Taking Down the Fiddle

Letter From Alabama

The 75th anniversary of the publication of I’ll Take My Stand ought to cause traditionalist Southerners and other Americans to look closely not only at the current state of our society but at their own personal spheres of community, family, and church.  The authors warned that the South was in danger of being snatched from its organic agrarian roots and given over to the artificial and contrived, if it accepted modern industrialism.  Music is one of the areas deeply affected by the triumph of modern industrialism.

Andrew Nelson Lytle, one of the Twelve Southerners who contributed to ITMS, admonished his fellow Southerners in 1930 to “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.”  I live in a place that, perhaps unwittingly, has taken Lytle’s sage advice for some four decades.  The Shoals, a four-city area (population 63,000) in northwest Alabama, comprises Florence (on the north bank of the Tennessee River) and Sheffield, Tuscumbia, and Muscle Shoals (on the south bank).  It is a largely white but poor region set in a beautiful river valley bordered on the south by a range of hills and mountains along the Tennessee River Divide.  Since the passage of NAFTA, the area has lost some 5,000 textile jobs, and the economic prospects of the Shoals are not favorable.  Life has always been tough here for the Scots-Irish and those who settled here after them because...

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