The rich musical heritage of the Ozarks is obvious.

It is important, however, to look deeper, celebrating and understanding what defines Ozark music, how it came to be, and what it will become.

It is also important to know that Ozark music is not purely acoustic. The early television show, The Ozark Jubilee (based in Springfield, Missouri), was a pioneer in popularizing what would become commercial country music.

And many do not realize that Ben Moody and Amy Lee (of Evanescence) developed their skills and style in the southern Ozarks region near Little Rock.

Thus, State of the Ozarks is dedicated to celebrating the Ozarks’ music heritage, past, present and future.

…Roots Music

by Joshua Heston

“Roots Music” is a fancy term, one used for some of the most compelling — though decidedly least fancy — music ever made.

All-American Bluegrass Girl Rhonda Vincent works tirelessly to popularize bluegrass and acoustic music. Sally Mountain Festival, Greentop, Missouri. July 02, 2005.

Roots music, or acoustic music, or simply put, the unadorned music of the American heartland, comes from many places and in many forms. And while the Ozarks culture certainly doesn’t have a trademark on roots music, the culture is still deeply embedded here.

That culture comes to mind whenever I listen to the spirituals like Well, Well, Well recorded by the Foggy River Boys. Or visit with Gordon McCann. Or drive through Mountain View, Arkansas.

Our music. Our voice. Our song.

Sassafras grove, Baker Creek Farm, Mansfield, MO. Photo credit, J. Heston. October 24, 2007.

And Springfield, Missouri. Today, it’s easy to overlook the gritty, bluesy, rootsy home of folks like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Big Smith.

Perhaps it is all the traffic and the Battlefield Mall with its Abercrombie & Fitch and Build-A-Bear Workshop stores that tends to distract us (and not necessarily for the better). Beneath all the plastic commercialism there is a grit and a soul: a strange mix one part rural hillbilly and one part urban ghetto.

I’m really not sure how it works even now.

But take a listen to Ha Ha Tonka’s Caney Mountain or the Daredevil’s If You Wanna Get To Heaven (You Gotta Raise A Little Hell) and you start to understand what it feels like.

It is where hillbilly meets urban prairie — ultimately some truly fascinating stuff.

— from August 8, 2010, State of the Ozarks Weekly Issue 143

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