New River Historical Society will present a program of Appalachian music Saturday, March 16, at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern. The public is invited to attend.
The 2 p.m. program features Ricky Cox, an English and Appalachian studies teacher at Radford University. His presentation combines brief discussion with performance of the two major types of folksongs, ballads and lyrical folk songs, and illustrates qualities of the two.
The ballad always aims to tell a story, often of a sensational event such as a murder, a natural or man-made disaster like the sinking of a ship in a storm, or the wrecking of a train by a proud or unlucky engineer. Ballads also recall bad men (and women) and ill-fated love affairs. For a variety of reasons, ballads may retain their appeal through centuries.
Lyrical folk songs may also have a narrative component, but its primary function is to express an emotion, often an unpleasant one, such as grief, jealousy, fear or regret. “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” and “Gold Watch and Chain” are good examples of love-gone-wrong songs firmly established in the folk tradition of the Appalachians.
Performance of these and other songs will be accompanied mostly on guitar, but Cox will also perform a couple of old-time banjo tunes.
Cox is coordinator of the Farm at Selu, a component of RU’s Selu Conservancy. He is co-author of “The Water-Powered Mills of Floyd County, VA: Illustrated Histories 1770-2010,” the introduction to which appeared in the most recent edition of the New River Historical Society Journal.