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While in the Mississippi State Archives tracking down Abbott Ferriss’s beautiful photographic portraits of musicians from 1939, author Harry Bolick discovered, to his amazement, a treasure trove of earlier fiddle tunes in manuscript form. Since then he has worked to understand how this collection came to exist and be set aside. With Stephen T. Austin, Bolick has transcribed the subsequent 1939 audio recordings. Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s presents the history of the collecting work, with over three hundred of the tunes and songs and a beautiful selection of period photographs. In the summer of 1936, over one hundred fiddle tunes, many of them unique, along with thousands of songs, were collected and notated throughout a large part of Mississippi. Roughly 130 novice field workers captured beautiful tunes and tantalizing fragments. As a body of work, it is an unparalleled and fascinating snapshot of vernacular music as heard in Mississippi in the early part of the recorded era. However, this music was unpublished and forgotten. In 1939, building on the contacts made three years earlier, Herbert Halpert led one of the last and best executed of the WPA folklore projects which recorded audio performances in Mississippi. Some, but not all, of those distinctive fiddle tune recordings have been published. Additionally through cassette tape copies passed hand to hand, some of these distinctive tunes have regained currency and popularity among contemporary fiddlers. In Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s, this great music is at last widely available. Selected tunes in this book are available from Document Records. Get Harry Bolick’s CD with 22 tunes from the book, more information, a video, and free downloads of the sound files at www.mississippifiddle.com.
Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contests explores the phenomenon of American fiddle contests, which now have replaced dances as the main public event where American fiddlers get together. Chris Goertzen studies this change and what it means for audiences, musicians, traditions, and the future of southern fiddle music. Goertzen traces fiddling and fiddle contests from mid-eighteenth-century Scotland to the modern United States. He takes the reader on journeys to the important large contests, such as those in Hallettville, Texas; Galax, Virginia; Weiser, Idaho; and also to smaller ones, including his favorite in Athens, Alabama. He reveals what happens on stage and during such off-stage activities as camping, jamming, and socializing, which many fiddlers consider much more important than the competition. Through multiple interviews, Goertzen also reveals the fiddlers' lives as told in their own words. The reader learns how and in what environments these fiddlers started playing, where they perform today, how they teach, what they think of contests, and what values they believe fiddling supports. Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contests shows how such contests have become living embodiments of American nostalgia.
Play Me Something Quick and Devilish explores the heritage of traditional fiddle music in Missouri. Howard Wight Marshall considers the place of homemade music in people’s lives across social and ethnic communities from the late 1700s to the World War I years and into the early 1920s. This exceptionally important and complex period provided the foundations in history and settlement for the evolution of today’s old-time fiddling. Beginning with the French villages on the Mississippi River, Marshall leads us chronologically through the settlement of the state and how these communities established our cultural heritage. Other core populations include the “Old Stock Americans” (primarily Scotch-Irish from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia), African Americans, German-speaking immigrants, people with American Indian ancestry (focusing on Cherokee families dating from the Trail of Tears in the 1830s), and Irish railroad workers in the post–Civil War period. These are the primary communities whose fiddle and dance traditions came together on the Missouri frontier to cultivate the bounty of old-time fiddling enjoyed today. Marshall also investigates themes in the continuing evolution of fiddle traditions. These themes include the use of the violin in Westward migration, in the Civil War years, and in the railroad boom that changed history. Of course, musical tastes shift over time, and the rise of music literacy in the late Victorian period, as evidenced by the brass band movement and immigrant music teachers in small towns, affected fiddling. The contributions of music publishing as well as the surprising importance of ragtime and early jazz also had profound effects. Much of the old-time fiddlers’ repertory arises not from the inherited reels, jigs, and hornpipes from the British Isles, nor from the waltzes, schottisches, and polkas from the Continent, but from the prolific pens of Tin Pan Alley. Marshall also examines regional styles in Missouri fiddling and comments on the future of this time-honored, and changing, tradition. Documentary in nature, this social history draws on various academic disciplines and oral histories recorded in Marshall’s forty-some years of research and field experience. Historians, music aficionados, and lay people interested in Missouri folk heritage—as well as fiddlers, of course—will find Play Me Something Quick and Devilish an entertaining and enlightening read. With 39 tunes, the enclosed Voyager Records companion CD includes a historic sampler of Missouri fiddlers and styles from 1955 to 2012. A media kit is available here: press.umsystem.edu/pages/PlayMeSomethingQuickandDevilish.aspx
