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Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought

RiGGy 18 Jun 00 - 12:57 AM
GUEST,Banjo Johnny 18 Jun 00 - 03:06 AM
GUEST,The Burren Ranger(Ireland) 18 Jun 00 - 04:52 AM
John Moulden 18 Jun 00 - 06:45 AM
mccomas 18 Jun 00 - 12:37 PM
John Moulden 18 Jun 00 - 02:29 PM
Midchuck 18 Jun 00 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,The Burren ranger. 18 Jun 00 - 05:21 PM
Mark Clark 18 Jun 00 - 05:43 PM
John Moulden 19 Jun 00 - 04:37 AM
Whistle Stop 19 Jun 00 - 09:10 AM
Mark Clark 19 Jun 00 - 09:31 AM
Barbara Shaw 19 Jun 00 - 01:23 PM
Les B 19 Jun 00 - 03:01 PM
GUEST,Richie 01 Sep 02 - 06:27 PM
Mooh 01 Sep 02 - 07:17 PM
Kaleea 02 Sep 02 - 01:19 AM
awig 02 Sep 02 - 08:45 AM
awig 02 Sep 02 - 08:49 AM
belfast 02 Sep 02 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,Richie 02 Sep 02 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,sorefinges 02 Sep 02 - 01:31 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Sep 02 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 02 Sep 02 - 02:01 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Sep 02 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,Richie 02 Sep 02 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,sorefimgers 02 Sep 02 - 11:30 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 02 Sep 02 - 11:40 PM
Mark Clark 03 Sep 02 - 01:17 AM
GUEST,Richie 03 Sep 02 - 10:20 AM
belfast 03 Sep 02 - 10:27 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 03 Sep 02 - 11:41 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 07 Sep 02 - 04:15 PM
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Subject: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: RiGGy
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 12:57 AM

An old friend of mine writes :

"I am getting involved in an interesting project that basically is tracing the connection between Celtic Music and Bluegrass. So I was wondering if you could hip me to some cool Celtic Music Sites that have good (and hopefully accurate) historical info. Thanks, Peter"

Anybody got a link for curious Pete ??

Thanks RiGGy


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,Banjo Johnny
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 03:06 AM

"Celtic" is such a wide-ranging term. Don't forget, the Celts once covered Western Europe. Bluegrass is a 20'th century phenomenon. (Remember the good ol' 20'th century?) One of the sources of Bluegrass is our "mountain style", and it shares one unique feature with what we think of as Irish/Scottish music. That is the "Flatted Seven" chord, for example the progression C-Bb-C, or Am-G-Am. These are the only styles that use that progression as far as I know, so it may be a musical feature that you can look for as a common link. == Johnny in Oklahoma City


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,The Burren Ranger(Ireland)
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 04:52 AM

Riggy, The roots of Bluegrass can indeed be found in the songs and fiddle tunes which migrated to the New Worldin the 18th and 19th cent. from Scotland and Ireland.For example, Bill Monroe's (father of Bluegrass) ancestors were Scots/Irish and their tunes were the backbone of his earlystyle. A good place to start might be Tim O'Brien's superb album 'The Journey' (Alula Recs)...which connets the two traditions. TBR.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: John Moulden
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 06:45 AM

It's easy to see that there is a connection. The exact nature of that connection is much more difficult to pin down. What is more, I have not seen a single account of this - except for a very judicious article in, I think, The Encyclopaedia of Southern Culture, which does not claim a lot more than is supported by evidence.

I've been researching this for a couple of years and in order to be able to make a statement which has any real basis have had to consider, migration and settlement patterns in the southern mountains as evidenced by distribution routes, demographic and archaeological evidence; house types; farming style including artifacts and household implements; language; dance and dance music; song (especially the distribution of older ballads as against younger); stories; instruments; religious music. Each of these has had to be researched in seventeenth/eighteenth century Scotland and Ireland (especially the north) and in pre-Revolutionary America.

