News / Arts & Entertainment

American Roots Music Sound Continues to Evolve in 2011

The Civil Wars' album, "Barton Hollow"
The Civil Wars' album, "Barton Hollow"
Katherine Cole

In the “old days,” folk singers sang folk songs, rockers were always loud, and bluegrass never mixed with the blues or jazz. But today, you’ll find all kinds of American roots music living under the umbrella of “Americana.”

One of the big “buzz bands” of the year was The Civil Wars. Joy Williams and John Paul White may sound like they’ve been making music together for years. But in reality, the two paired during a songwriting camp not too long ago. They come from totally different parts of the country: Joy is a westerner, from Santa Cruz, California, while John Paul is from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the southern United States. But when they met at songwriting camp, the two realized they had a very special chemistry. It wasn’t romantic - both are married to other people. In fact, both Joy and John Paul have said in interviews that they believe their onstage partnership works so well because they aren’t a couple - singing songs about love or a “heartbreak tune” night after night would be too difficult!

The Civil Wars released their debut CD “Barton Hollow” at the start of 2011. It kicked off what turned out to be a very good year for fans of American roots music, whether they preferred the smooth sound of the Civil Wars, Abigail Washburn’s blend of American and Chinese folk traditions or anything in between - like the stark, gritty songs that Rod Picott wrote for his critically acclaimed “Welding Burns.”

Bluegrass artists also offered plenty of stellar releases in 2011, both traditional, modern, and unexpected. Actor and writer Steve Martin has incorporated the banjo into his work from the earliest days of his comedy career and is finally being respected as a premiere picker.

This year, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers released the follow up to the 2009 Grammy-winning best bluegrass CD “The Crow.” “Rare Bird Alert” has also been nominated for that honor, and is one reason Steve and the band took home the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award this year.

This was also a standout year for The Gibson Brothers. The upper New York state-based band had the number one album on "Bluegrass Unlimited" magazine’s Top 10 chart for about eight months. “Help My Brother” also claimed the top spot on the Pop Matters website’s “Best of Bluegrass 2011” list, and was also the International Bluegrass Music Association’s pick for Album of the Year.

One of the final releases of 2011 was also one of the year’s most eagerly awaited. “This One’s For Him,” is a double-disc tribute to acclaimed Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark. Featuring performances by top roots stars including: Rodney Crowell, Joe Ely, Patty Griffin, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and James McMurtry, who chose to sing “Cold Dog Soup,” it will surely be a topic of conversation well into the new year.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."