One of the benefits of the folk revival of the 60s was a lot of people went out and shot documentaries of the aging musicians of the South, at times when a lot of rural musical traditions were nearing death. I don’t know that any of them are in fact dead. I think there are still shape singing communities and if any kind of crazy rural music might have a shorter shelf life today, that’d be one candidate. But there aren’t many people doing the old-time Delta blues who are living on a farm in the Delta and there might still be plenty of bluegrass bands in eastern Kentucky, but there’s not that many pre-bluegrass musicians.
Tonight’s film, sent to me by a friend after I put up that ridiculous North Carolina travel film last week, is The End of an Old Song, directed by John Cohen of the Lost City Ramblers in 1969. It is a profile of an old-time North Carolina singer named Dillard Chandler, who is a kind of drifter, small-farmer, and amazing representative of this tradition. There’s some other people too–check out that crazy homemade fiddle later in the piece. It seems to end abruptly, but that’s just the YouTube version cutting out right before the credits. If you want to watch the credits, you can check it all out on Folkstreams, but I can’t see any way to embed from that site.