Program Notes: ‘A Distant Country 2’

“Worried Man Blues” (Carter Family, 1930). I have a theory about this song.  I’m struck by the lines “I went across the river and laid me down to sleep.  When I woke up, I had shackles on my feet.”  Clearly the narrator has crossed a river and ended up in the wrong place, a place … Continue reading Program Notes: ‘A Distant Country 2’

‘That Isn’t How It Goes’

On the iconic country-revival album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1972), by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a legion of friends, perhaps the most resonant song on an album full of resonant songs is the penultimate track, a live-in-the-studio all-star jam on the title song that features (among others) Maybelle Carter and Roy Acuff … Continue reading ‘That Isn’t How It Goes’

The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers

The most important event of the August 3, 1927, Bristol Sessions happened not on the second floor of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company building, where Ralph Peer had set up his portable Victor Talking Machine Company recording studio, but rather across town at Mrs. Pierce’s boarding house. Different parties involved had different recollections of what went … Continue reading The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers

Is It Country? Is It Rock? 20 Ways to Tell

Watch the Grammy awards—it doesn’t matter what year—and you’re watching an exercise in nomenclature.  Americans love music, but they also love finding new words to categorize it.  Is this song country, folk or Southern rock? Folk-rock, alt country or Americana? Is it neo-folk, country-punk or folkabilly? Why does anybody care?  Well, it’s about money, of … Continue reading Is It Country? Is It Rock? 20 Ways to Tell