Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cowboys Get the Blues

It's been said the term "cowboy" might first have been coined for African American cow-punchers. It makes sense as Americans have always been on the leading edge of derogatory term technology. What you may not know (I didn't) is that country music, that music we may consider the whitest of musicsor at least the one with the whitest of audiences – may indeed have some interesting lineage in the woodpile, as it were.

Check this story from NPR and learn that Anglo folk songs, Black Southern blues, and songs brought up by Spanish speaking Vaqueros may've come together in a kind of musical orgy on the dusty trails where cowboy and frontier songs were first sung. Of the songs posted, "Tom Sherman's Barroom" (a lyrical half-brother to "Streets of Laredo") was for me the most interesting (see above). Certainly, it's the bluesiest. It may be the "Danny Boy" of the lonesome prairie. Its deathly minor key plaint gives the proper "beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly" ambiance to what may be the high standard of the cowboy lamentations.

From there, follow the snaking branches of the family tree for 150 years and off drops the GMO-ed fruit of Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift? Be that as it may, this is yet more proof American music has the fingerprints of many all over it.

(Thanks to Anne Riddle Barrow for the heads up.)

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