Throughout this semester, I have taken three Appalachian Studies courses that have given me a lot more insight into the Appalachian region and how special it truly is. Folk and bluegrass music is a huge part of Appalachian culture and I have gained a new love for this genre of music. Throughout this article, I am going to share my favorite folk artists and my favorite songs of theirs. Not all of these musicians are from Appalachia, but they all have a certain unique sound that reminds one of the region.
- Tyler Childers
Tyler Childers is pretty well known in the current folk music scene. His most popular song at the moment is “Feathered Indians.” Childers is from Lawrence County, Kentucky right in central Appalachia. His songs talk about life in the region and he gives his listeners a feel of being in the mountains even when they are far away. Rolling Stone calls Childers the “21st Century Voice of Appalachia” in one article title. He talked about his passions in a Rolling Stone interview which include hunting, foraging, and just being one with nature. He has worked with Sturgill Simpson, who co-produced his official debut LP, Purgatory. Johnny Cash engineer David Ferguson also helped co-produce Purgatory. He made his way into playing at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Newport Folk Festival. He says that if he wasn’t in the music industry then he would probably be back home in Kentucky working for a car factory. Childers doesn’t glamorize Appalachia, but he tries to capture the beauty in a region that is flawed. He talks about the tight familial bonds of the region, cocaine, coal mining, and the hard times that he went through. The rawness of his music is what is so beautiful because he doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything. He speaks from experience and gives every emotion to his audience. He tells stories of a place where so many stories are left untold.
Favorite Songs: Shake the Frost (live),Whitehouse Road, House Fire, All Your’n, Charleston Girl (live)
- Colter Wall
Colter Wall is a Canadian musician that falls into the folk, western, and classic country genres. His most popular song at the moment is “Sleeping on the Blacktop”. The New Yorker calls Colter Wall “The Canadian Cowboy” as he is a new addition to outlaw country. Some of Wall’s greatest influences are Marty Robbins and Chris LeDoux. He covers “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins on his album called Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs. Colter Wall talks about ranching in an interview with American Songwriter. He says that when he gets spare time he tries to learn more about ranching because it has become a passion of his. He says that ranching is like music because there is always something new to learn. He says, “the day you stop learning, you might as well be dead.” I think it is inspiring to hear how people who are really amazing at what they do keep learning and growing.
Favorite Songs: “Sleeping on the Blacktop,” “ Caroline, Fraulein (feat. Tyler Childers),” “Kate McCannon,” “Big Iron.”
- Rhiannon Giddens and The Carolina Chocolate Drops
Although The Carolina Chocolate Drops are no longer together, they still had a huge impact on Appalachian music. They are an African-American string band from Durham, North Carolina. Their music sound consists of old time fiddle and banjo, which both have African origins. This string band brought representation for the African-American community through their music. Modern day folk is mostly dominated by white people so to see such a successful African-American string band is truly empowering for a lot of people.
Rihannon Giddens, the lead singer from The Carolina Chocolate Drops, makes solo music now that the string band is no longer together. Her voice is strong and empowering as she tells the stories of African-American people that have been left untold. She was raised in the piedmont region of North Carolina in a biracial family and she is proud of her roots. She has reclaimed the African-American traditions of bluegrass, which she thought at one point only belonged to white people.
Favorite Songs: “Hit ‘Em up Style (Carolina Chocolate Drops),” “At the Purchaser’s Option (Rhiannon Giddens),” “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man? (Carolina Chocolate Drops).”