Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The roots of roots music - Pre-Virginia post discussion

Growing up, my family wasn't that into music. My dad would play the oldies station when he was grilling or working in the garage and my mom played Christian music. Sheesh, right? The music that I most associate with my childhood - and this is thanks mostly to family camping trips - is Motown, Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" album, and Bob Seger. I loved to listen to classical on the radio, but my dad made fun of me for it.
Point is - finding the music I love hasn't been an easy process. When I first heard Led Zepplin, I was a junior in high school and I was shocked that I fell instantly in love with it. Previously, I thought it was "hard rock" music for burnouts. From LZ it wasn't too long til I discovered the Grateful Dead, which I also instantly loved. But as much as I liked the Dead, all along what I really wanted to hear was the musicians who has influenced them. But how to get there?
Johnny Cash's American Recordings were a start. Falling in love with them and listening to more and more Cash finally unlocked the roots music I had been looking for. I had been listening to Dylan since my junior year of high school, but who was this Woody Guthrie, and where could I hear his music? Certainly not on the radio and not even in the public library. And naturally, in those times, I didn't have the money nor the access to the music shops (this was - gasp! - pre-Amazon days) that I have now.
Our first year in New York, we were poking around the Virgin Megastore in Union Square when the man randomly came across a Monroe Brothers CD. On the back of it was a quote from Bob Dylan that said something like, "I love listening to Bill and Charlie Monroe. Thats what America is all about to me". So we bought it and fell completely in love. After that, it was a sort of torrent of bluegrass music purchases and from then on, the roots music world gradually opened up. We bought (or got from the library) all sorts of crazy country and bluegrass compilations, plus Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and finally, The Carter Family.
For all our musical revelations, I don't think any were quite as profound as the man's instant attachment to the Carters. Played the one CD we got from the library a million times, bought more - bought the Mark Zwonitzer book, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? and started to dream of visiting their home place of which they sang so fondly - Maces Spring, Virginia.
On September 15, 2007 - we made our pilgrimmage.

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