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Celtic Music and Appalachia

One of the music-industry surprises--and thrills--of 2000 was the extraordinary success of the soundtrack album for the motion picture O Brother, Where Art Thou? The music for the film came from the purest strains of what is often called American roots music--the source of country, bluegrass, and folk music. The resurgence of popularity for that music has been well documented by consumer tastes. The country music segment of the recording business hasn't accounted for less than 10% of the $12.6-billion industry for more than 10 years, and until the advent of hip-hop in the mid-1990s it accounted for nearly 20% of all sales (RIAA). Behind the mass-market success of the music, however, is more than the novelty appeal of the sound. There has always been a subculture of enthusiasts for the music that migrated to North America with its earliest European immigrants. The ballads and folk music of the British Isles, like the people who brought it, became part of the culture of America's first heartland, the agricultural Appalachian region, which was settled by persons of British and Scots-Irish origin.

The fact that America's Appalachian region remained relatively remote from the industrializing and urban dynamics of the 19th and early 20th centuries both permitted and demanded that the people who bore the culture would preserve its distinctive musical heritage. From generation to generation music rooted in the Celtic peasant culture of Britain and Ireland nurtured the people of Appalachia, who transmitted it between families and among friends and who bore it out of Appalachia in various internal migrations in North America. The more recent resurgence of the music, whose most well known artists and performing mentors are senior citizens with roots in America's back country, vividly demonstrates that this art form is very much a friends-and-family affair, embedded in the heritage and way of life of several million Americans and lending vitali...

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Celtic Music and Appalachia. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:06, August 08, 2020, from