There are difficulties attached to this, particularly that the first song collections in Ireland and the Southern Mountains were not made until the early 20th century. The Scotch-Irish migration took place (mainly) from 1718-1775. Any attempt to use the 20th century record to infer the situation of 150 years earlier is problematic.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: mccomas
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 12:37 PM

RiGGy and Pete,

Your message arrives at an opportune time, as I have just started exploring the connection between Irish and Bluegrass (and Blues) myself. I started playing Irish fiddle tunes about nine months ago. My teacher would occasionally throw in bluegrass like sounds--he would explain that they are not "Irish" or "Celtic" but they sounded so natural, that I was sure the traditions are much closer than the categorization allows.

At any rate, I suggest you also post you inquiry to the Irtrad Listserve. They have a lot of serious students of Irish and Celtic music. If the regulars don't have direct answers for you, they can probably point you in the right direction for your research. I would be interested in what you discover.

The information for the listserve is:

List Address: IRTRAD-L@LISTSERV.HEANET.IE To Subscribe Send mail to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.HEANET.IE With the command: SUBSCRIBE IRTRAD-L Your Name in the body of the message. (i.e., fill in your first and last names after the list name).

mc


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: John Moulden
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 02:29 PM

If you post to irtrad-l, I'll refer you to my response above.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Midchuck
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 02:59 PM

"The Burren Ranger" refers to a Tim O'Brien recording, "The Journey."

Tim O'Brien does have a recording that is very relevant to this thread, and it is truly superb, but the title is "The Crossing."

Either BR misremembered the title, or it was issued in Ireland under a different title, or Tim has two albums on the same theme.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,The Burren ranger.
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 05:21 PM

Peter, Ooops...of course the title of the Tim O'Brien album is 'The Crossing'...sorry about that. It is excellent, isnt it. Bluegrass meets Irish traditional Music.

T.B.R.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Mark Clark
Date: 18 Jun 00 - 05:43 PM

Readers here may also be interested in a similar discussion thread called Genealogy of Bluegrass.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: John Moulden
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 04:37 AM

I'm a bit disturbed at the lack of reaction to my expression above; that the examination of this question will need some hard work. Instead we have continued reference to what appears to be a single cross-over album; its existence tells us nothing at all about the past of either, southern mountain music, (as "developed" into bluegrass by Bill Monroe) or Irish traditional music. The original questioner was expecting much more than that.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 09:10 AM

John, we all contribute what we can; I don't think you should be disturbed by it. I'm aware in a general way that there is a connection (the thread runs right through my own family background -- Scotch/Irish roots transplanted to West Virginia), but I can't put too fine a point on it, nor can I back it up with any scholarly research. My guess is that our friend will benefit from all sincere input on this, whether or not it rises to the level of sholarship you are looking for.

I also echo the praise for Tim O'Brien's "The Crossing". It wouldn't win high marks as a doctoral dissertation in musical anthropology, but it's good music, and an interesting exploration of the connections between musics based in Ireland and related musics based in Appalachia.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Mark Clark
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 09:31 AM

I personally don't think the ambitious scholar will find a "trail of breadcrumbs" or some sort of apostolic succession leading from the music of Scotland and Ireland directly to bluegrass. Bluegrass probably needs a James Michner novel starting with the origin of each individual influence moving toward an analysis of the Apalachian region, the lure of jobs in the industiral north and the development and influence of the commercial country music industry. I don't think a credible case can be made for viewing bluegrass as simply a natural extension of Celtic music.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 01:23 PM

I would be interested to read more scholarly writing on bluegrass, roots and branches. My interest is not from an ethnomusicological or historical point of view, but simply because of a love of the music.

Here's an interesting (not comprehensive, but enjoyable) booklet that attempts to trace some roots and define some phenomena of the music:

The Life, Times & Music Series: Bluegrass by Chris Seymour, 1996, Friedman/Fairfax Publishers.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Les B
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 03:01 PM

It seems to me that any progression from Celtic to Bluegrass would have to pass through Old Timey (the traditional, not the modern written "Old Timey") to have any validity. Also, perhaps there should be some consideration of the Minstrel tradition, whose banjo styles led through Old Timey to Bluegrass. Some of the tunes associated with Dan Emmett et al, like Turkey in the Staw, Boatman, Dixie, etc. have elements of Celtic music.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 01 Sep 02 - 06:27 PM

one good place to start is the connection through fiddle music, check out Ceolas: the Fiddler's Companion. There are lots of old-time/bluegrass tunes with celtic roots- The Devil's Dream; Froggie; Red-Haired Boy; the "Silver Dagger/Katie Dear" branch of "East Virginia"- the list goes on and on.

