Ken Burn’s Country Epic

“They connected every dot,” said musician Rosanne Cash, “from Appalachia to Bob Wills to Bakersfield to my dad. It was artfully done, and so moving.”

Cash was referring to Ken Burns’ new 16-hour, 8-part documentary on country music that will be begin airing on PBS on September 15. According to Rolling Stone, it will distill 101 interviews, more than 700 hours of archival clips, and 100,000 still photos.

“It’s really important people know country music is a hybrid, a creolization that comes out of African and European cultures mixing,” Rhiannon Giddens told Rolling Stone. Giddens is an award-winning vocalist and musician, as well as an early-American-music scholar. “Also, most importantly, it comes from working-class people mixing,” she continued. “That’s the thing that’s often forgotten, that where people made these interactions musically was in the fields, on the riverboats, or wherever – and that this music is our music, all of us together. It’s very dangerous to subscribe to it as ‘white music,’ or as this monolithic thing, because it’s not. And that’s the beauty of America, I think – all the positive stuff comes out of that aspect of the mix.”

“This is the history of an art form whose roots are dark and complex and part of our collective unconscious,” says Cash, “rooted in our migration and history and who we became as Americans. It’s all there in this story. All these songs came from Scotland and England and Ireland into Appalachia, and the slave songs and work songs that came from Africa, the melding of that: That’s our history. And it’s important to know your history.”


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