Watch PBS Arts from the Blue Ridge Mountains on November 4 at 9pm EST.
The banjo's been called America's quintessential instrument, perhaps because its long and contested history has encompassed so many popular musical forms, from black folk styles and the 19th century minstrel show, to blues, ragtime, early jazz, old time folk and bluegrass. One of the biggest challenges of making Give Me the Banjo was trying to cover the full range and breadth of music that the banjo has helped to shape.
Ask Dr. Ralph Stanley what he's been playing for the last half century and he'll call it "old time mountain music." Enjoy these diverse performances from Cynthia Sayer, Taj Mahal, Rhiannon Giddens and Abigail Washburn. For more on the banjo's diverse styles and history, visit The Banjo Project.
Also, discover the Blue Ridge Mountain Art Scene at UNCTV.
There's no denying the power of Ralph Stanley's singing and his distinctive banjo picking, and the recordings he made with his late brother Carter are landmarks of American music. The Stanley Brothers were born and raised in Dickenson County, VA, where the town of Clintwood built the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center. Old time music has some of its deepest roots here.