Sam Amidon: Reshaping An American Folk Tradition | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Sam Amidon: Reshaping An American Folk Tradition

Play associated audio

Shape-note singing is a communal form of music that began in New England 200 years ago, mostly from townsfolk without any musical training. It's music that surrounded folk singer Sam Amidon during his childhood in Vermont.

"These are some of the melodies that are the deepest-seated for me," Amidon says. "That was the world I was born into. And in terms of the shape-note music being a social tradition, it was something that happened, yeah, once a month in our town. You know, it would move to different people's houses, sometimes ours. It was a potluck on a Saturday afternoon."

Now, in a new album titled Bright Sunny South, Amidon reimagines the song his parents sang. Amidon says he takes an old tune that gets stuck in his head and ends up adding something new.

"I often am playing the guitar, and I'll write a guitar part that's totally just on its own," Amidon says. "And then I'll realize that some melody that has been bonking around in there in my brain, you know, will fit over what I've written on the guitar."

Another one of those melodies came from 1920s banjo player Dock Boggs. "Bright Sunny South" is actually a Civil War-era song, about a young soldier leaving home to fight.

"I knew this song for a long time, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that I really started to sing it. And for my version, I was playing those two chords on the guitar, and that song came back out — and I'm sure it did for a reason," Amidon says, laughing.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Which Peruvian Artists To See At The Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Susana Baca,. Los Wembler’s de Iquitos and more suggestions from WAMU 88.5's Bandwidth.fm music site.
NPR

Do Organic Farmers Need Special Seeds And Money To Breed Them?

Organic farmers say they need crop varieties that were bred specifically for conditions on their farms. Clif Bar & Company decided to back their cause with up to $10 million in grants.
NPR

Former Sen. Jim Webb Announces Run For Democratic Nomination

Webb, 69, represented Virginia for a single term beginning in 2007. He says the country "needs a fresh approach to solving problems."
NPR

How Salt + Car Battery = Clean Water

A clever device uses technology developed by the military to make chlorine quickly and cheaply. The goal is to give schools and hospitals around the world an easy way to purify water.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.