21 June 2021

An important new history of old-time music

Thanks to Oldtime Central (OTC) for news of Tony Russell's new book Rural rhythm: the story of old-time country music in 78 records, published by Oxford University Press on 27 May, and reviewed on OTC by fiddler and scholar Harry Bolick on 20 May.

In 352 pages, with 268 illustrations, this is an immensely informative (and entertaining) study of all aspects of old-time music as it was recorded up to 1940. Russell writes in his introduction:

Fine work has been done on songs about coal mines, railroads, and textile mills. But the subjects and meanings of early country music as it is represented on record are immensely varied, and many have passed without commentary. In this book, I identify some of those subjects and meanings, and explore what they tell us about the musicians who expressed them, the listeners who absorbed them, and the development of the genre, old-time music, in which they found a home. So too with the context: I look at the circumstances in which these songs and tunes were recorded, the intentions and interventions of the companies that commissioned those recordings, and their fates after they were issued.

Briefly, this is a book which should be read by everyone seriously interested in old-time music and where it comes from. The contents are listed on the OUP website. Oxford's price is £22.99 for the hardback edition; it is also available as an e-book. The price on Amazon.co.uk is £21.84 for hardback, which however is currently out of stock; the Kindle edition (£18.85) is available now. The Book Depository's euro price is €35.71.

© Richard Hawkins

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