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/.

NPR

Diversity Sells — But Hollywood Remains Overwhelmingly White, Male

Women and minorities continue to be under-represented on TV and in film, both behind and in front of the camera, according to a new study — even though diverse films and shows make more money.
NPR

Silly, Saucy, Scary: Photos Show The Many Faces Of Ugly Fruit

Wonky produce can take on absurdly entertaining shapes. But one food activist says learning to love these crazy contours is key to stopping mounds of food waste.
NPR

Is The Battle Won And Done For Those Who Fought For Net Neutrality?

In a 3-2 vote on Feb. 26, the FCC approved new rules, regulating broadband internet as a public utility. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Mat Honan, San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News, about the political implications of the vote.
NPR

A Neuroscientist Weighs In: Why Do We Disagree On The Color Of The Dress?

Robert Siegel speaks with Dr. Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at Wellesley College, about the dress that has the whole Internet asking: What color is it?

Leave a Comment

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