American Folk & Country Music Festival

Our UK correspondent, Richard F Thompson, shares this news.

American Folk & Country Music FestivalForty years before the ‘O Brother/Down From The Mountain’ tour, an earlier group of like-minded musicians took some Appalachian music on the road. Thankfully, some of the music performed by the small band of minstrels that toured Europe under the title of the American Folk & Country Festival was recorded for posterity.

I believe that there have been taped copies of these shows in circulation, but now Bear Family Records has announced the release of a 2-CD set of recordings from those dates in March 1966. The collection, entitled American Folk & Country Music Festival [Bear Family BCD 16849 BK] comprises 41 tracks, packaged in an LP-size box, along with a 76-page hardcover book that features the usual treasure trove of photos and memorabilia.

Here’s what the Bear Family website has to say about their recent release ‚Ķ‚Ķ.

It was 1966, and the success of the American Folk & Blues festivals in Europe led to the Festival of American Country Music. But this wasn’t slick Nashville music, it was old time, Cajun, bluegrass, and folk music with deep roots in the mountains and swamps of America’s rural South. The artists included The Stanley Brothers (just a few months before Carter Stanley’s death), Roscoe Holcomb, The New Lost City Ramblers, Cyp Landreneau’s Cajun Band, and Cousin Emmy. Together, they offer a fascinating glimpse of early American music played with heart and soul. All the artists were still in peak form and gave European audiences their first taste of this side of American traditional music. It was a historic tour, and decades ahead of its time. In 2000-2002, the performers whose music was heard in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ staged a tour called ‘Down From The Mountain.’ The idea was the same as the Festival of American Country Music in 1966, except that the music heard in the Festival of American Country Music was truly down from the mountain (just one artist was on both tours: Ralph Stanley).

The collection is highlighted by detailed reminiscences by Mike Seeger, Tracy Schwarz, and John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, all of whom could appreciate the music both as fans and performers.

One member, John Cohen shares this interesting observation ……

“For bluegrass listeners, the set shows how Carter Stanley sounded and looked at the end of his life, and also makes the firm connection between Roscoe Holcomb and Ralph Stanley. For me, Roscoe’s devotion to the Old Baptist unaccompanied singing reawakened something in Ralph, which emerged so many years later in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. Musically and stylistically it’s all there… predicting what eventually happened. Some of Roscoe’s performances are him at his best.”

The book also includes original photos from John Cohen, Klaus-R?ºdiger M?ºller, Lillies Ohlsson, Reinhard Pietsch, and Reinald Schumann.

A full, detailed track listing can be found on the Bear Family web site.

Share this:

About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.