My feature on Sam Amidon ran yesterday at the Wall Street Journal. Have a read. A favorite insight of Amidon's that came up in the article but didn't appear in the piece is this:
When we go and listen to field recordings of folk songs in this day and age, you’re often listening to a recording from the 70s of someone still playing the banjo in Kentucky. By definition, that person is an outsider by that point. If he’s still playing old-time fiddle up in the mountains in the 70s it meant you hadn’t gotten a television, that things had passed you by. you’re still an outlier. The trajectory of field recordings in the 20th century. The ones from the 1920s, the technical quality of playing is really high, everything is enthused, it’s quite professional, almost. Whereas the stuff from later on gets really strange. They’re recording someone in their house and his teeth are falling out, a baby is crying in the background, he forgets half the words…there’s a really eccentric quality to those recordings.