Appalachia is still a fertile breeding ground for new roots artists.
Appalachia has exerted a massive influence on American roots music over the years, being the region where the original Scottish and Irish settler’s music from Scotland and Ireland mixed with the blues of the black population to create something that is at once familiar but also different. The music was homemade, and played by friends and family rather than by professional musicians. This process is still happening today as the latest musician to emerge from the area, Philip Bowen, uses his Appalachian experiences as inspiration for his album ‘Old Kanawha’. Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with Philip Bowen over Zoom in Detroit to discuss the stories behind ‘Old Kanawha’ and why he thinks there is a vampire in Appalachia. He explains how when he was growing up music was everywhere and at every gathering, including birthdays, weddings and funerals, guests would bring their instruments. He also hints at the challenges posed by Appalachia as he explains that his grandfather’s brother died of black lung, and how serious the current opioid crisis is in Appalachia. As far as his own musical influences are concerned he lists James Taylor, The Milk Carton Kids, Watchhouse, John Prine, and Jason Isbell as modern-day inspirational acts who are also very good storytellers. He also explains how social media has played a big part in his success to date. Finally, he explains that the Scottish influence in Appalachia is still strong as he names Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit as his favourite band of all time.