This summer I’m going to America, a place of such scale and consequence across the world that it makes it difficult to ignore. It’s so influential in the way we live these days including the way we create and listen to music. I hope to take in the spirit of the places and the people which have so greatly impacted me through their music. In doing so I hope to explore a bond that runs deep and no doubt influences the musical choices I make today. Here is a quick tour of some of the where and whys:
This cosmopolitan dream of a musical melting pot with a wonderful and varied pedigree that is synonymous with the city. For me, it hosts a few key cornerstones; Greenwich Village for the beat pop, folk and songwriter legacy (I’m prepared to see little remaining of the music café culture of its glory day) and the East Village which housed the Punk revolution of the 1970s which spawned greats such as Television, Blondie, Patti Smith among others. However for me one of the great things NY offers is what it came to represent; the hope and opportunity to so many migrants who came to America for a new life but they brought with them one of the most natural things to help make this place their home. Their music.
The Appalachia Mountains are brimming with beauty and a history innately tied to music. The peoples who populated it were generally the Irish and Scots who embraced the drones of banjos and dulcimers to accompany their soulful tunes and ballads and developed a wonderful distinctly driving sound that no doubt rang through the landscape.
So it may come as little surprise that many historians credit the birth of country music to have taken place in Bristol TN with the coming together of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers to record in 1927.
Blues, Soul and the birth of rock n’ roll
This section of the trip can’t really be tied to one place. It embodies a continual development of change that often reflected and represented social and cultural practices much further afield. There is Clarksdale MS where at the cross road of the Highway 61 and highway 49 Robert Johnson infamously sold his soul to the devil for his need to play the blues. There is Memphis TN, home to Sun Studios which graced the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis and Roy Oribson. Muscle Shoals AL and the ‘Muscle Shoals sound’. Powerful and soulful it has come to represent greats such as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and maintaining the legacy with musicians such as Jason Isbell. Also, we’re heading through Tupelo MS which was the birthplace of the lesser known Elvis Presley.
Nashville is quite possibly the epicentre of America’s songs of sorrow, woe and tractors. Home to the Bluebird and the mother church of country music this one city contains all the shades of country and has hosted some greats such as Loretta Lynn, Gillian Welch, Hank Williams and even now some of the new generation of country stars, such as Taylor Swift, are still is residence.
Maybe this trip will bring some kind of truth or enlightenment or maybe it’ll be a disappointment. Either way, it’s booked, I’m going and it’s going to be the trip of a life time…
Susie Jones is a Lancashire born singer-songwriter who is truly Transatlantic bringing Northern English Charm to the world of Americana . She is currently recording a new album . More about her music can be discovered at www. susiejones.net. ( p.s we, at Acoustic Roots, think she is very good )