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The Beautiful Music All Around Us


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Uncovering the hidden histories of iconic American folksongs

About the Author

Musician, recording artist, and writer Stephen Wade is best known for his long-running stage performances of Banjo Dancing and On the Way Home. He also produced and annotated the Rounder CD collection that gave rise to this book, A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings. Since 1996 his occasional commentaries on folksongs and traditional tunes have appeared on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


"Extraordinary. . . . A masterpiece of humane scholarship."--The Wall Street Journal"These stories and the recordings - capturing the voices of everyday people, not pop stars - simply crackle."-Los Angeles Times

"Offers an understanding not only of a musical thread vital to American culture, but of America itself."--Publishers Weekly

"Astonishing. . . . These stories are compelling, moving and revelatory."--Chicago Tribune

"As compelling as a good detective story, this investigation of field recordings of a bygone era will be embraced by music fans. This book reminds readers that they don't need pop icons to experience passionate music."--
Library Journal

"A unique, personal, thoroughly documented book, a labor of love. . . . valuable for those with an interest in folklore, popular music, southern cultures, and race relations. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"A thorough and creative exploration of the histories of recordings made for the Library of Congress in the 1930s and the artists who made them. Stephen Wade has gathered a prodigious quantity of new information and left no stone unturned. Of interest and use to anyone interested in American music."--Norm Cohen, author of Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong

"Superbly illustrated and with a hundred pages of notes and bibliography, The Beautiful Music All Around Us is at once an essential reference work and a thoroughly enjoyable book."--Times Literary Supplement

"In revisiting the human transactions at the heart of these recordings, Wade essentially grants the songs a new life for a new age. Among the book's many virtues are its lively and imaginative narrative interpolations, its vivid song descriptions, its fascinating investigative work, its many colorful personalities and absorbing life-histories, and its often astonishingly trenchant accumulation of detail. A magisterial, monumental book of tremendous sympathy, scope, and imaginativeness."--Robert Cantwell, author of If Beale Street Could Talk: Music, Community, Culture

"Wonderfully evocative of a lost America."--Shepherd Express

"Combines the persistence of an investigative reporter with the loving hand of a storyteller who keeps peeling away the layers of the lives of his subjects. . . . Remarkable."--The Christian Science Monitor

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