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Bluegrass Breakdown

The Making of the Old Southern Sound
Awards and Recognition:

Winner of an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, 1985.

“Best single academic book on bluegrass”

Bluegrass Breakdown is an expansive foray into the makings of bluegrass. More than any other book of its kind, it gets to the roots of a uniquely American music that is deeply linked to working-class ideals and romanticism.

Robert Cantwell engages the historical background, commercial origins, internal workings, and cultural and social significance of popular, old-time music to provide a unique musicological and sociological perspective. Well versed in the history of the tradition and equally as interested in those who listen to the music as in those who create it, Cantwell links bluegrass to its hillbilly roots in Appalachia and shows how the music was transformed by African American folk traditions, the influence of jazz, ragtime, blues, and country music, and the growth of radio and recording technology.

"Bluegrass Breakdown is a seminal work in its field. . . . Robert Cantwell has had the foresight, the initiative, and the intellectual creativity to create a model for explaining a major force in southern and, indeed, American culture."--Journal of Southern History

"A thoroughly researched and often brilliant attempt to place bluegrass music into a historical, as well as musicological, cultural, and imaginative context. Bluegrass Breakdown is, without a doubt, the most thought provoking work on bluegrass--and its father, Bill Monroe--I have ever read."--Jon Hartley Fox, Bluegrass Unlimited

Robert Cantwell teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His other books are Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture and When We Were Good: The Folk Revival.

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