Yesterday was the 4th of July (Independence Day) in America, so the tunes I've chosen are all from that beautiful, complex, and music-filled country.
Above: "Wayfaring Stranger," an American folk and Gospel classic, performed by the MacArthur-Award-winning musician and music historian Rhiannon Giddens. Giddens comes from North Carolina (where she was a founding member of the bluegrass/roots band Carolina Chocolate Drops), and now works internationally in a number of musical genres. In this performance she's accompanied by Scottish musician Phil Cunningham, filmed in Northern Ireland in 2017.
Below: "Black is the Color," a song found in the North American folk tradition as well as in the British Isles. (We listened to an Irish version here two weeks ago.) Giddens recorded it for first solo album, Tomorrow is My Turn (2015), backed up by her colleagues from Carolina Chocolate Drops and others.
Above: John Hiatt's "Crossing Muddy Water" performed by I'm With Her (Sara Watkins, Aoife O'Donovan, Sarah Jarosz) at the Greyfox Bluegrass Festival in 2019. The trio has released one album so far (See You Around, 2018), but each member has several fine solo albums and recordings with Nickel Creek (Sara Watkins) and Crooked Still (Aoife O'Donovan).
Below: "Boll Weevil," an old Delta blues song performed by singer, fiddler, and banjo player Jake Blount (from Rhode Island), whose work explores the roots of Black and indigenous stringband music. The song appears on Blount's first album, Spider Tales (2020).
Above: "Send Brighter Days" performed by the great American blues guitarist Eric Bibb (from New York City) -- accompanied by his wife, Ulrika Bibb, at their home in Sweden during the pandemic last summer. The song, with its roots in the American Spiritual tradition, was written by Eric Bibb and Malian griot Habib Koité.
Below: "The Roving Cowboy/Avarguli (阿瓦尔古丽)" performed by composer and musician Wu Fei (from Beijing) and clawhammer banjo master Abigail Washburn (based in Nashville). The song appears on their collaborative album Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn (2020), which merges American old-time music with Chinese folksong to demonstrate the connective power of music across disparate cultures. It's simply stunning.
Above: "There Used To Be Horses" by singer/songwriter Amy Speace (based in Nashville). The song is from her new album of the same name, released earlier this year.
After that heartbreaker, let's end with: "New Star" by Watchhouse (Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz), a folk/roots duo formerly known as Mandolin Orange. It's from their new album of the same name, due out in August.
Happy Birthday, America.
The painting above is "My Shanty (Lake George)" is by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). Although she's now best known for her iconic paintings of New Mexico in the American south-west, O'Keeffe also spent part of each year back east with her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who had an apartment in New York City and a country retreat by Lake George in the Adirondaks. I recommend the updated edition of Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life by Roxana Robinson if you'd like to know more about this remarkable woman.