Blues is usually described as the sound of racial suffering and feeling sad, but this documentary argues that the blues began as a form of black pop music. First appearing in the Southern states of the USA around 1900, based on early string band rhythms of old time music represented by the EH - With additional commentary from The Ebony Hillbillies, Keith Richards, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt and Chuck D.


- The Ebony Hillbillies evoke the traditional sounds of 19th century African American music. Here,
the group performs at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Music of Monticello and the Blue Ridge
concert, sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.



As one of the last black string bands in the U.S., the Hillbillies keep an important legacy alive with a rootsy, homegrown style that was a key element in the genesis of all-American music: jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock and roll, and country.


The music of Ireland meets the music of an African-American string band. During the early American experience, both musical traditions borrowed heavily from one another. When slaves were called to bring their stringed instruments to play for the plantation frolics they brought their fiddles and banjos and played the jigs, and reels – dance music - often from an Irish tradition. As the oldest known traditional Irish instrument, the fiddle took its place as the primary instrument at these gatherings. The banjo, having its origin in West Africa, was brought to the plantation adding its rhythmic sound to the fiddler’s lines. So fitting were these two instruments, the banjo was then taken to Ireland to become a “traditional” Irish instrument. These common roots and experiences will be explored musically as these two great traditions come together for an evening of music and dance from Africa, America and Ireland.


 - a private recording session in NYC.....featuring the infectious cajun influenced
rhythm of  "I'd Rather Be...." & the beautifully authentic sound of "Shenandoah" - "I'd Rather Be" - "Shenandoah"


Selected clips below:

"This inventive string band inspires heartstring tugs and toe-taps in fans of all types of music—pop, country, bluegrass, folk, rock, jazz, and more—paying homage to the traditional with a mix of tasty originals performing at The Kennedy Center, one of America's finest performance venues." -Jk


Martha kicks off our New York City Show by chatting with today's show house band, NYC's finest string band, The Ebony Hillbillies, the folks who run the Calexico Cart, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.





Hidden In The MIx: The African-American Presence In Country Music

by Diane Pecknold

*page 2, 143

*page 363 Contributors, Tony Thomas

Country music's debt to African American music has long been recognized. Black musicians have helped to shape the styles of many of the most important performers in the country canon. The partnership between Lesley Riddle and A. P. Carter produced much of the Carter Family's repertoire; the street musician Tee Tot Payne taught a young Hank Williams Sr.; the guitar playing of Arnold Schultz influenced western Kentuckians, including Bill Monroe and Ike Everly. Yet attention to how these and other African Americans enriched the music played by whites has obscured the achievements of black country-music performers and the enjoyment of black listeners.

The contributors to Hidden in the Mix examine how country music became "white," how that fictive racialization has been maintained, and how African American artists and fans have used country music to elaborate their own identities. They investigate topics as diverse as the role of race in shaping old-time record catalogues, the transracial West of the hick-hopper Cowboy Troy, and the place of U.S. country music in postcolonial debates about race and resistance. Revealing how music mediates both the ideology and the lived experience of race, Hidden in the Mix challenges the status of country music as "the white man’s blues."

Contributors. Michael Awkward, Erika Brady, Barbara Ching, Adam Gussow, Patrick Huber, Charles Hughes, Jeffrey A. Keith, Kip Lornell, Diane Pecknold, David Sanjek, Tony Thomas, Jerry Wever

Editorial Reviews

“Country music is white music. Its performers are white; its repertoire is white; its audience is white. That's the genre's image, anyway. But it's largely a myth, debunked decisively inHidden in the Mix.” - Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader

Hidden in the Mix . .. steps in to set the record straight, within a dozen essays that tackle varied topics while persistently analyzing the racial history of country music and how it manifests itself, or is ignored, in the present – including in the works of country-music historians.” - Dave Heaton, PopMatters

“A fascinating and long-overdue compendium of essays that shed new light on country music’s complex and diverse history.” - Bill Baars, Library Journal

“Diane Pecknold rounds up some of the better music writers in academia in order to put a light on country's many black roots and the country's unease with said roots. It's not perfect, but what's good here makes the collection indispensable.” - RJ Smith, NPR’s The Record

"Hidden in the Mix is a comprehensive and worthy addition to the canon of popular music history. It breaks new ground and digs deep. By looking at both historical traditions (the banjo, early blues-hillbilly music) and contemporary cultural phenomena (hick-hop and country pop), as well as African American artists past and present (Bill Livers, Ray Charles, Cowboy Troy), the book greatly expands our knowledge of this intriguing subject."—Holly George-Warren, author of Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

"Diane Pecknold's collection is profoundly important in implication and a long-awaited intervention in the country-music literature."—Aaron A. Fox, author of Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture

About the Author

Diane Pecknold is Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville. She is the author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry, also published by Duke University Press, and editor (with Kristine M. McCusker) of A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music.

Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music 

by Nadine Hubbs


*page 70 "….black string band tradition is being revived by the ebony hillbillies…"

In her provocative new book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. Skillfully weaving historical inquiry with an examination of classed cultural repertoires and close listening to country songs, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deeply entangled workings of taste, sexuality, and class politics.

In Hubbs’s view, the popular phrase “I’ll listen to anything but country” allows middle-class Americans to declare inclusive “omnivore” musical tastes with one crucial exclusion: country, a music linked to low-status whites. Throughout Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Hubbs dissects this gesture, examining how provincial white working people have emerged since the 1970s as the face of American bigotry, particularly homophobia, with country music their audible emblem. Bringing together the redneck and the queer, Hubbs challenges the conventional wisdom and historical amnesia that frame white working folk as a perpetual bigot class.

With a powerful combination of music criticism, cultural critique, and sociological analysis of contemporary class formation, Nadine Hubbs zeroes in on flawed assumptions about how country music models and mirrors white working-class identities. She particularly shows how dismissive, politically loaded middle-class discourses devalue country’s manifestations of working-class culture, politics, and values, and render working-class acceptance of queerness invisible.

Lucid, important, and thought-provoking, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of American music, gender and sexuality, class, and pop culture.

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"One of the most important scholarly discourses on country music of this decade." —Jewly Hight, Wondering Sound

"Opens up a conversation about class that’s long overdue."  —Heather Seggel, The Progressive Populist

"An important book that is . . . as much about moral questions as it is about political, social, and cultural concerns. Our challenge is now to act upon the kind of fortitude and consciousness of resistance the author finds at the heart of working-class culture." —Ian Peddie, Popular Music and Society

“No book in 2014 made me think more than Nadine Hubbs’s Rednecks, Queers And Country Music, a vigorously written study . . . whose argument is as tight as a groundhog trap in Tennessee.” —Books of the Year 2014, The Herald Scotland

"In lucid, economical prose and in eloquent detail, Nadine Hubbs describes the cultural poetics of working-class subjectivity. She treats country music and the communities of taste (and distaste) to which it gives rise as rich sources of information about the symbolic language of social inequality in the United States. One of her brilliant insights is that toleration of homosexuality has gone from being a symptom of working-class pathology in the early twentieth century to being a manifestation of middle-class enlightenment by that century’s end, while homophobia has been transformed from an ostensibly reasonable and justified middle-class attitude to an allegedly bigoted working-class one. The result of this analysis of changing social attitudes is a major reconceptualization of the history and politics of sexuality in the U.S." —David Halperin, author of How to be Gay

"Stunning! With this serious and sophisticated examination of musical culture among working class people, Hubbs gives us another myth-busting book about American musicality's entanglement with American gender and sexuality." —Suzanne G Cusick, Professor of Music, New York University

"Rednecks, Queers and Country Music is a persuasive call to hear country music in totally new ways.  Hubbs boldly and baldly identifies what is really at stake when we imagine country as the sound of bigotry, whether racist, sexist, or homophobic. She compels us to listen anew for the genre’s unexpected echoes of distinctively white working-class gender and sexual identities and for its persistent reminders that all sorts of marginalization resonate on related frequencies. Her arguments will upend contemporary orthodoxy about the politics of country music." —Diane Pecknold, author of The Selling Sound: Country Music, Commercialism, and the Politics of Popular Culture

About the Author

Nadine Hubbs is Professor of Women's Studies and Music, Faculty Associate in American Culture, and Director of the Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative (LGQRI) at the University of Michigan; she is the author of the award-winning book The Queer Composition of America's Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity (UC Press). 