The Beautiful Music All Around Us presents the extraordinarily rich backstories of thirteen performances captured on Library of Congress field recordings between 1934 and 1942 in locations reaching from Southern Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta and the Great Plains. Including the children's play song "Shortenin' Bread," the fiddle tune "Bonaparte's Retreat," the blues "Another Man Done Gone," and the spiritual "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down," these performances were recorded in kitchens and churches, on porches and in prisons, in hotel rooms and school auditoriums. Documented during the golden age of the Library of Congress recordings, they capture not only the words and tunes of traditional songs but also the sounds of life in which the performances were embedded: children laugh, neighbors comment, trucks pass by. Musician and researcher Stephen Wade sought out the performers on these recordings, their families, fellow musicians, and others who remembered them. He reconstructs the sights and sounds of the recording sessions themselves and how the music worked in all their lives. Some of these performers developed musical reputations beyond these field recordings, but for many, these tracks represent their only appearances on record: prisoners at the Arkansas State Penitentiary jumping on "the Library's recording machine" in a rendering of "Rock Island Line"; Ora Dell Graham being called away from the schoolyard to sing the jump-rope rhyme "Pullin' the Skiff"; Luther Strong shaking off a hungover night in jail and borrowing a fiddle to rip into "Glory in the Meetinghouse." Alongside loving and expert profiles of these performers and their locales and communities, Wade also untangles the histories of these iconic songs and tunes, tracing them through slave songs and spirituals, British and homegrown ballads, fiddle contests, gospel quartets, and labor laments. By exploring how these singers and instrumentalists exerted their own creativity on inherited forms, "amplifying tradition's gifts," Wade shows how a single artist can make a difference within a democracy. Reflecting decades of research and detective work, the profiles and abundant photos in The Beautiful Music All Around Us bring to life largely unheralded individuals--domestics, farm laborers, state prisoners, schoolchildren, cowboys, housewives and mothers, loggers and miners--whose music has become part of the wider American musical soundscape. The paperback edition does not include an accompanying CD.
Prev. ed. published under title: Introducing American folk music.
The Music of Multicultural America explores the intersection of performance, identity, and community in a wide range of musical expressions. Fifteen essays explore traditions that range from the Klezmer revival in New York, to Arab music in Detroit, to West Indian steelbands in Brooklyn, to Kathak music and dance in California, to Irish music in Boston, to powwows in the midwestern plains, to Hispanic and native musics of the Southwest borderlands. Many chapters demonstrate the processes involved in supporting, promoting, and reviving community music. Others highlight the ways in which such American institutions as city festivals or state and national folklife agencies come into play. Thirteen themes and processes outlined in the introduction unify the collection’s fifteen case studies and suggest organizing frameworks for student projects. Due to the diversity of music profiled in the book—Mexican mariachi, African American gospel, Asian West Coast jazz, women’s punk, French-American Cajun, and Anglo-American sacred harp—and to the methodology of fieldwork, ethnography, and academic activism described by the authors, the book is perfect for courses in ethnomusicology, world music, anthropology, folklore, and American studies. Audio and visual materials that support each chapter are freely available on the ATMuse website, supported by the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University.
During the 1940s, country music was rapidly evolving from traditional songs and string band styles to honky-tonk, western swing, and bluegrass, via radio, records, and film. The Blue Sky Boys, brothers Bill (1917-2008) and Earl (1919-1998) Bolick, resisted the trend, preferring to perform folk and parlor songs, southern hymns, and new compositions that enhanced their trademark intimacy and warmth. They were still in their teens when they became professional musicians to avoid laboring in Depression-era North Carolina cotton mills. Their instantly recognizable style was fully formed by 1936, when even their first records captured soulful harmonies accented with spare guitar and mandolin accompaniments. They inspired imitators, but none could duplicate the Blue Sky Boys' emotional appeal or their distinctive Catawba County accents. Even their last records in the 1970sretained their unique magical sound decades after other country brother duets had come and gone. In this absorbing account, Dick Spottswood combines excerpts from Bill Bolick's numerous spoken interviews and written accounts of his music, life, and career into a single narrative that presents much of the story in Bill's own voice. Spottswood reveals fascinating nuggets about broadcasting, recording, and surviving in the 1930s world of country music. He describes how the growing industry both aided and thwarted the Bolick brothers' career, and how World War II nearly finished it. The book features a complete, extensively annotated list of Blue Sky Boys songs, an updated discography that includes surviving unpublished records, and dozens of vintage photos and sheet music covers.

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