I should be spanked for wondering -- in public, no less -- where bluegrass got that boom-chucka beat, a beat I discern in the proto-bluegrass I'm studying intensively. Last night, during the World Serious, there came on a mildly funny commercial on the teevee featuring chimpanzees doing Irish step-dancing to some of that flutes-and-bodhran Riverdance goo.
On a recommendation from Jason Chervokas, I've also picked up Greil Marcus' The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. Great book, if you're at all interested in the placement of Dylan in American folk music; among many other virtues, it features the most cogent defense I've ever read of Dylan's decision to go electric in 1965/66.
I'm reading it not so much for the Dylan angle as the "the speculative intelligence with which Marcus chases the specters and wraiths of this country's musical past" dodge. (Quote from a blurb by Robert Polito of the NYT Book Review.)
In the chapter about Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk" (a work that becomes more endlessly fascinating the more I know about it), I find this quote from Old Zimmy Himself:
What folk music is, it’s not Depression songs. …its foundations aren’t work, its foundations aren’t "slave away" and all this. Its foundations are – except for Negro songs which are based on that and just kind of overlapped –the main body of it is just based on myth and the Bible and plague and famine and all kinds of things like that which are nothing but mystery and you can see it in all the songs. Roses growing up right out of people’s hearts and naked cats in bed with spears growing right out of their backs and seven years of this and eight years of that and it’s all really something that nobody can really touch.Yeah. Aw hell yeah.
Here's what Bob's talking about...