Good luck, it will take a lot of work.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Mooh
Date: 01 Sep 02 - 07:17 PM

Spent a little time with the young Nashville band DAYBREAK during a celtic festival this year. Bluegrass instrumentation, largely bluegrass style, with alot of "Skip, Hop, and Wobble" influence, but a dose of celtoidness thrown in. Very enjoyable. They even rehearsed in my home so I got a brief glimpse of their arrangement process. If this is a trend, I like it very much.

Sorry, no blue clickie, www.daybreakplanet.com

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Kaleea
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 01:19 AM

Well, it was pretty much summed up above. There were Irish/Scottish/Welsh immigrants who came over well before Ellis Island. Many of them decided to settle in the Appalachian region & The Smokies. They may have brought some instruments, but whether they did or not, the pipes were present in their ears, as the Mountain Dulcimer-aka Lap Dulcimer--comes from (was invented by) those immigrants, & it has a "drone" sound when playing melody on the (2) melody strings, & strumming the other 2 in the process--especially in good old Ionian. I was sitting in a Ceili Band while performing at a fest some years back, when it dawned on me that the IrishScott folks playing the reels, etc. on the piano hit head on with the up & coming blues/earliest jazz: "This is where ragtime came from!" duh. ragtime, blues, gospel, country, bluegrass, & more came out of the many cultures in America which colided & shared their music in the 1800's & turn of the 1900's. It was an amazing time in Music History! To me,


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: awig
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 08:45 AM

The influences upon the musical styles of North America are wonderfully diverse, and none more so than in the area of the Appalachians. The immigrants to this massive and diverse area of mountains, hills and plateaux were similarly diverse.

English, Scots-Irish, German, African and Dutch only begins to tell the tale. Cecil Sharp went to the Southern Appalachians and collected over 1600 songs derived from the English tradition.

The Melungians (this is a term that many people are not happy with, but which others will happily apply to themselves) are another little known group. As a group they usually referred to themselves as Portugese and have been shown to be of Portugese/Turkish/Moorish origins mixed in with the local Cherokees. They are a very interesting group found in the mountain regions (seemingly mostly in Tennesee) and predate English and other European settlement.

To try to characterise the music of the Appalachians as "Celtic" or "English" (a massive influence and interestly not mentioned so far in this thread) or "German" or "African" is a diservice to what actually happened.

They came together to form distinctive styles that were sometimes closer to their European/African/Native American antecedants, but were overwhelmingly a testament to the new American "melting pot".

The tracing of the "Celtic" roots of Appalachian music is more of a comment upon C21st society than real history. In the same way that the C19th and early C20th wish to show the superiority of (or the more interesting/exclusive/nation building nature of) WASP culture is a comment upon American society of that time.

This is something worth looking at as an easy to read starting point;

Music and Dance of the Appalachian Mountains of North America, a very good little essay that traces the influences upon Appalachian dance and music traditions.

A bit of a search on the web can bring up many more academic sources as well.

Andrew.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: awig
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 08:49 AM

Woop, this should have been the article link in the above post;

Music and Dance of the Appalachian Mountains of North America

Andrew.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: belfast
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 11:38 AM

I liked John Moulden's attempt to inject a little academic rigour into this discussion but I suspect that if John himself, with his wealth of knowledge, hasn't been able to trace much on the roots of Celtic music in the American tradition, it isn't going to be traced. Not that it isn't there, I suppose there must be, but there doesn't seem to be a paper trail.

Even when there are tunes in common (and there doesn't seem to be all that many) the styles of playing would appear to be pretty different. I recall a bluegrass fiddler playing "Hop High Ladies" with a fiddler steeped in the Irish tradition playing "Miss McLeod's Reel" (yes, I know it's a Scots tune). The bluegrass fiddler, trying to show the Irish one how to get the American sound, would urge him, "Play less, play less".

