'Rural Roots Of Bluegrass' by Wayne Erbsen
Self-published, 180 pp softbound. This is a neat little book in several ways: for one it is a good songbook with words and music (and chord notations) to around 100 songs that are well-known standards. Considering how few good songbooks are on the market these days, that alone would make this a worthwhile item for many. But beyond that, author Erbsen has contributed well-written commentary on the songs and many of the artists who sang and recorded them. There are numerous facts that I, for one, was not aware of, and the data seems generally very accurate. (Erbsen interviewed many old-time and first generation Bluegrass artists, mainly in the state of North Carolina, where he has lived for many years). The book is also well-illustrated with many fine photos—because of the book’s small size the photos tend to be small, but are sharp and well printed. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the work is Erbsen’s documentation of the source of each song (many of which date back to the 19th century). For example, you can see a reproduction of the actual original 1880 sheet music for the song we know as FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW (the original title was “I TRACED HER LITTLE FOOTMARKS IN THE SNOW” by one Harry Wright). Erbsen has clearly done a lot of first class research here, with just about every song definitively and properly attributed. Some of the musicians discussed include Grayson & Whitter, the Monroe Bros., the Morris Bros., Earl Scruggs, Charlie Poole, Coon Creek Girls, the Carter Family and the Blue Sky Boys. An attractive and interesting book.