In recent years an almost overwhelming number of books have appeared covering various aspects of American folk music and its history. Before 1970, most comprised collections of songs with a sprinkling of biographical information on noted performers. Over the past decade, however, scholars, journalists, and folk artists themselves have contributed biographies and autobiographies, instructional books and historical surveys, sociological studies and ethnographic analyses of this musical genre. In 100 Books Every Folk Music Fan Should Own, performer and historian Dick Weissman offers a reliable route through the growing sea of book-length studies, establishing for future scholars a foundation for their research. Beginning with early twentieth-century collections of folk songs, the author brings readers to the present by exploring modern studies of important events, critical collections of primary sources, the most significant musical instruction guides, and in-depth portraits of traditional and contemporary American folk musicians. For each title selected, Weissman provides his own brief summary of its contents and assessment of its significance for the reader-whether fan or scholar. Folk music fans, scholars, and students of the American folk music tradition-indeed, any reader seeking guidance on the best books in the field-will want a copy of this vital work.
Few music groups have been able to sustain a fan base as passionate and dedicated as that of Phish, and this entertaining guide rewards those fans with everything they need to know about the band in a one-of-a-kind format. Packed with history, trivia, lists, little-known facts, and must-do adventures that every Phish fan should undertake, it ranks each item from one to 100, providing an indispensable, engaging road map for devotees old and new.
In African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert Story, scholar and musician Bruce Conforth tells the story of one of the most unusual collections of African American folk music ever amassed-and the remarkable story of the man who produced it: Lawrence Gellert. Compiled between the World Wars, Gellert's recordings were immediately adopted by the American Left as the voice of the true American proletariat, with the songs-largely variants of traditional work songs or blues-dubbed by the Left as "songs of protest." As both the songs and Gellert's standing itself turned into propaganda weapons of left-wing agitators, Gellert experienced a meteoric rise within the circles of left-wing organizations and the American Communist party. But such success proved ephemeral, with Gellert contributing to his own neglect by steadfastly refusing to release information about where and from whom he had collected his recordings. Later scholars, as a result, would skip over his closely held, largely inaccessible research, with some asserting Gellert's work had been doctored for political purposes. And to a certain extent they were correct. Conforth reveals how Gellert at least "assisted" in the creation of some of his more political material. But hidden behind the few protest songs that Gellert allowed to become public was a vast body of legitimate African America folksongs-enough to rival the work of any of his contemporary collectors. Had Gellert granted access to all his material, scholars would have quickly seen that it comprised an incredibly complete and diverse collection of all African American song genres: work songs, blues, chants, spirituals, as well as the largest body of African American folktales about Irish Americans (what were referred to as "One Time I'shman" tales). It also included vast swaths of African American oral literature collected by Gellert as part of the Federal Writers' Project. In African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics, Conforth brings to light for the first time the entire body of work collected by Lawrence Gellert, establishing his place, and the place for the material he collected, within the pages of American folk song scholarship. In addition to shedding new light on the concept of "protest music" within African American folk music, Conforth discusses the unique relationship of the American Left to this music and how personal psychology and the demands of the American Communist party would come to ruin Gellert's life. African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics will appeal to students and scholars in the fields of American social and political history, African American studies, the history of American folk music, and ethnomusicology.
Throughout the Upland South, the banjo has become an emblem of white mountain folk, who are generally credited with creating the short-thumb-string banjo, developing its downstroking playing styles and repertory, and spreading its influence to the national consciousness. In this groundbreaking study, however, Cecelia Conway demonstrates that these European Americans borrowed the banjo from African Americans and adapted it to their own musical culture. Like many aspects of the African-American tradition, the influence of black banjo music has been largely unrecorded and nearly forgotten--until now.Drawing in part on interviews with elderly African-American banjo players from the Piedmont--among the last American representatives of an African banjo-playing tradition that spans several centuries--Conway reaches beyond the written records to reveal the similarity of pre-blues black banjo lyric patterns, improvisational playing styles, and the accompanying singing and dance movements to traditional West African music performances. The author then shows how Africans had, by the mid-eighteenth century, transformed the lyrical music of the gourd banjo as they dealt with the experience of slavery in America. By the mid-nineteenth century, white southern musicians were learning the banjo playing styles of their African-American mentors and had soon created or popularized a five-string, wooden-rim banjo. Some of these white banjo players remained in the mountain hollows, but others dispersed banjo music to distant musicians and the American public through popular minstrel shows. By the turn of the century, traditional black and white musicians still shared banjo playing, and Conway shows that this exchange gave rise to a distinct and complex new genre--the banjo song. Soon, however, black banjo players put down their banjos, set their songs with increasingly assertive commentary to the guitar, and left the banjo and its story to white musicians. But the banjo still echoed at the crossroads between the West African griots, the traveling country guitar bluesmen, the banjo players of the old-time southern string bands, and eventually the bluegrass bands. The Author: Cecelia Conway is associate professor of English at Appalachian State University. She is a folklorist who teaches twentieth-century literature, including cultural perspectives, southern literature, and film.
