“Minstrel of the Appalachians”

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“Minstrel of the Appalachians: The Story of Bascom Lamar Lunsford,” by Loyal Jones

” It is said that Bascom Lamar Lunsford would “cross hell on a rotten rail to get a folk song”—his Southern highlands folk-song compilations now constitute one of the largest collections of its kind in the Library of Congress—but he did much more than acquire songs. He preserved and promoted the Appalachian mountain tradition for generations of people, founding in 1928 the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, an annual event that has shaped America’s festival movement. Loyal Jones pens a lively biography of a man considered to be Appalachian music royalty. He also includes a “Lunsford Sampler” of ballads, songs, hymns, tales, and anecdotes, plus a discography of his recordings.

While towns and cities were burgeoning musically, trying to promote classical and art-forms over the simple songs of their ancestors, Bascom was desperately throwing his net to catch and hold onto these old time treasures. Loyal Jones has given much insight into the life and times of this amazing man. — Jean Ritchie

This is both a biography and an examination of Lunsford’s career dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Appalachian traditional culture. Jones’s study offers a significant contribution to our ‘new’ culture in the context of folk music. Loyal is an excellent storyteller, and his genial North Carolina manner is perfectly suited to the subject—there is a real affinity between Jones’s authorial voice and Lunsford’s personality. — Ron Pen

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