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, and it could be argued that it had an even greater influence on the folk movement of the 1960s through Dave Van Ronk and Arlo Guthrie than it did on the kind of electric Chicago blues performed by B.B. King and others. Largely acoustic, much of its early history is covered by Samuel Charters in his 1959 The Country Blues.

Leon Redbone and R. Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders kept this style of music alive and in the larger public’s eye through the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently bands like Eden and John’s East River String Band (with whom Crumb often sits in) have devoted followings. Back in 1998, Folkways, a series from University of North Carolina Public Television, devoted an episode to the genre, featuring a few of the oldest surviving practitioners of the Piedmont Blues: Etta Baker, George Higgs and John Dee Holeman. Though Mr. Holeman is still with us, Ms. Baker and Mr. Higgs have gone on to a better place; it’s a treat to be able to hear them perform — and reminisce — in the 30-minute documentary below, hosted by David Holt.