Banjo: An Illustrated History

Backbeat. Jun. 2016. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781495011245. $35. MUSIC
Carlin (The Birth of the Banjo), a performer and columnist at numerous banjo publications, has put together another excellently researched tome about the banjo in the form of a coffee-table book. With a title that perfectly describes its purpose, the book's photographs are beautifully printed on quality paper, making clear the natural beauty of the instruments. One hundred banjo family pieces are described, starting with the zither banjo, banjorine, and cello banjo transitioning to the more contemporary tenor banjo, banjo-mandolin, and banjo-ukelele. An exploration of the instrument and its performers are set through a time line of its roots in Africa, arrival in America, and finally its spread through Western culture, especially Australia. This work is exquisitely laid out in ten chapters. Among the progression of the history are inserts of banjoists in context to the culture and time of the given section. Carlin includes lesser-known but important banjoists and manufacturers who influenced the product's transformation.
VERDICT This title is for anyone with an interest in banjo history regardless of prior musical knowledge and experience.
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