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When Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) and Maud Karpeles (1885-1976) first came to America from their home in England during the period from 1916 to 1918, they were amazed at how well English folk songs had been preserved deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Perhaps the best introduction to their work is English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1960) by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles. Among the early books to collect Appalachian folk songs was Folk Songs of the South (1925) by John Harrington Cox published by Harvard University Press and centering on West Virginia. These songs were kept alive by annual music festivals held, for example, in Ashland, Kentucky, by Jean Thomas (1881-1982)  - see especially her book, Ballad Makin’ in the Mountains of Kentucky (1939) - and near Asheville by Bascom Lamar Lunsford (1882-1973) – see Minstrel of the Appalachians (2002) by Loyal Jones. They were also preserved by people like Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925) of Hot Springs, North Carolina, whose biography with her name as the title was published by Betty Nance Smith, herself an outstanding performer.  In the 1930s, topical songs emerged from the mine wars, and the best-know performer of them was Molly Jackson (1880-1960) – see Pistol Packin’ Mama: Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong (1999) by Shelly Romalis. The best known performer of both topical songs and traditional ballads in the era that produced “the folk revival” of the 1960s was Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) whose book, The Singing Family of the Cumberlands (1955) tells the story of how mountain ballads were preserved in her family. Bill C. Malone published the groundbreaking work, Country Music, U.S.A.: A Fifty Year History in 1968. Another groundbreaking book was Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs (1972) by Archie Green. Since then a plethora of books about both historic and contemporary regional music have been published. Check out my introductions to our collections of Records and Compact Discs for more discussion of music in our region.

-- George Brosi