Country Music: South and West
Country Music: South and West

Early country music has long had the reputation of being a pristine folk music, an archaic holdover from a past deeply obscured by time. This reputation was powerfully reinforced by English folklorist Cecil Sharp’s 1916-18 trip to the Appalachians, where he found ancient ballads far better preserved than in Britain. It has been further enhanced by the genuine folk songs found on early recordings done by field men and talent scouts for major record companies in the 1920s who scoured the hills and plains for what was then called “hillbilly music.”

Although this supposition is based on substantial fact, it is on the whole not true. From its earliest documentation (made a great deal easier by the advent of recordings) the folk music that was to become commercial country music displays an exceedingly wide and rich variety of sources.

There were fiddle tunes reminiscent of highland bagpipes, and English ballads that survived their journey intact. There were Irish tunes that were transplanted but transmogrified and became the basis—with new lyrics—for the cowboy songs of the West. And there were the sentimental parlor songs of the 1880s and 1890s, which have composed a large part of country-music repertoire from “Wildwood Flower” to “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight.” There was the blues of the black man, and the guitar and the banjo, instruments that he introduced to the mountaineer. There was a score of other ethnic strains: polkas and their attendant accordion from central Europe; Norteño songs and the Mariachi brass from Mexico; Swiss yodeling; the striking fiddling and rich dialect of the Cajuns (Acadians) of southwest Louisiana; the dreamy tunes and the steel guitar from Hawaii; the pomp of small-town brass bands; the foursquare harmony and melody of Protestant hymns; and heavy borrowing from jazz and swing. Country musicians have always been quick to adapt other music to enrich their own.

Records and then radio accelerated this crosscultural phenomenon. The first country record is said to have been made on June 30, 1922: Eck Robertson’s recording of an old squaredance fiddle tune, “Sally Goodin,” for Okeh Records in New York. Although this was coincidental with the beginning of the radio age (the first radio barn dance came the same year on WBAP in Fort Worth, Texas), the technology and equipment for receiving the radio signal were new and expensive, while the record player had been available through mail-order catalogues, since the early 1900s and was firmly established throughout the nation. In time, of course, radio was sold throughout the United States the same way.

Various Artists

Country Music: South and West

Track Listing

Album/track(s) not available for download, but you may listen to clips below.
Georgia Wildcat Breakdown
Blue Yodel No. 11
Sweet Fern
Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes
Gospel Ship
Fais Pas Ca (Don't Do That)
The Last Roundup
The Forgotten Soldier Boy
Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider
There'll Come a Time
I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart
The Rescue from Moose River Gold Mine
Railroad Boomer
Born To Lose
It Won't Be Long
Chant of the Wanderer
Dark as a Dungeon
Cotton Eyed Joe
Fat Boy Rag

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