Getting to the roots of Roots Music

The Grascals

As the Hylton Center prepares to welcome American roots music to Hylton on the Hill in September with the fiery Bumper Jacksons (9/19) and GRAMMY-nominated The Grascals (9/26), we thought we’d take a moment to talk all-things-roots music. Where does American roots music come from? What is it about the genre that makes it so distinctive?

The term “American roots music” (also known simply as “roots music”) originated in the 20th century and was defined as blues and folk song styles with lyrical themes that re-counted the hopes, sorrows, and challenges of everyday people living in the rural South. As the 20th century witnessed advancement in technology and globalization, Americans were brought together from various economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. A newfound musical melting pot formed as a result, and folk and blues music sung by poor and lower middle class white and Black people in the South began to influence the music entertainment in the city. The segregation of white and Black audiences attending performances also decreased the more roots music became popular across the United States.

In the 1960s when awareness of roots music had grown exponentially, musicians and music scholars of the era started to borrow some of the distinct traits of roots music being played in American communities. Folk music was considered one of the first music styles to define American roots music, and musicians like Bob Dylan popularized the often acoustic performing style of community-based folk artists. Today, American roots music is used to refer to a broad range of musical styles including blues, Bluegrass, folk, gospel, and traditional country, among others. What makes American roots music so unique is its appeal to all audiences and its ability to speak to—and of—the human condition.

Come experience all that American roots music has to offer at Hylton on the Hill this month!

( “American Roots Music : Into the Classroom - Historical Background.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, )