PERFORMING ARTS

Making Music: The Banjo in a Southern Appalachian County

Univ. Pr. of Mississippi Jul. 2023. 276p. ISBN 9781496845818. pap. $30. MUSIC
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Allsbrook (emeritus, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta Univ.) presents a deep dive into a small area of western North Carolina where Appalachian musical traditions flourish, especially in banjo playing. Haywood County is a hotbed of talent where canonical tunes from previous generations still feature in frequent in-home folkway sessions, despite the diluting influences of popular radio, television, and the internet, which expose residents to newer genres. This fascinating exploration is principally composed of oral histories by 32 Haywood County banjo players, none of them household names, who were interviewed extensively for this project. Many know or have known each other’s families for generations and have been sharing songs since the 19th century. While some younger strummers learn in school-sponsored events such as the Junior Appalachian Musicians program, most hone their craft through frequent family gatherings, where making music is still a vital form of entertainment. Technology, external influences, demographic trends, and the passage of time could change that, but for now the music is evergreen.
VERDICT Appalachian mountain life comes alive as it’s viewed through its musical heritage.
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