Sarah Carter, Carl Carl Wilson, Carter Family discussed on Slate's Culture Gabfest

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Each year several thousand people came to hear music that reminded them of simpler the times and the rural homes of their pass going to dance with satellite going back home to Mama's grandma's for Thanksgiving needed country music songs about a little along cabins that people have never lived in the old country Church Church people have never attended but it's smoke for a lot of people who were being forgotten felt they were being forgotten tragedy staple both above all is just a heartening back to the older way of laughed either real or imagined. I joined by Carl Carl Wilson a music critic for slate. Hey Karl welcome back. Hi everybody so Carl for the you know. The first episode of this genus documentary very really gets us up to what Rosanne cash calls the bedrock moment the really foundational moment upon which all of country music has been built since which is the simultaneous emergence of the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers. This is as the documentary says lightning really striking twice in the same location location that is kind of an amazing a turning point in the history of popular music. Maybe maybe maybe begin there. Yeah well what they're talking about. They're in the documentary. Is this basically what we would call an in our guy now from a record company called okay who went out to you a rural Tennessee and recorded what's now known as the Bristol Sessions basically just put out a call for anybody within so you know the the sound of of the advertisements that they were putting out for to come and see what kind of what kind of music can catch and two two of the artists that they found that way our get Jimmy Rogers who was a railroad worker who came and was is heavily influenced by Blues Music which etered working with with black people in the railway industry and you know and by also so by the sort of grew music that he'd grown up with and the Carter who came much more out of Gospel music out of the tradition of kind of Scots Irish balladry and between the two of them they really kind of fixed those two sides of of country music and and Burns follows both of their kind if trails from there in a lot of ways you can you can take almost anybody in country music and show the ways that they're the heirs of one or the other often both of those artists and so that kind of is the Big Bang I mean it's only the big bang because it's the early commercial record industry and and and so and so technology is determinative and everything that happens from there on you know is particularly influenced by the development of radio so in some ways you know this story could start you could put the the beginning of the story centuries before you could put it somewhere in the nineteenth century with the minstrel shows which had that kind of combination combination of the Banjo and the violin and in their own way this kind of black and white influences well which is a influence that Burns acknowledges colleges but kind of skipped over a little bit There's a tendency throughout the documentary to want to kind of take the less comfortable parts of country history story and acknowledged them but not deal with them head on. That's kind of something you know that's kind of a Ken Burns thing that that I think Myers the whole series he's in a way but in a lot of ways he gets the big parts of of what the history is about and how everything developed right Carl. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't talk talk about a pretty remarkable moment both in the history of country music and in the documentary which is which is the emergence of the Carter Family and this the documentary depicts is the perfect intersection of this music which had had no real commercial aspirations whatsoever really was just solace for lonely rural people well and the new technologies monies that are that are coming in and starting to surround it an appropriate it and at this moment you can finally get this piece of American the style Joe or American or whatever on vinyl and sell it and that's that's where the Carter family emerges and it's I. I knew that story and I I love their music but just it's amazing to hear people talk about how Sarah Carter I think is a quote from someone. Sarah Carter gave birth to all vocally and mother Mabel. This was the real revelation the guitar playing of mother. May Bell really laid down the DNA of all country and Western guitar playing to come come out of that. Maybe talk a little bit about that turning point yeah I mean I think you know Sarah. Carter's influence is definitely felt over the years ears and and but I think you could also argue that there are a lot of other people whose whose focal influence was men more powerful but but mother mayvale there's no question question she she created and probably partly influenced by some African American context as well but we don't entirely have the the story there but in her in her own waste she created at least in popularize what what's been known as the Carter scratch which or just just Carter style guitar playing which is this combination of strumming finger picking that allows the the melody to be picked out or an accompaniment part to be picked out in the in the mid strings well. There's a the base amid strings while there's a kind of general back and forth strub happening in having this kind of double voiced thing happened and that's that is the foundation of basically you know all American pop guitar playing playing in a lot of ways.

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