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The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Country Music

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The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Country Music
The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Country Music


The term "country music" hadn't even been conceived when these American folk pioneers recorded in the 1920s and early 30s. It wasn't until the 1940s that it came into common parlance as an alternative for what was widely known as hillbilly music, something of an outdated and degrading description. Loosely speaking, country music derives from a blend of popular musical forms originally found in the southern United States and Appalachian Mountains. Its true origins however are deep rooted in the cultures of the early European settlers in America who brought their old-world folk traditions with them, which over time incorporated other musical elements such as the African American traditions of gospel and blues. These interactions among musicians from differing cultural backgrounds produced music unique to this region of the US and typically the string bands of the early twentieth century primarily consisted of the fiddle, guitar and banjo. This early country music is often referred to as old-time music, and this Rough Guide features many of the trailblazing artists who paved the way for the country music explosion to come. Regarded by many as the most pivotal moment in country music, the Bristol sessions took place between 25th July and 5th August 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee, under the guidance of the legendary talent scout and sound recordist Ralph Peer. During these sessions, he recorded two of the most influential acts in country music: Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. These artists would enable hillbilly music to explode into the mainstream. With his trademark yodel, singer and guitarist Rodgers fused hillbilly, jazz, blues and folk, and soon became established as the premier singer of the genre. Likewise, the Bristol sessions provided a springboard for the Carter Family who, for the next 17 years, recorded some 300 old-time ballads, traditional tunes, country songs and gospel hymns, all representative of America's south-eastern folklore and heritage. For this reason, the Bristol sessions are sometimes called country music's big bang. The inclusion of other classic tracks recorded during these momentous few days by banjo player B. F. Shelton and J. P. Nester's rural Virginian string band offer us a unique glimpse into country music's raw and intriguing roots. Before the widespread fame of Jimmie Rodgers popularized the guitar as an essential instrument for solo performers, the fiddle was the predominant instrument, with the likes of Fiddlin' John Carson and Eck Robertson being among the first to commercially record. Robertson is widely regarded as the finest fiddler of this era and an inspiration to a generation of fiddlers, as his wonderful bow work on the featured 'Texas Wagoner' bears testament to. The banjo was another potent weapon of choice for some of old-time music's seminal figures including Dock Boggs, whose music was a unique combination of Appalachian folk music and African-American blues, and Uncle Dave Macon. Born in 1870, Macon achieved regional fame as a vaudeville performer in the early 1920s before becoming the first star of the Grand Ole Opry in the latter half of the decade. His importance is rightly acknowledged by music historian Charles Wolfe who writes, "If people call yodelling Jimmie Rodgers 'the father of country music,' then Uncle Dave must certainly be 'the grandfather of country music'." Long before the development of the trademark lap steel guitar had become a sound synonymous with country music, the slide entered the frame as early as 1922, when Jimmie Tarlton met famed Hawaiian guitarist Frank Ferera. He is joined by playing partner Tom Darby on 'Sweet Sarah Blues', a song which epitomises an era of musical cross fertilisation as Hawaiian guitar and blues styles meet native South Carolina folk. It was this willingness for musical exchange amongst these pioneering musicians which would lay the groundwork for popular country music as it is known today.


  1. Name
  2. Uncle Dave Macon & Sam Mcgee - Way Down The Old Plank Road
  3. Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers - Leaving Home
  4. Jimmie Rodgers - Somewhere Down Below The Dixon Line
  5. J.P. Nester - Train On The Island
  6. Darby & Tarlton - Sweet Sarah Blues
  7. Dock Boggs - Old Rub Alcohol Blues
  8. East Texas Serenaders - Acorn Stomp
  9. Clarence Ashley - The Coo Coo Bird
  10. The Carter Family - Wildwood Flower
  11. Tenneva Ramblers - The Longest Train I Ever Saw
  12. Earl Johnson & His Dixie Entertainers - Ain't Nobody's Business
  13. B.F. Shelton - Darling Cora
  14. Ernest V. Stoneman & The Sweet Brothers - John Hardy
  15. Cliff Carlisle - Chicken Roost Blues
  16. Eck Robertson & Family - Texas Wagoner
  17. Ray Brothers - Got The Jake Leg Too
  18. Fruit Jar Guzzlers - Stack-O-Lee
  19. Wilmer Watts & The Lonely Eagles - Sleepy Desert
  20. Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers - It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'
  21. Burnett & Rutherford - Curly Headed Woman
  22. Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio - Cumberland Blues
  23. Lowe Stokes - Billy In The Lowground
  24. Buell Kazee - The Orphan Girl
  25. Leake County Revelers - Leake County Blues
  26. Fiddlin' John Carson & His Virginia Reelers - Gonna Swing On The Golden Gate
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