American folk music  

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American folk music, also known as Americana, is a broad category of music including Bluegrass, country music, gospel, old time music, jug bands, Appalachian folk, blues, Cajun and Native American music. The music is considered "American" because it is either native to the United States or there varied enough from its origins that it struck musicologists as something distinctly new; it is considered "roots music" because it served as the basis of music later developed in the United States, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.


Roots music

Many Roots musicians do not consider themselves to be folk musicians; the main difference between the American folk music revival and American "Roots music" is that Roots music seems to cover a slightly broader range, including blues and country.

Roots musical forms reached their most expressive and varied forms in the first two to three decades of the 20th century. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were extremely important in disseminating these musical styles to the rest of the country, as Delta blues masters, itinerant honky tonk singers and Latino and Cajun musicians spread to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The growth of the recording industry in the same approximate period was also important; increased possible profits from music placed pressure on artists, songwriters and label executives to replicate previous hit songs. This meant that fads like Hawaiian slack-key guitar never died out completely as rhythms or instruments or vocal stylings were incorporated into disparate genres. By the 1950s, all the forms of roots music had led to pop-oriented forms. Folk musicians like the Kingston Trio, pop-Tejano and Cuban-American fusions like boogaloo, chachacha and mambo, blues-derived rock and roll and rockabilly, pop-gospel, doo wop and R&B (later secularized further as soul music) and the Nashville sound in country music all modernized and expanded the musical palette of the country.

The roots approach to music emphasizes the diversity of American musical traditions, the genealogy of creative lineages and communities, and the innovative contributions of musicians working in these traditions today. In recent years roots music has been the focus of popular media programs such as Garrison Keillor's public radio program A Prairie Home Companion and the feature film by the same name.


In 2004 NPR published the book titled The NPR Curious Listener's Guide To American folk music, Linda Ronstadt wrote the foreword.

Artists and Musicians

Notable roots musicians include Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Hazel Dickens, Maggie Simpson, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary, Washington Phillips, Fiddlin' John Carson (1868 - 1949), and Jean Ritchie. More recent musicians who occasionally or consistently play roots music include Keb' Mo', Ralph Stanley, John Denver, and Ricky Skaggs.

Film and TV

Additionally, the soundtrack to the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? is exclusively roots music, performed by Alison Krauss, The Fairfield Four, Emmylou Harris, Norman Blake and others. The 2003 film A Mighty Wind is a tribute to (and parody of) the folk-pop musicians of the early 1960s.

American roots music was the subject of a documentary series on PBS in 2001.

The most ambitious documentary television series comes from Nut Hill Productions, Inc. a Bay Area nonprofit media organization dedicated to combining American vernacular music together with public school History and Social Studies curricula. As Executive Producers of major prime-time PBS series with WETA in Washington, D.C., entitled "The Music of America: History Through Musical Traditions" (2008), Co-Creators, Deborah Robins and Peter Ashlock have conceived it to be very entertaining, yet one look at the stellar panel of Academic Advisors ( tells you that there is serious research muscle involved with telling the story of over 400 years of the everyday American through its people's music.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American folk music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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