Harry Smith's Celestial Monochord
Today we begin a new series on Art of the Rural that seeks to serve as a resource for the wide range of music expression -- rural and urban, past and present, national and international -- waiting to be explored in libraries, record stores, and online.
We really value our readers' input, and we'd like to feature folks' suggestions in this space as well. What music has been moving, inspiring, or challenging you lately? If this music has emerged from rural place, or points toward rural-urban or rural-international connections, we would love to hear about it -- and share it. Please feel free to post your ideas (with links, if possible) on the Facebook thread for this piece, or send us an email at artoftherural at gmail.com. Thanks!
I'd like to begin with a few selections that Dust-To-Digital recently shared on their Facebook page. Some Crazy Magic: Meeting Harry Smith is an short animated film that puts to image John Cohen's story of first meeting the man behind the Anthology of American Folk Music. This extraordinary piece was created for the American Standard Time blog by Drew Christie -- and there are others to be explored on his site:
Mr. Christie and AST editor Greg Vandy also produced this gorgeously filmed interview piece with John Cohen. :
The Dust Busters also make an appearance alongside Mr. Cohen; longtime readers of this site may remember our piece on Down Home Radio -- its editor Eli Smith is a member of TDB. Folks can see an interview with Mr. Smith and TDB at The Jalopy Theater here, via Brooklyn Independent Television. Below, The Dust Busters offer "Black Bottom Strut:"
Last weekend The Daily Yonder shared the music of 2/3 Goat. Here's lead singer and mandolin player Annalyse McCoy, who hails from Inez, Kentucky, in an interview with Jeff Bigger:
"Music is such an integral part of Appalachian culture and tradition," said McCoy, who grew up in Inez, Kentucky and also works as an actress in New York City. " As a child of Appalachia, I felt that there was no better or more natural way to "give back" to try and help my community than through song. Amid all the destruction that mountaintop removal causes -- all the thousands of miles of streams that have been buried, all the remaining water that's been tainted by heavy metals -- there is purity and light left in Appalachia; there is Hope."
The good folks at Dust-to-Digital also shared this extensive feature on another Kentuckian, musician and folk archivist Nathan Salsburg, who is currently working to archive a massive collection of 78 rpm records found in a house in Louisville. Mr. Salsburg has released two of our favorite records this year, the earlier Avos (guitar duets with James Elkington) and, just last month, Affirmed - a solo guitar record that finds a meditative center within the legacies of many of the Kentucky Derby's Triple Crown winners. Please see our archive for our previous pieces on Mr. Salsburg's work with Root Hog or Die and the Alan Lomax Archive/Cultural Equity; here, from Affirmed, is "Back Home in Bogenbrook:"
I was excited to recently discover the music of Blaze Foley, a musician who spent a good deal of time living in a tree house in rural Georgia before moving to Austin and living an itinerant lifestyle as perhaps the most bonafide Outlaw of that country music movement. He was the inspiration for Lucinda Williams's "Drunken Angel," the subject of some recent CD reissues, and his music has also happily reappeared on vinyl. Here's the trailer for the Duct Tape Messiah documentary, followed by a song that never really gets old, Blaze's "Oval Room:"
Part of what we hope to achieve with Rural Tracks is a kind of unexpected and meandering path that leads to some unlikely but revealing comparisons -- for instance, considering Harry Smith alongside Blaze Foley.
Please follow the links at the start of this piece to share your suggestions; we will publish them in subsequent updates to this feature. Thanks again for reading The Art of the Rural.