Discovering Folk Music

by Stephanie P. Ledgin, Gregg Spiridellis and Evan Spiridellis

page 55 "


Editorial Reviews


"Here's the who, what, when, and where primer for folk music. This guide clearly maps out the scope of a genre that is too often narrowly pigeonholed by its association with banjos and fiddles. No doubt, Discovering Folk Music will become a 'go to' reference for fans and students alike." --Terry Stewart, President, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 7/22/2009


"Are you a singer-songwriter? Perhaps you listen to Americana music or are learning guitar or banjo. Did you enjoy O Brother, Where Art Thou? Stephanie Ledgin provides an excellent map to explore folk music in history and pop culture. And she is spot on! Reading Discovering Folk Music is akin to hanging out in your best friend's kitchen talking about the music you love. Strongly recommended for players and casual listeners alike." --Mary Sue Twohy, XM15 The Village, the folk channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, 7/13/2009


"Stephanie Ledgin makes the case that if you love any music (and who doesn't?), you love folk music but probably never knew it. Discovering Folk Music is a compelling achievement in scope, in purpose, and in the details that make its vast subject comprehensible and 'hands on.' She infuses the music with a history and a context that includes people and stories woven into the fabric of our rich cultural heritage. And as a result, we can cherish America's folk music even more." --Mark Schaffer, Songwriter & President, Folk Project of New Jersey, 7/8/2009


“This is a brilliant, scholarly but readable introduction to its subject, 'folk music,' broadly defined, by an award-winning photo-journalist....(the author) has hit this one out of the park." --John McLaughlin, (added by author)”

About the Author

STEPHANIE P. LEDGIN is an international award-winning photojournalist, whose 35-year career has spanned publications, recordings, and museums. Lincoln Center, Smithsonian Folkways recording label, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Sing Out! magazine, among others, have featured her work. A former New York City radio-show host, she was director of the New Jersey Folk Festival for 10 years. A founding member of Folk Alliance International, she is the author ofHomegrown Music: Discovering Bluegrass (Praeger, 2004; University of Illinois Press, 2006) and From Every Stage: Images of America's Roots Music (University Press of Mississippi, 2005). (edited by author)


STEPHANIE P. LEDGIN is an international award-winning photojournalist, whose 35-year career has spanned publications, recordings, and museums. Lincoln Center, Smithsonian Folkways recording label, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Sing Out! magazine, among others, have featured her work. A former NYC radio-show host, she was director of the New Jersey Folk Festival for 10 years. A founding member of Folk Alliance International, she is the author of Discovering Folk Music (Praeger 2010), her groundbreaking new book that that will change the way you think about and listen to folk music. Her earlier books are Homegrown Music: Discovering Bluegrass (Praeger 2004 hc; University of Illinois Press 2006 pb) and From Every Stage: Images of America's Roots Music (University Press of Mississippi 2005). In addition, she is a contributing author to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey (Rutgers University Press 2004). Ms. Ledgin's Web site is


Wayfaring Strangers -
The Musical Voyage From Scotland And Ulster To Appalachia
by Fiona Ritchie & Doug Orr

"Carolina Chocolate Drops...Along with the musicians of the Black Banjo Gathering like The Ebony Hillbillies, they have bestowed a gift of special importance: the restoration of the legitimacy and dignity of the banjo among many in the African-American community." - taken from the book, Wayfaring Strangers


 Once in a while, a book comes along whose authors are uniquely fitted to create it. And once in a while a book comes along whose creation not only brings together but actually preserves important details of history that might otherwise be lost. Wayfaring Strangers does it all."

--Elizabeth Kostova, 
author of The Historian

This book couldn't have been written by anyone without a lifetime of experience and love of the subject and has set a new standard for projects of this nature. They have certainly hit the mark.--The Living Tradition

There is a foreword by Dolly Parton who, glitz and glam aside, is steeped in Appalachian music--'close to my heart and part of my DNA.' The 20-track CD of performances from artists on either side of the Atlantic which comes with the book opens with Parton joining Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh in a fine rendition of 'Barbara Allen,' a song which, referred to as far back as Samuel Pepys, lilts its winsome way through this whole odyssey.--Jim Gilchrist, Scotland on Sunday

Filled with maps, woodcuts, paintings, and photographs of impossibly picturesque Scottish and Irish locales, the book is a treasure trove of imagery and information. Music lovers, prepare to be transported.--BookPage

Traces the evolution of Appalachian music. . . . Intrigued readers can use the information as a jumping-off point for their own research." --Mountain Xpress

A must to any fan of folk or bluegrass.--Wilmington Star-News

This handsome volume is both a story of a musical evolution and a time capsule that preserves a nearly forgotten era of mountain life.--WNC Magazine