Collected correspondence from arguably the most important folklorist of the twentieth century Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was one of the most stimulating and influential cultural workers of the twentieth century. He began working for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1936, first as a special and temporary assistant, then as the permanent Assistant in Charge, starting in June 1937, until he left in late 1942. He recorded such important musicians as Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Aunt Molly Jackson, and Jelly Roll Morton. A reading and examination of his letters from 1935 to 1945 reveal someone who led an extremely complex, fascinating, and creative life, mostly as a public employee. While Lomax is noted for his field recordings, these collected letters, many signed "Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge," are a trove of information until now available only at the Library of Congress. They make it clear that Lomax was very interested in the commercial hillbilly, race, and even popular recordings of the 1920s and after. These letters serve as a way of understanding Lomax's public and private life during some of his most productive and significant years. Here he speaks for himself through his voluminous correspondence. An award-winning and Grammy-nominated producer, Ronald D. Cohen, Gary, Indiana, is the author of several books, including Work and Sing: A History of Occupational and Labor Union Songs in the United States; Chicago Folk: Images of the Sixties Music Scene: The Photographs of Raeburn Flerlage; A History of Folk Music Festivals in the United States: Feasts of Musical Celebration; and Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997.
This comprehensive collection of 492 songs constitutes a body of work surprisingly large in proportion and revealing in scope. Drawn from a wide selection of sources, it is the only collection of antislavery songs currently in print. The songs are organized in six sections representing variations of antislavery thought and activity. Compiled from songs originally printed with music, lyrics with designated tunes, and lyrics otherwise indicating that they were actually, sung, the book follows a chronology that is historically meaningful. There is an explanatory introduction for each section, in which both the music and the lyrics are discussed. Sources are included for each song and five indexes provide ready access to author, title, tune, first line, and subject. The author's extensive introductory essay examines the historical background of the antislavery movement and its music.
The 1930s and 1940s represented an era in United States history when large groups of citizens took political action in response to their social and economic circumstances. The vision, attitudes, beliefs and purposes of participants before, during, and after this time period played an important part of American cultural history. Richard and JoAnne Reuss expertly capture the personality of this era and the fascinating chronology of events in American Folk Music and Left-Wing Politics, 1927-1957, a historical analysis of singers, writers, union members and organizers and their connection to left-wing politics and folk music during this revolutionary time period. While scholarship on folk music, history, and politics is not unique in and of itself, Reuss' approach is noteworthy for its folklorist perspective and its long, encompassing assessment of a broad cross-section of participants and their interactions. An innovative and informative look into one of the most evocative and challenging eras in American history, American Folk Music and Left-Wing Politics, 1927-1957 stands as a historic milestone in this period's scholarship and evolution.
With roots in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, the Piedmont, Memphis, and the prairies of Texas and the American West, the musical genre called Americana can prove difficult to define. Nevertheless, this burgeoning trend in American popular music continues to expand and develop, winning new audiences and engendering fresh, innovative artists at an exponential rate.As Lee Zimmerman illustrates in Americana Music: Voices, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, "Americana" covers a gamut of sounds and styles. In its strictest sense, it is a blanket term for bluegrass, country, mountain music, rockabilly, and the blues. By a broader definition, it can encompass roots rock, country rock, singer/songwriters, R&B, and their various combinations. Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, and Tom Petty can all lay valid claims as purveyors of Americana, but so can Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke, and Jason Isbell. Americana is new and old, classic and contemporary, trendy and traditional. Mining the firsthand insights of those whose stories help shape the sound--people such as Ralph Stanley, John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Chris Hillman (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), Paul Cotton and Rusty Young (Poco), Shawn Colvin, Kinky Friedman, David Bromberg, the Avett Brothers, Amanda Shires, Ruthie Foster, and many more--Americana Music provides a history of how Americana originated, how it reached a broader audience in the '60s and '70s with the merging of rock and country, and how it evolved its overwhelmingly populist appeal as it entered the new millennium.