Americans Old and New
Northern Minnesota to Douds, Iowa
The most musically varied section of the series, Part One gives a taste of the myriad flavors of the contemporary American melting pot, from the Native American Ojibwe to the early Scandinavian and German immigrants, to such recent arrivals in the area as Laotian Hmong and Mexican communities. There are contemporary urban sounds, from acoustic singer/songwriters to gospel, r&b, punk and alternative rock. As the river grows from a trickle that one can step across to a majestic expanse of water dotted with riverboats and barges, the music shows the breadth and variety of cultures that have developed along its banks.
Galena, Illinois to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
In the center of the country, communities have deep roots, fed by the constant flow of commerce along the river. This is where north and south meet, the rougher, rural styles coming face to face with big city sophistication. Hillbilly and blues are honed and polished into bluegrass, rock 'n' roll and soul music. St. Louis was a historic trading center, where goods that traveled up the river were put on trains to the coasts, and where people from all over the country came together, overlapping and interacting.
La Center, Kentucky to Jackson, Mississippi
As we move south, we can feel the music getting wilder. Memphis was the crucible that forged the sounds of rockabilly and soul, and it remains a recording center. In the Mississippi Delta, music is deeply rooted in the soil. Even the pop sounds remain close to their roots, and all secular musical styles come back to the blues. Gospel is at its most heartfelt and powerful, whether in small country churches or climbing the national charts.
Louisiana, Where Music is King
Natchez, Mississippi to Delacroix Island
In the bayous of Louisiana, country and blues come together with French styles, in the potent dance rhythms of Cajun and zydeco. New Orleans is almost a world unto itself, with its old French culture and its Caribbean orientation. There is the vibrant street life of a tropical port, the rhumba-influenced second-line rhythms of New Orleans R&B and several generations of jazz horns. A touch of the vanishing Spanish culture of the Gulf islands adds a wistful close.
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