Transatlantic Roots Music
Folk, Blues, and National Identities
Essays that track identity and authenticity in blues and folk music that crossed the ocean
This book presents a collection of essays on the debates about origins, authenticity, and identity in folk and blues music. The essays had their origins in an international conference on the Transatlantic routes of American roots music, out of which emerged common themes and questions of origins and authenticity in folk music, black and white, American and British. The central theme is musical influences, but issues of identity—national, local, and racial—are also recurring subjects. The extent to which these identities were invented, imagined, or constructed by the performers, or by those who recorded their work for posterity, is also a prominent concern and questions of racial identity are particularly central. The book features a new essay on the blues by Paul Oliver alongside an essay on Oliver's seminal blues scholarship. There are also several essays on British blues and the links between performers and styles in the United States and Britain and new essays on critical figures such as Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie.
This volume uniquely offers perspectives from both sides of the Atlantic on the connections and interplay of influences in roots music and the debates about these subjects drawing on the work of eminent established scholars and emerging young academics who are already making a contribution to the field. Throughout, the contributors offer the most recent scholarship available on key issues.
Transatlantic Roots Music is a stimulating collection of thought-provoking essays by fourteen writers on a wide range of topics relating to issues of discovery, reception, and revival of various forms of folk—or 'roots'—music by audiences and performers in the US and Britain. English blues scholar Paul Oliver offers a concise overview of the early years of the development of the British audience for American blues, a history in which he played no small part. Christian O'Donnell then offers, in turn, a clear-headed appraisal of Oliver's multi-faceted role in shaping conceptions of blues by white audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. John Hughes explores the impact that traditional English song had on the early work of Bob Dylan as a result of Dylan's brief visit to London in 1962. Guitarist Duck Baker concludes the volume with some thoughtful—some might say heretical—commentary on the use of the term 'Celtic' to describe the currently popular musical genre based on Irish and Scottish traditional music. Taken as a whole, the authors remind us that the business of musical exchange across the Atlantic is a longstanding—and ongoing—phenomenon and offer a wealth of new insights on the process and its significance.- Paul F. Wells, director emeritus, Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University