Monday, November 4, 2013

NPR music has a very twisted sense of history and music genre

"NPR Music" really needs to understand music genre definitions much, much better. Bluegrass is not old-time, and folk revival is not folk! 

First Listen: Soundtrack, 'Inside Llewyn Davis' by November 03, 201311:00 PM
...NPR Music claims "The Coen brother's sparked a bluegrass revival with their 2000 film 'O Brother, 
Where Art Thou?'" 
Oscar Isaac (left) and Justin Timberlake in a scene from Inside Llewyn Davis. Both are featured on the movie's soundtrack. Photo by Alison Rosa
NPR music has very twisted sense of music genres.

O Brother was a fictional film which featured
 traditional, old-time music and popular tunes and songs and tunes...

Track listing

1."Po' Lazarus"  traditionalJames Carter and the Prisoners4:31
2."Big Rock Candy Mountain"  McClintockHarry McClintock2:16
3."You Are My Sunshine"  DavisMitchellNorman Blake4:26
4."Down to the River to Pray"  traditionalAlison Krauss2:55
5."I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow(radio station version)Dick BurnettSoggy Bottom Boys & Dan Tyminski3:10
6."Hard Time Killing Floor Blues"  JamesChris Thomas King2:42
7."I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow(instrumental)BurnettNorman Blake4:28
8."Keep On the Sunny Side"  Blenkhorn, EntwisleThe Whites3:33
9."I'll Fly Away"  BrumleyAlison Krauss & Gillian Welch3:57
10."Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby"  traditionalEmmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch1:57
11."In the Highways"  CarterLeah, Sarah, and Hannah Peasall1:35
12."I Am Weary, Let Me Rest"  Roberts (Kuykendall)The Cox Family3:13
13."I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow(instrumental)BurnettJohn Hartford2:34
14."O Death"  traditionalRalph Stanley3:19
15."In the Jailhouse Now"  Blind BlakeRodgersSoggy Bottom Boys & Tim Blake Nelson3:34
16."I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow(with band)BurnettSoggy Bottom Boys & Dan Tyminski4:16
17."Indian War Whoop" (instrumental)Hoyt MingJohn Hartford1:30
18."Lonesome Valley"  traditionalThe Fairfield Four4:07
19."Angel Band"  traditionalThe Stanley Brothers2:15
Total length:

...that was set in the the Great Depression of 1930's in the American deep south. This makes the setting , one decade and some 600 miles to the south of where bluegrass was conceived and born. Thank you for perpetuating the fallacy that old-time music is the same as bluegrass, NPR!

Proceeding on this faulty foundation, NPR Music infers a movie about a country blues and folk revival artist, Dave van Ronk, will cause new interest in folk music. Here we go again. Dave Van Ronk played country blues music and was a member of "the great folk scare", meaning he was a folk revival artist.

As purported subject matter experts, NPR Music does not understand music genre definitions very well and as a result, intentionally or not, confuses the general public. Here are generally accepted definitions of the genres:

Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a sub-genre of country music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of Appalachia.[1] It has mixed roots in IrishScottishWelsh, and English[2] traditional music, and also later influenced by the music of African-Americans[3] through incorporation of jazz elements.Immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland arrived in Appalachia in the 18th century, and brought with them the musical traditions of their homelands. These traditions consisted primarily of English and Scottish ballads—which were essentially unaccompanied narrative—and dance music, such as Irish reels, which were accompanied by a fiddle.[4] Many older Bluegrass songs come directly from the British Isles. Several Appalachian Bluegrass ballads, such as Pretty SaroBarbara AllenCuckoo Bird and House Carpenter, come from England and preserve the English ballad tradition both melodically and lyrically.[5] Others, such as The Twa Sisters, also come from England; however, the lyrics are about Ireland.[6] Some Bluegrass fiddle songs popular in Appalachia, such as "Leather Britches", and "Pretty Polly", have Scottish roots.[7] The dance tune Cumberland Gap may be derived from the tune that accompanies the Scottish ballad Bonnie George Campbell.[8] Other songs have different names in different places; for instance in England there is an old ballad known as "A Brisk Young Sailor Courted Me", but exactly the same song in North American Bluegrass is known as "I Wish My Baby Was Born".[9]Continued at
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music, with roots in the folk music of various cultures of the IrelandBritainAfrica, and Continental Europe. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancingflatfoot dancingbuck dancing, and clogging. The genre also encompassesballads and other types of folk songs. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments (most often the guitar and banjo).Continued at 
Country blues otherwise known as acoustic blues (also folk bluesrural bluesbackwoods blues, or downhome blues) is a general term that refers to all the acoustic, mainly guitar-driven forms of the blues. It often incorporated elements of rural gospel, ragtime, hillbilly, and dixieland jazz. After blues' birth in theSouthern United States, it quickly spread throughout the country (and elsewhere), giving birth to a host of regional styles. These include MemphisDetroit,ChicagoTexasPiedmontLouisianaWest CoastAtlantaSt. LouisEast CoastSwampNew OrleansDeltaHill country and Kansas City blues.[1][2]Continued at
Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. One meaning often given is that of old songs, with no known composers; another is music that has been transmitted and evolved by a process of oral transmission or performed by custom over a long period of time.Starting in the mid-20th century a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s. This form of music is sometimes called contemporary folk music or folk revival music to distinguish it from earlier folk forms.[1] Smaller similar revivals have occurred elsewhere in the world at other times, but the term folk music has typically not been applied to the new music created during those revivals. This type of folk music also includes fusion genres such as folk rockfolk metalelectric folk, and others. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, in English it shares the same name, and it often shares the same performers and venues as traditional folk music. Even individual songs may be a blend of the two.Continued at
Hey NPR Music, bluegrass is not old time, and folk revival is not folk! 
And NPR Music needs to revisit its own mission statement...
The NPR Mission
The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. remind itself to write articles that better inform and educate, rather than mislead, the public.


Rob Flax said...

To be fair, the average viewer of "O Brother" hadn't the foggiest idea of these distinctions either. I am one of many musicians of my generation who got into playing a variety of styles—including bluegrass—after viewing this film. While "O Brother" itself might not contain much bluegrass, it most certainly did contribute to a revival.

notloB said...

Once upon a time NPR entertainment pieces had two purposes, to inform and to educate. It is now no better than the rest of the mass media, "dumming down" its content in order to reach the lowest common denominator.