Tag Archives: ted olson

The Definitive ‘Appalachian Novel’ Celebrates Its Diamond Anniversary

James Still (1906–2001) has cast a long shadow. A diverse canon of ‘Appalachian’ literature has emerged in recent decades, and many authors, including Ron Rash, Lee Smith, and Silas House, have acknowledged River of Earth as the book that inspired them to write about their home region. Some writers from outside Appalachia, such as Wendell Berry, have similarly cited Still as a formative influence.

Still, were he here today, would undoubtedly not claim credit for founding a regional literary movement. He dearly loved the region to which he moved when a young college student (after growing up in Alabama). Yet, Still often told interviewers and friends that he thought of himself as a Southern writer and that he yearned to be considered in the company of William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Flannery O’Connor.

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Rediscovering the Roots of Bluegrass: Historically Significant Recordings from the Great Smoky Mountains Released

According to Olson, the recordings he discovered, made in Haywood County, NC, by folklorist and linguist Joseph S. Hall in the 1950s, represent “the missing link between old-time string music and bluegrass, two music genres . . . whose connections are not widely understood.”These historically significant recordings, featuring music performances by the late five-string banjo master Carroll Best and some of his friends, document that Best was a pioneer of the melodic, three-finger banjo style.

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Used today by numerous banjo players, including Bill Keith, Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka, the melodic style allows the banjo player to play more melody notes than the more widely known “Scruggs-style” bluegrass banjo. A new CD, “Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band: Old-Time Bluegrass from the Great Smoky Mountains, 1956 and 1959,” is a collection of informal jam sessions that occurred during Hall’s postwar forays into the Smokies.

In 1956, Hall recorded such local musicians as Best, destined to become one of the most significant banjo players of his generation, along with his wife, Louise Best, S.T. Swanger and Don Brooks, while in 1959, he recorded Best, Raymond Setzer, Billy Kirkpatrick and French Kirkpatrick.

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‘Can You Sing Or Play Old-Time Music?’ — The Johnson City Sessions

A few of the 78 RPM records made in Johnson City in 1928 sold well when released by Columbia in early 1929. One record by the duo of Earl Shirkey and Roy Harper, “Steamboat Man” backed with “When the Roses Bloom Again for the Bootlegger,” sold nearly 75,000 copies. Walker decided to return to Johnson City the following October to make additional recordings.

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