Tag Archives: appalachian music

This strange music of the dulcimore appeals to the heart of the Mountaineer

Just as there is a vast gap between the poetry of art and the poetry of the folk, so is there a vast difference between the music of the Sourwood Mountain fiddler and the music of art.

This antique musician knows little about Wagner and the musical drama and the Italian melodists, and cares less. His music causes a feeling of ennui to steal over one, but he is giving his hearers something they can understand. His strains are the outbursts from the depths of a being that is sincere, and he fiddles and sings because he feels.

In the words of Svenstrupp, the great Danish authority on folksongs, the words of these canticles of love and woe “talk like a mother crooning to her babe, and have scarcely a kenning.” It is related that when the maidservant used to sing “Barbara Allen’s Cruelty” to little Oliver Goldsmith, he would shed tears; that the recital of “Chevy Chace” moved Sir Philip Sidney as nothing else could move him.

But the transition to a new and enlightened age is inevitable.

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Cousin Urbin was a Musician, a True Troubador

They decided one night to test out his belief in ghosts. One of them took a white sheet to the barn, hid at a corner and put the sheet over his head in the manner of the most approved ghost.

As Urbin sang the saddest climax of the tragic ballad, the youth stepped out of hiding into his view.

Urbin got one glance, sprang up and ran headlong for the house, reaching the outlying cookhouse as the nearest haven of refuge.

There sat Grandma, beside the warm kitchen stove, calmly smoking her clay pipe.

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There’s a ghost in this little banjo

Although she never gained the national recognition or recording status that other banjo-playing women in Kentucky achieved, Dora Mae Wagers (1927-1998), was—as the title to her self-produced cassette proclaimed—“A Legend in Her Own Time.” For forty years she played banjo on the stage of the Renfro Valley Barndance, and was often billed as one of […]

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The art and influence of fiddler Henry Reed

James Henry Neel Reed, known as Henry Reed, was born on April 28, 1884, in Monroe County, WV,  a rural county lying along the Virginia border in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern West Virginia. Reed grew up in Monroe County as a member of a large extended family. His father and at least one uncle […]

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