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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,SirCoughsalot Authenticity & Showmanship - Impossible? (29) Authenticity & Showmanship - Impossible? 22 Nov 11

Friends, I wanna address something that has been bothering me for a considerably long time, but I'm only now able to bring forward in a halfway articulate manner. It seems to me that a lot of fans and performers of old-time music are more concerned with "authenticity"- whatever that means - than an entertaining performance. All they care about are warbling vocals, plunky banjo, and whatever else goes along with authenticity, and seem to show a complete disdain for anyone who makes an effort to entertain. I was reading a review of one of Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest shows and saw this:

"With Cousin Emmy one sees this phoney, crowd-pleasing humor and mindless chatter carried to a truly disgusting extreme. Her antics and protestations of undying love for whoever might be watching are the nadir of what was once and honest, straight-forward tradition of singing the old tunes of our ancestors. "

I'm sorry, but what's wrong with crowd pleasing humor? What's wrong with trying to keep people entertained? It wouldn't have bothered me so much if it didn't seem to sum up an attitude I'm seeing more and more frequently in old time music circles. And people wonder why old time music doesn't have a bigger audience! People are too concerned with trying to give lectures and history lessons than entertain people. Cisco Houston said:

"There's always a form of theater that things take; even back in the Ozarks, as far as you want to go. People gravitate to the best singer...We have people today who go just the other way, and I don't agree with them. Some of our folksong exponents seem to think you have to go way back in the hills and drag out the worst singer in the world before it's authentic. Now, this is nonsense...Just because he's old and got three arthritic fingers and two strings left on the banjo doesn't prove anything."

I am inclined to agree with him. So friends, please share your thoughts on this with me. Are showmanship and old time music incompatible? What is wrong with showmanship in this music? Why are people so hostile towards it?

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