Yankee Twang

Country and Western Music in New England
Author: Clifford R. Murphy
A groundbreaking treatment of a region overlooked in the recent surge of country music scholarship
Cloth – $45
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 10/20/2014
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About the Book

Merging scholarly insight with a professional guitarist's sense of the musical life, Yankee Twang delves into the rich tradition of country & western music that is played and loved in the mill towns and cities of the American northeast. Scholar and musician Clifford R. Murphy draws on a wealth of ethnographic material, interviews, and encounters with recorded and live music to reveal the central role of country and western in the social lives and musical activity of working-class New Englanders.

As Murphy shows, an extraordinary multiculturalism sets New England country and western music apart from other regional and national forms. Once segregated at work and worship, members of different ethnic groups used the country and western popularized on the radio and by barnstorming artists to come together at social events, united by a love of the music. Musicians, meanwhile, drew from the wide variety of ethnic musical traditions to create the New England style.

But the music also gave--and gives--voice to working-class feeling. Murphy explores how the Yankee love of country and western emphasizes the western, reflecting the longing of many blue collar workers for the mythical cowboy's life of rugged but fulfilling individualism. Indeed, many New Englanders use country and western to comment on economic disenfranchisement and express their resentment of a mass media, government, and Nashville music establishment that they believe neither reflects their experiences nor considers them equal participants in American life.

* Publication of this book was supported by a grant from the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund” or a short form, “Supported by the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund

About the Author

Clifford R. Murphy was a member of the seminal New Hampshire alternative country bands Say ZuZu and Hog Mawl. He has a doctorate in ethnomusicology and is Director of Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council.

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"This book will be welcomed by those interested in American culture and country and western music and by fans of working country musicians. Recommended."--Choice

"Clifford Murphy's Yankee Twang, an in-depth study of the history and current status of country music in New England, stands as a virtually unique and exceptionally welcome addition to the country music bookshelf. . . . A valuable work and a very welcome addition to the literature on country music. One hopes that it might help pave the way for more studies of country music in regions outside the South."--ARSC Journal

"Yankee Twang offers important insights to scholars of regional country music, and when its theoretical frame works to erase untenable biases that leave out certain empirical evidence, Yankee Twang provides fruitful (re)interpretation of the genre's commercial/folk continuum."--Journal of Folklore Research


"Contains a wealth of passionate, intrepid, and highly original research on a virtually undocumented and important regional sociomusical history. . . . I want this book on my shelf. It's a winner."--Aaron Fox, author of Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture

"An important contribution to the growing intellectual dialog about American country and western music. . . . The book offers unique insights into issues of class, ethnicity, and region."--Neil Rosenberg, author of Bluegrass: A History