FREE Shipping!

Speed Bumps on a Dirt Road: When Old Time Music Met Bluegrass by John Cohen

  • Sale
  • $31.00
  • Regular price $45.00

The founding mothers and fathers of country music are the subject of these 140 black-and-white photographs with brief captions. That means the book is mostly about Appalachia. The author, John Cohen (1932-2019), started taking pictures of these grass-roots pioneers back in 1961, when a whole lot of them were still alive, and living in the southern mountains. What was happening was not just an intersection of old time and bluegrass, but also of traditional and folk music which all blended together to make country music. “Like a good country song, John Cohen’s photos tell a powerful story—illuminating the emotions and experiences of Americans who too often felt left out and looked down upon. This is photography as documentary, and photography as art.” — Ken Burns. “A surprise one might find in these intimate photographs—is that photographs of people playing are far more interesting than photographs of people singing. That, John Cohen shows us, is because there you can see people reflecting, making choices, confronting doubts, thinking it all over. The way people in these pages hold their instruments tells you as much as any words could say.” — Greil Marcus. “John Cohen’s brilliant black and white photographs capture iconic portraits of Appalachian musicians Roscoe Holcomb, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Hazel Dickens, Doc Watson, and Ralph Stanley at home, and on stage at the Galax Fiddlers Convention, Union Grove, Oak Ridge Festival, and Carnegie Hall.  Cohen also chronicles the discovery of these artists in the 60s by aspiring folk musicians like Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, Bess Lomax, Alice Gerrard, and himself. . . .The book is a treasure that music and photography lovers will treasure. Walker Evans would be so very proud to see these amazing photographs published with such care.” — William Ferris. “His photographs capture, for example, Mr. and Mrs. John Sams surrounded by their children and grandchildren, sitting on the front porch of their home in Combs, Ky., as Mrs. Sams sings a gospel song while strumming her guitar. . . The most spellbinding shots capture audience members, many of whom appear enthralled with the music. Cohen’s moving photos serve as a time capsule of what was once a remote, regional music genre." — Publishers Weekly. The author, John Cohen, was a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers and made 20 albums with them between 1958 and 2008. He made nine field recordings of traditional music, including of Roscoe Holcomb. His photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other fine venues; he has published numerous books, and made 17 music documentary film. He is professor emeritus at SUNY Purchase College where he worked from 1972 until 1996.

Brooklyn, New York: powerhouse Books, 2019. 224 pages. 8.75” X 11” hardback with a pictorial cover