There is, of course, no shortage of the apocryphal and speculation. About ten years ago I heard it suggested that the unpleasant term "hillbilly" came from the fact that so many of the poor whites in the Appalachian region came from Ulster protestant stock. Their love of King William (Billy) of Orange gave rise to the epithet. I have lately heard this repeated by sensible people as an undisputed fact. I don't believe a word of it, but I'm willing to be proved wrong.

Possibly a more useful avenue of exploration would be the influence of the American tradition on the folk music this side of the Atlantic.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 12:52 PM

There's a lot of cross-over and sometime the reverse is true- See: Thread on "Such A Getting Upstairs" (an American minstrel tune that became a Morris Dance tune!) There are some major song branches that have crossed over:

Acres of Clams/Rosin the Beau/Bow/Lay of the Old Settler;

Awake Awake/In Old Virginnny/East Virginia/ Drowsy Sleeper/Katie Dear/Silver Dagger;

Bonaparte's Retreat Group;

Bunclody/Cuckoo/Love's Farewell;

Cuckoo's Nest;

Devilish Mary;

This is just up to the letter D in my "Fiddle Tune" category. I'd say there are thousands of cross-over tunes. Where do we go from here?

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,sorefinges
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 01:31 PM

The early colonists were not exclusively British so one would be ignoring history to suppose it. For example southern states were and are ethnicaly Hispanic. Then we have French influences to take into account.

The Hillbilly theory is flatout false. That term is recent, used be more like Mountainmen etc. IOW These people knew very little about the significance of King Billy and they would more likely been preaching about the Bill of Rights. Please do be aware - it might save your life if you ever travel the back woods - that not all mountain people are descended or related to British descended folks - They could have anglo names but that could be where you discover a costly fact of life in the American melting pot. Schlobsmalsoazioedee was simplified as Smith.

Bluegrass - the color of the grass - is associated with the State of Kentucky. The music itself is a product of Banjo Picking styles evolving not some genius discovery by Bill Munroe. He may have labelled it - Bluegrass - but he most certainly did not invent it! See Earl Scruggs Fiddler and Banjoist.

To gain some insight into this one needs to study instrument constuction, string technology and playeing technique of that period. Modern instruments use steel strings while the older used gut. Modern use steel picks in the uppicking style the old one was downpicking with no picks attached.

The modern tunes show the influence of the earlier lutish style - the tunes follow a 'modal' pattern - listen to Old Timey Fiddle and Banjo recordings - but also evolved newer tunes as well.

Since US folk flowed from fiddling styles applied to both native melodies - OT - and adopted French/British/Spanish etc there is no way that one can exclusively account for BG as an evolution of British Folk in the new world.

American folk Dance music does take lots of strains from the old countries but they include lots of things that are not celtic. For example I have not included Native American singing but it too has an enormous impact.

One must also be aware that American Fiddling is very close to classical violin in bowings and style, often chosen from classicaly training. This is as true today as it was 100 years ago, fiddlers in the US tend to be classicaly trained vioinists.

So the music is far far simpler in content and more disciplined than celtic. Bowing tends to be mostly down for significant beats, like Scottish Fiddling but not Scottish tunes. In fact what often happens - see Breakdowns - a player finds a bowing that is very rhythmic and develops that. IOW American Fiddle begins with rhythm - most often seen in the everpresent banjo or more recently guitar backing - not melody. As a result one can find thousands of variations on a simple strain.

Other names associated with the BG tradition - the Stanley Bros - Jesse Mc Reynolds - Scruggs and Flatt.

For a long time these folks distanced themselves from the so called Bluegrass craze, in fact even Bill the Mandoline player of the revolution - would lament what the followers of the craze were doing.

Finaly and to me very interesting trends - today one will see about as many high end Old Timey open back Banjos and Tenors being bought as the Resonator type. We are in a time of evolution again, and like the old Bob Diddle song says ' the times are a changin '.

