American Folklife Center. Library of Congress. The Center comprises an extraordinary collection of audio recordings, photographs, stories, and other materials regarding American music, providing archive collections, early field recordings, and research assistance. Most of the Center’s resources are accessible online.
Wirz American Music. Website by Steven Wirz that comprises an extensive, searchable database of musicians, including blues. It includes biographies, photos, discographies and more.
Piedmont blues (also known as East Coast, or Southeastern blues) refers primarily to a guitar style that is comparable in sound to ragtime piano. The style is characterized by intricate fingerpicking in which the thumb alternates bass strings in a rhythmic pattern the treble strings. The highly syncopated guitar style connects closely with an earlier string-band tradition integrating ragtime, blues, and country dance songs.
The style originated in the Piedmont region of the United States, the hilly area which lies between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Appalachian Mountains from central Georgia to central Virginia. Played by both white and black musicians, it was regional folk music that remains to this day.
In the early twentieth century, influential artists such as Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake , Blind Willie McTell , Rev. Gary Davis , and Sonny Terry made Piedmont blues popular. Women were also masters of Piedmont guitar style, including Etta Baker and Elizabeth Cotten, whose “Freight Train” is one of the best-recognized fingerpicking guitar tunes.
Acoustic Blues in Washington
In addition to Archie Edwards, the Washington, DC, area has been home to several extraordinary blues musicians who jammed at his barbershop and who traveled nationally and internationally presenting the music of the Piedmont region.
Washington is especially proud that four Piedmont musicians from the area have been awarded National Heritage Fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts. The late songster/guitarist John Jackson (1924-2002) received the honor in 1986, and Piedmont guitarist/singer John Cephas (1930-2009) in 1989. In 2011, NEA awarded the heritage fellowships to Piedmont blues songster Warner Williams (1930-), who still drops by Archie’s Barbershop now and then to join in the Saturday jams. Then in 2017, NEA honored acoustic blues harmonicist Phil Wiggins (1954-), who serves on the board of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation (AEBHF).
The AEBHF carries on and promotes the Piedmont and acoustic blues tradition in Washington by holding the weekly Saturday acoustic jams, presenting concerts by guest artists, conducting music teaching workshops, and performing at community events. Many active participants and volunteers in the Archie’s community are professional musicians.
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