Something I didn’t realize before I made this episode is that a lot of the major country blues stars like Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, and Blind Lemon Jefferson weren’t from the Appalachian region. I guess if I gave it even a second thought, I’d realize that the genre-adjacent delta blues was named after the Mississippi Delta and that the tunes coming from the rural Appalachians leaned more towards the bluegrass style. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to highlight the wide variety rolling down the mountains: everything from the banjo instrumentals of Hobart Smith to the lone black lung vocals of Nimrod Workman. I’ve always been a sucker for banjos, a cappella, and grim vibes, so naturally Appalachian music is 100% my jam.
I tried to stick to the early pre-war stuff and stay away from anything coming out of the 50s/60s folk revival. A lot of these tracks come from compilations by labels like Folkways, Yazoo, Mississippi, and Dust-to-Digital because 1: it’s not like I have a collection of 78s to pull from and 2: they’re the ones helping to preserve this history so that’s where most of us discover these artists. I did my best to find some of the lower profile compilations & songs and, as always, tried to play things that haven’t appeared on A Thick Mist/AGB Radio before (except for Lloyd Chandler’s “A Conversation With Death” that’s just too good to not include). And I veered toward the gloomy tones because obviously but also it’s called the blues for a reason. Also, I tried to stay away from any gospel because I’ll probably end up doing a gospel episode at one point.
I’m not an ethnomusicologist nor am I a historian, so I’m not going to try to offer commentary on individual tracks. I highly recommend you dig into any and every artist and compilation you find here. If you’re looking for suggestions, try either of my favorite sad ladies that bookend the episode or my man Nimrod right in the middle.
There’s probably some stuff on here that might not fit under a strict definition of Appalachian music, but lets not get too bogged down in semantics. Enjoy.
00:00:00 Sarah Ogan Gunning – Dreadful Memories (from A Girl Of Constant Sorrow)
00:02:25 Etta Baker – Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad (from Instrumental Music Of The Southern Appalachians)
00:03:47 Peg Leg Howell – Moanin’ And Groanin’ Blues (from “Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!” – Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935: Blues, Jazz, Stomps, Shuffles & Rags)
00:07:18 Jean Ritchie – The Unquiet Grave (from Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition)
00:11:16 Floyd Council – I’m Grievin’ And I’m Worryin’ (from Carolina Blues (1937-1947))
00:14:01 Florence Reece / Almanac Singers – Which Side Are You On? (from Classic Labor Songs)
00:16:35 Murphy Gribble, John Lusk, & Albert York – Eighth Of January (from Deep River Of Song: Black Appalachia – String Bands, Songsters And Hoedowns)
00:20:52 Edward Clayborn – Death Is Only A Dream (from Last Kind Words (1926-1953))
00:23:47 Carter Family – Motherless Chidren (from Lead Kindly Light)
00:27:23 Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley – Dark Holler Blues (from Friends Of Old Time Music)
00:32:15 Dock Boggs – Oh Death (from Virginia Traditions: Ballads From British Tradition)
00:35:32 Ruby Glaze – Lonesome Day Blues (from I Can’t Be Satisfied: Early American Women Blues Singers – Town & Country, Vol. 1 – Country)
00:38:46 Hobart Smith – Drunken Hiccups (from Instrumental Music Of The Southern Appalachians)
00:39:55 Roscoe Holcomb – Graveyard Blues (from Mountain Music Of Kentucky)
00:42:19 Grayson & Whitter – Little Maggie With A Dram Glass In Her Hand (from The Rose Grew Round The Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs – Vol. 1)
00:45:43 Nimrod Workman – What Is That Blood On Your Shirt Sleeve? (from Mother Jones’ Will)
00:47:38 Mrs. Lena Bare Turbyfill – “Hold Up Your Hand Old Joshua!” She Cried (from Last Wisps Of The Old Ways: North Carolina Mountain Singing)
00:53:25 Kid Williams & Bill Morgan – When He Died He Got A Home In Hell (from Lead Kindly Light)
00:56:04 Bascom Lamar Lunsford – Mole In The Ground (from Smoky Mountain Ballads)
00:58:55 Lloyd Chandler – A Conversation With Death (from High Atmosphere)
01:03:05 Woodie Brothers – Chased Old Satan Through The Door (from Music From The Lost Provinces – Old-Time Stringbands From Ashe County, North Carolina & Vicinity, 1927-1931)
01:05:59 Fiddlin’ John Carson – Dixie Boll Weevil (from People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs, 1913-1938)
01:08:58 Wade Ward & Charlie Higgins – Did You Ever See The Devil, Uncle Joe? (from I’ll Be So Glad When The Sun Goes Down: Field Recordings From Alan Lomax’s “Southern Journey” 1959-1960)
01:10:50 Ed Morrison – We’ll All Go To Heaven When The Devil Goes Blind (from Kentucky Mountain Music: Classic Recordings Of The 1920s & 30s)
01:15:20 Sid Hemphill – So Soon I’ll Be At Home (from The Devils Dream)
01:16:55 Ola Belle Reed – My Epitaph (from My Epitaph: A Documentary In Song And Lyric)