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American roots music

American roots music is a broad category of music including country music, bluegrass, gospel, ragtime, jug bands, Appalachian folk[?], blues, Tejano and zydeco, and Native American music[?]. The music is considered "American" because it is either native to the United States or here varied enough from its origins that it struck musicologists as something distinctly new; it is considered "roots music" because it served as the basis of music later developed in the United States, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.

Roots musical forms reached their most expressive and varied forms in the first two to three decades of the 20th century. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were extremely important in disseminating these musical styles to the rest of the country, as Delta blues masters, itinerant honky tonk singers and Latino and Cajun musicians spread to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The growth of the recording industry in the same approximate period was also important; increased possible profits from music placed pressure on artists, songwriters and label executives to replicate previous hit songs. This meant that fads like Hawaiian slack-key guitar[?] never died out completely as rhythms or instruments or vocal stylings were incorporated into disparate genres. By the 1950s, all the forms of roots music had led to pop-oriented forms. Folk musicians like the Kingston Trio[?], Latin chachacha and salsa artists, blues-derived rock and roll and rockabilly, pop-gospel, doo wop and R&B (later secularized further as soul music) and the Nashville sound in country music all modernized and expanded the musical palette of the country.

Notable roots musicians include Woody Guthrie, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Mahalia Jackson, and Washington Phillips[?]. More recent musicians who occasionally or consistently play roots music include Keb' Mo'[?], Bela Fleck, Iron & Wine, and Ricky Skaggs[?]. Additionally, the soundtrack to the 2000 comedy film O Brother, Where Art Thou? is exclusively roots music, performed by Alison Kraus[?], The Fairfield Four[?], Emmylou Harris, Norman Blake[?] and others.

American roots music was the subject of a documentary series on PBS in 2001.

Blues Inarguably the most influential form of roots music, and possibly the most important musical genre in the history of the world, the blues developed at the end of the 19th century. Deriving from work songs[?] developed by African-American slaves, the blues was very simple, with little or even no accompaniment, and extremely rhythmic. In the 1920s, blues started to gain its first major mainstream success in the United States and soon diversified in the next decade, when Mississippi delta blues artists fled depression and drought to cities like Kansas City, Memphis, Chicago and elsewhere. Soon, an electric form arose in the 1940s; with a very dance-able beat, the electric blues soon gained some popularity and, by the 1950s, had evolved into what we know now as rock and roll. Since then, blues vocal and instrumental styling has influenced musical forms from the United States to Iceland, Japan and South Africa.

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