[Doug] Orr, along with friend Fiona Ritchie, host of the "Thistle & Shamrock" radio show, has set out the history and lore of the music that came with the Scots-Irish immigrants in a landmark book Wayfaring Strangers." --Asheville Citizen-Times

A beautiful testament to the roots of Celtic music and the journeys of the people who brought it to these mountains.--Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

Represents an extraordinary feat of research, together with copious interview material. . . . a joy to read from cover to cover, it also rewards just dipping in and out.--fRoots

Essential. . . . A gorgeous holiday gift book, including a CD of various artists' renditions of the songs whose origins the authors so beautifully recount."—New York Times Book Review

If you love Appalachian music; if you're Scots-Irish and wonder about your roots; if you're curious about the words and traditions of the music and how many miles and years the songs have traveled to get here, this handsome book is your most trusted servant, your indispensable encyclopedia and your entertaining Bible." --Charlotte Observer

Will be especially helpful for those with a general interest in American folk, old-time, bluegrass, and country music but who wish to gain a fuller understanding of where this music began and why it sounds the way it sounds." --Goldenseal

"An accessible yet scholarly tale of cultural transplantation and transformation as it played out on two continents.--Southern Historian

Nonmusicians will have no trouble appreciating this work's context, and even those well versed in the subject will find new insights here.--Library Journal

A readable and epic tale tracing the flow of Scottish music. . . . [Ritchie and Orr] tell a story remarkable for its breadth and depth, conveying the drama of Scottish emigration via Ulster to Appalachia, by a people who clung to the music and song they held dear, and bequeathed it to America. It is for us to keep our eyes and ears open to see how this river carries on.--Scottish Life Magazine

[A] beautiful book. . . . Excellent for research as well as a pleasure to read for personal enjoyment.--Tennessee Libraries

"Ritchie and Orr have created a beautiful book filled with poetic prose, stunning images, and anecdotal gems from some of the most revered figures in Celtic and American music.--West Virginia History

[Ritchie and Orr] strike all the right chords in this pleasantly tuneful survey of the history of the evolution of Scottish music in Appalachia.--Publishers Weekly


In telling the story of the Scottish diaspora in Appalachia through music, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr have captured a process of adaptation and change that has created a traditional culture that continues to flourish.--Ron Pen, author of I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles

|History's a strange beast. In the absence of illumination by the lives of real men and women, it can on occasion be reduced to the prosaic. When that happens, often the gaps are filled with kitsch, with a sentimental mire of misunderstanding that does more harm than good. This book isn't like that. It's full of hard fact that's been turned into the best kind of history by even harder poetry and honest melody. Nothing more is needed. To tie several centuries of peoples' lives together, across oceans and mountains, to make sense of their experiences and aspirations by the tenacious strands of their own music and song--that is a real achievement.--Brian McNeill, Scottish singer-songwriter, producer, and novelist

|The story of the Scots-Irish 'carrying stream' of music that found its way to Appalachia is also the story of the Cash family. William Cash emigrated from Scotland in the mid-seventeenth century, and the next generation drifted down to Virginia. The songs that went with them were captured, in part, a couple of centuries later by my stepmother's family, the Carter Family. My own musical DNA is bound with these songs--the narrative ballads, the melancholy rhymes, the ancient stories retold in melody again and again. Except for my family, there is nothing I love more than being a part of the 'living tradition' captured in this book.--Rosanne Cash, singer-songwriter and author

|Who better to write this book than Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr? They have each spent a lifetime intensely interested in the same thread of music from opposite sides of the ocean. The music connected them with each other, I suspect, long before they ever met, just as it connects all of us across miles and time, through generations and immigrations, anchoring us to the story of our ancestors and, ultimately, ourselves. These two are the perfect authors to trace the journey this music has made and to paint the picture of the living, breathing stream that it is.--Kathy Mattea, singer-songwriter and teacher

|Exploring the historic ties between Scotland, Ireland, and Appalachia through music, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr weave together the story of migration through the lyrics of ballads and other music that reflects on this history. Wayfaring Strangers will touch a powerful chord in the lives of readers who appreciate the music of Scotland and Appalachia, as well as those whose families have ties to this rich historical journey.--William Ferris, author of The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

|Songs can take us on extraordinary journeys. They respect neither border nor time, and by following them, we can chart the movement of generations of people. In Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr take a long look at this story using Scottish songs as their compass. It's a fascinating and often surprising ride.--Cerys Matthews, Welsh folksinger, author, and broadcaster