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Broadside Ballads In America

Appalachian folk, Western and War Songs

Appalachian folk, sometimes called "old-time" or "hillbilly" music, grew up in semi-isolation in the rugged hills of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee during 19th century out of English, Scots / Irish and other European folk traditions. It has a gritty, down-to-earth character, the result of the hardships suffered by those early settlers in a rugged and difficult terrain.
Most often it was played as an accompaniment to dance, normally with a fiddle, which came with the early settlers, a banjo, originally an African instrument, which infiltrated from the Deep South, and any combination of guitar, mandolin, dobro, dulcimer and bass and drums. On the other hand it may amount to no more than a ballad sung unaccompanied, or a mixture of voices and accompaniment, perhaps involving a vocal harmony style derived from the accapella singing of the Baptist church.
Along with Scottish and Irish folk dance melodies, songs such as "A Frog Went A-Courting", a 16th century English satirical song which became a children's favourite, 17th and 18th century ballads such as "Barbara Allen" and "Lord Randall" and the 18th century English song "Black Is The Colour Of My True Loves Hair" form the basis of a style which then developed many new songs and melodies of it's own - "Hard Is The Fortune", "Pretty Saro" and "Wildwood Flower" are examples.
Many of these songs were taken out West with the fur trappers, "sod busters", railroaders, '49-ers and cowboys, mixing as they went with French, Scandinavian, Mexican, Spanish, native American and even Chinese influences, forming a new and diverse body of music. The beautiful river shanty "Shenandoah" is a song from this period, as are "Old Paint", "Rock Island Line"and "900 Miles". These wider influences then went on to become a major component of what used to be called country & western, now more commonly referred to as just country music. Appalachian folk does however have a pureblood offspring in Kentucky bluegrass.
American history has seen it's fair share of conflict, producing many famous "popular" songs. The Revolutionary War gave rise to "Johnny's Gone For A Soldier", which probably derives from an Irish folk song, and "Yankee Doodle", written to the tune of a broadside ballad originally used in John Gay's "THE BEGGAR'S OPERA". The tragic Civil War of the mid-19th century was fought to the strains of "John Brown's Body", a derivation of "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", which is based on an older Irish song, and Daniel Decatur Emmett's anthem of the Confederacy, "Dixie".

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audio : Traditional Songs and Ballads of Appalachia

books : on Appalachian Folk
              English & Scottish Popular Ballads


audio : Folk compilations

books : on Appalachian Folk
English & Scottish Popular Ballads