I just noticed that the Grammys are tonight! Earlier, I posted a lovely winter hiking video from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and I mentioned the organization’s surprise nomination for a Grammy award. Since the ceremony starts in a matter of hours, I thought you might like to learn more.
The album, Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music, compiles area recordings that date back to 1939. This was a tumultuous time in the Smokies. Area residents were moving off their land–many forcibly–to accommodate the new park. Knowing that this was his last chance to capture voices from the region, a young man by the name of Joseph S. Hall loaded up early recording equipment and started driving through the hills and hollers.
He’d been hired by the Park Service to document the language and stories of a disappearing culture, but along the way, he captured the real music of the Smokies. Old ballads, blues songs, folk music, gospel, and country–he found and recorded the final remnants of the area’s varied musical traditions.
For years these songs could only be heard by visiting the association’s archives, but in 2010, the group made them publicly available. Describing the album’s goal, its liner notes say, “It is hoped that wider dissemination of these historically important recordings will deepen appreciation of the cultural traditions—especially, but not exclusively, the music traditions—of the people who once called the Smokies home.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d say the album’s done a darned good job of it! Whether it wins tonight or not, the exposure that comes from a Grammy nomination has drawn new and needed attention to the ways of mountain people. If you watch the awards, be sure to listen for the Best Historical Album category and clap like mad when they call out our Smoky Mountain friends.
And while you’re waiting for the big moment, you can listen to clips, read excellent liner notes on the creation of these recordings, and purchase the album itself from the Great Smoky Mountains Association. You can also congratulate folks at the organization over on their Facebook page.