Bluegrass is going the same road as OT Banjo and Fiddle music, todays kids are playing celtic out of boredom with what they inherited just as the BG revolution did in its day. In short the BG craze nearly obliterated the OT Banjo - now celtic is doing the same to BG.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 01:34 PM

belfast, the word hillbilly apparently came from an article in the NY Journal, 1900.
"In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him."
No prior mention of the term has been found; this humorously slanted article was the first to use it. By 1911, the spelling became hillbilly.

Applied to music, the term hill billie appeared in 1924 in "Talking Machine World" XX, 207/1.

The above from the Oxford English Dictionary, added in the supplement for 1987.

Richie, I agree. Bluegrass did not start with Bill Monroe. It is named for his group, but his music was just one variation on a folk-inspired genre that had roots in the music brought over from Europe- Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, and even a touch of German and other European (Don't really like the word genre- it is a wide sweep of music that cannot be tied down as classical, parlor, etc.).

Footnote- The Manx are seldom mentioned, but shipping vessels based on the Isle of Man brought thousands of immigrants to North America, not only from the Isles but from mainland Europe. Their lists of passengers are important to those searching for their antecedents.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 02:01 PM

Dicho - American fiddling owes as much or even more to already extant folk traditions as it does to imported European.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 02:04 PM

Sorefingers tends to exaggerate. The Southern states (and colonies) were not all "ethnically Hispanic." Georgia through North Carolina, were not, the areas where these settlers spread- Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, etc. were not.
The Spanish influence was in the southwest, from California to Texas, with strong interests in Louisiana which were subsidiary to the French, however. They had some influence along the Mississippi River, but only as entrepreneurs. Florida began as Hispanic, was overwhelmed by other influences, but is becoming Hispanic again with the Cuban invasion. It never influenced the music of the rest of the south until modern times.
The fiddlers among the early immigrants were classically trained violinists???? (Ho, ho, ho)

One point he raised that deserves some support- the early settlers west of the fall line included a number of Germanic and other European immigrants. Much of their music apparently was overwhelmed by that brought over from the Isles.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 02:38 PM

In my opinion Celtic (from the British Isles) music has a place in the early development of bluegrass but doesn't constitute a majority position. Maybe 10% of the songs and 20% of the fiddle tunes directly originated overseas. That's still a lot of songs plus there are lots of American variants.

I loved your definition of a hillbilly Dicho. Maybe we'd all be better off "living in the hills with has no means to speak of and dressing/talking as we please!"

I think Sorefingers is right that "the times are a-changin'" as bluegrass Bob would say. Maybe he's not so far from bluegrass after all!

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,sorefimgers
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 11:30 PM

The very region you chose Dicho, is the one where Native influences most dominated! The OT Banjo method evolved as much from Native American Folk rhythms as it did African American, neither of them vaguely European. To say then that BG is evolved from celtic is the same as saying that because some Bagpiper plays Old Joe clark we must account for celtic as derived from American Folk Music.

So nothing could be more mistaken than to suppose that celtic had anything but a minor influence upon the evolution of American Folk Dance! Bluegrass shares the same heritage so it is likewise accounted for.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Sep 02 - 11:40 PM

? Native American = aboriginal?


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Mark Clark
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 01:17 AM

This piece from 1913 doesn't deal specifically with music but it does have a lot to say about the people in the southern mountains and their origins. The work is called “Our Southern Highlanders” by Horace Kephart. Check out Chapter 16, Who are the Mountaineers.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 10:20 AM

Sorefingers-

What is Native American music? Where did it come from?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: belfast
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 10:27 AM

I am pleased that my scepticism regarding the Ulster origins of the term "hillbilly". Anyway, it's a pejorative term and should be consigned to the rubbish bin. And thanks for the info.


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 11:41 PM

Perjorative? Check out
Hillbilly Hwy
Hillbilly Conv.
Poet

Hillbilly Music
Hillbilly
Hillbilly
Hillbilly Housewife
TN Hillbilly
Hillbilly
And hundreds of others


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Subject: RE: Celtic Roots of Bluegrass sought
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 07 Sep 02 - 04:15 PM

Refresh.


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