rodgers made his first solo recordings, opening a career that produced country music's first true star. Other artists--local star Ernest Stoneman and his family, the Carter Family with their Victorian gospel style, protest/gospel singer-songwriter Blind Alfred Reed, Rev. Ernest Phipps of the Holiness Church, stark traditionalist B. F. Shelton, fiddler "El" Watson (the only known African American at the sessions) and other string band musicians, contemporary shape-note singers the Alcoa Quartet, and numerous others showed that the music of the mountains was woven from many strands indeed...
Special thanks to Smithsonian, Circle, Tradition Records & The Library of Congress
released January 13, 2023
The Kossoy Sisters
Ola Belle Reed
Old Regular Baptists
Otis Burris & the Mountain Ramble
Peg Leg Sam Jackson
The Phipps Family
Reed Island Rounders,
Reverend Gary Davis
J. C. Burris
Bascom Lamar Lunsford
Big Chief Ellis
Billy C. Hurt Jr.
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Combining the famous with the obscure in a way that only Mississippi records can pull off. Their records come from a deep understanding and knowledge of blues, gospel and folkmusic. Name your price. Robert Bloemkolk