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Plot & Details

When First Unto This Country narrates the origins of American roots music and follows its development through the 1920s. When Africans and Europeans founded the new world in the 17th century, each ethnic group brought its unique musical heritage to the new world. It was the combination of these different heritages that created a uniquely American music, or, American roots music. At the beginning of the 20th century, scholars and musicians became more aware of this musical legacy. At first, traveling musicians had spread blues, folk songs, and "hillbilly" music. The Fisk Jubilee Singers traveled widely in the 1870s, popularizing African-American spirituals. Later, the phonograph and radio accelerated the process, carrying local sounds beyond their region of origin. Ralph Peer recorded both Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family in 1927 in Bristol, TN, while WSM in Nashville began to broadcast a Saturday night barn dance in 1925, later to be called the Grand Ole Opry. When First Unto This Country includes rare footage of country music founder Rodgers and blues legend Son House, and interviews with Ricky Skaggs, Bonnie Raitt, and Pete Seeger.

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