A! Magazine for the Arts

Ted Olson

Ted Olson

Olson lectures on the tradition of ballads

June 26, 2018

Ted Olson, a music historian, lectures on the ballad tradition’s passage from the British Isles to Appalachia Monday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center as part of the Virginia Highlands Festival.

The Appalachian ballad tradition - ballads are songs that tell stories - can be traced back to England, Scotland and Ireland. While ballads have generally been ignored by the recording industry, the tradition is alive among a new generation of singers, most of whom learned their ballads directly from older singers or from recordings, or both.

Olson discusses the origins of Appalachian balladry many centuries ago in the British Isles, and he explains how Old World ballads were revived in Appalachia and how new ballads emerged in the New World. Additionally, he plays and interprets select recordings of ballads from an album he produced entitled “Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition,” featuring ballad performances by leading roots musicians from Appalachia and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

Olson teaches Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Studies at East Tennessee State University. For his work as a music historian Olson has won an Independent Music Award and an International Bluegrass Music Association Award, and he has been nominated for six Grammy Awards.