Banjo Ballads & the Blues
The first European settlers of the Appalachian Mountains were the Scots and Irish immigrants. They brought with them the music of home; along with the reels and dance tunes, they brought the darker music of the ballads.
Until the traveling minstrels and the medicine shows made their way into the hills and hollows of the mountains, the music heard at weekend barn dances and church picnics in the mountains sounded very similar to the music heard in any village on the Emerald Isle. I've talked about this major change that shaped American music many times, but it's importance bears repeating. The influence of the African-American on the music that would become country and bluegrass was significant.
Start with the banjo. It was quickly adopted by the folks of the mountains. Then of course there was the sound that we know as the Blues. The subsistence farmers of this rocky region, the coal miners, and everyone who scrapped a living out of these mountains were familiar with the hardships of just getting by. When the medicine show brought black musicians from the lowlands with their unique blues stylings and licks were traded, the Celtic-based mountain music took on a new sound.
The two cuts I've posted today are examples of the period of that transition. The songs are still in the traditional mountain ballad/story style, played on the African-derived banjo.
Tags: oldtime, banjo, mp3