Sunday, February 28, 2010

American Roots Music

Many Roots musicians do not consider themselves to be folk musicians; the main difference between the American folk music revival and American "Roots music" is that Roots music seems to cover a slightly broader range, including blues and country.Roots musical forms reached their most expressive and varied forms in the first two to three decades of the 20th century. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were extremely important in disseminating these musical styles to the rest of the country, as Delta blues masters, itinerant honky tonk singers and Latino and Cajun musicians spread to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The growth of the recording industry in the same approximate period was also important; increased possible profits from music placed pressure on artists, songwriters and label executives to replicate previous hit songs. This meant that fads like Hawaiian slack-key guitar never died out completely as rhythms or instruments or vocal stylings were incorporated into disparate genres. By the 1950s, all the forms of roots music had led to pop-oriented forms. Folk musicians like the Kingston Trio, pop-Tejano and Cuban-American fusions like boogaloo, chachacha and mambo, blues-derived rock and roll and rockabilly, pop-gospel, doo wop and R&B (later secularized further as soul music) and the Nashville sound in country music all modernized and expanded the musical palette of the country.The roots approach to music emphasizes the diversity of American musical traditions, the genealogy of creative lineages and communities, and the innovative contributions of musicians working in these traditions today. In recent years roots music has been the focus of popular media programs such as Garrison Keillor's public radio program A Prairie Home Companion and the feature film by the same name.

Bill Monroe - Uncle Pen:

Dr. Ralph Stanley - The Clinch Mountain Backstep:

Earl Scruggs - Fireball Mail:

Lester Flatt & Nashville Grass - Feudin' Banjos:

Kingston Trio - M. T. A.:

Pete Seeger - Little Boxes:

Woody Guthrie-This Land:

Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue:

Roots of Blues -- The Mississippi Sheiks:
The Mississippi Sheiks were a popular and influential guitar and fiddle group of the 1930s. They were notable mostly for playing country blues but were adept at many styles of United States popular music of the time, and their records were bought by both black and white audiences. Country blues is often seen as being the domain of individual musicians, a stereotype propagated by the way such delta blues performers as Robert Johnson and Charley Patton have entered the popular consciousness. Of the smaller number of groups playing at the time, the Mississippi Sheiks are among the better known and most influential among their peers.

Roots of Blues --Lead Belly ~ "Goodnight Irene":


  1. Progressive folk and string band music is what I call roots. A synthesis of many roots (folk) traditions from around the world. This movement started with Pete Seagar and the Alminac Singers, which included Huddie Leadbetter (Leadbelly) and Woody Guthrie. They pioneered an eclectic approach to the diverse traditions that they drew upon. The next generation were groups like Kingston Trio, then came artists like Dylan, Lenon, Garcia, Kauconan that became more like Progressive Folk Rock artists. Elvis who started out as a true folk musician eventually became an industry trained monkey. He didn't seem to mind, but sad all the same. Now there is a whole new generation who have made their own mark on the evolution of folk music and have given it their own handle... Roots. "Carry it on" is a line from and old folk/roots song. I think this current generation will make the most profound impact on a music that expresses the sentiments of the human spirit.

  2. Great article. Very informative. There's a great interest in folk and string band locally where I live and I've had the opportunity to listen to some really great music.

  3. Why can country, blues, and rock n' roll be considered the roots of all American music?