Play of a Fiddle gives voice to people who steadfastly hold to and build
on the folk traditions of their ancestors. While encountering the influences
of an increasingly overwhelming popular culture, the men and women
in this book follow age-old pattersn of folklife and custom, making their
own music and dance in celebration of them.
Shedding new light on a region that maintains ties to the cultural identities
of its earliest European and African inhabitants, Gerald Milnes shows how folk
music in West Virginia borrowed rhythmic, melodic, and vocal forms from
the Celtic, Anglo, Germanic, and African traditions. These elements have
come together to create a body of music tied more to place and circumstance
than to ethnicity.
Milnes explores the legacies of the state's best-known performers and musical
families. He discusses religious music, balladeering, the influence of black
musicians and styles, dancing, banjo and dulcimer traditions, and the
importance of old-time music as a cultural pillar of West Virginia life.
A musician himself, Milnes has been collecting songs and stories in West
Virginia for more than twenty-five years. The result is an enjoyable book
filled with anecdotes, local history, and keen observations about musical
Gerald Milnes is the Coordinator of Folklife Programs at the Augusta
Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College.