Country, Western & Gospel Music

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Although all hillbilly music sounds monotonously alike to the urban eardrum, it includes many types of music.
The qualities Satherley says must always be present in fine hillbilly music are simplicity of language, an emotional depth in the music, sincerity in the rendition, and an in­digenous genuineness of dialect and twang. "I would never think of hiring a Mississippi boy to play in a Texas band," he says. "Any Texan would know right off it was wrong."
The Wreck on the Highway, a dirge-like opus composed and first sung by Roy Acuff, has all the qualities in per­fection that Satherley looks for. It is sung by a soloist and a chorus. The soloist, Mr. Acuff, has just returned from the scene of a dreadful automobile accident, and he asks, rhetorically, who was driving and who was killed. After pointing out that at the scene he saw whiskey and blood running together, he inquires if they heard anyone pray. The chorus replies that they didn't hear nobody pray, dear brother. The lyric pursues its grim way, full of broken glass, more whiskey, moans and screams, and death laying her hand in destruction, and the insistent refrain that no­body was heard to pray.
But, above all, sincerity, even if it's awkward unpolished sincerity, is the criterion used to judge the performer. "A true folk singer who is not synthetic (Sic) can be recog­nized because he doesn't 'do' a song; he cries it out with his heart and soul," Satherley says. He remembers a sullen lean-jawed mountaineer whom he chanced upon in Hatties-burg, Mississippi, many years ago. The man sang railroad chants passably well, and he had a robust voice, but he lacked the note of sincerity. Nevertheless, Satherley re­corded two of his numbers and gave him fifty dollars, a bottle of bourbon whiskey and a straw hat. The following June, when Satherley returned to Mississippi, he found that the mountaineer had really acquired vocal sincerity. During the interim, the man and his wife had quarreled over the fifty dollars and he had blown out her brains. When Sath­erley greeted him again, he was languishing in jail waiting his turn to be hanged. He had also composed a new song, The Hangman Blues, and this time he had really put his heart into it, and it was one of the most sincere Satherley

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III