The roots of the roots

When American roots music is celebrated, it’s usually done so with the Ken-Burns-like solemnity of PBS specials like American Epic — eminently worthwhile, but also studded with the kinds of celebrities (Willie Nelson, Jack White) who can tart up the joint enough to guarantee a least-embarrassing rating. All well and good, and if PBS can […]

Cephas & Wiggins play “John Henry”

I’m feeling distinctly ambivalent about yesterday’s election results; as I sort this out, a little classic American music may be appropriate. According to Bruce Bastin’s Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southwest, the American traditional “John Henry” was usually among the very first songs that Piedmont blues musicians would master. “Many bluesmen in […]

Books on the bedside table

Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast by Bruce Bastin (University of Illinois Press, 1986 [hc]; 1995 [pb]) claims to be, according to the book jacket, the “definitive story of the origin and evolution of the American blues tradition.” Well, it’s not quite that, but certainly it’s among the best historical introductions to […]

Blind Boy Fuller: “Truckin’ My Blues Away”

Blind Boy Fuller (born Fulton Allen, 1904?-1941) was one of the most exemplary musicians of the Piedmont Blues style, influenced by the granddaddy of the style, Blind Blake, among others. Among Piedmont Blues artists he may have had the most unusual influence on popular culture, contributing the phrase “Keep On Truckin’” to American lingo in […]

About Piedmont Blues

Piedmont blues is a variety of blues that emerged from the Piedmont plateau region of the southeastern United States, along the Atlantic coast (as opposed to the kind of blues that originated in the Mississippi delta). It’s a fingerstyle blues with a strong ragtime influence; its earliest practitioners were Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller, […]