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. . clear[ing] away the mist and the moonshine . . ."(p.253).
Whether a historian, a musician, a collector, or a curious reader, America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century provides comprehensive information not only about the banjo, but also about its people, its cultures, its conflicts and personalities, its patents, its evolution, and its influence. Just pick up this book, feel its weight, and gaze at the 19th century fretless banjo on the cover with its scalloped-rim, beehive scroll, and the graceful ogee curving its way about the 5th string peg. The cover photo is just a taste compared to the invaluable assemblage of daguerreotypes, patent drawings, prints, and further photographs.
The close-ups of priceless inlay work and meticulous heel carvings leave the reader inspired and in awe. Such beauty, though, is undeniably set amongst the inhumane and grotesque minstrel origins of the banjo's popularity. Not only may we gaze upon the craft of the luthiers, but we are brought closer to the lives, anonymous and otherwise, of our past. The pictures tell their own story, each one of them, of displacement, of war, of survival, of ingenuity and risk, of brilliance, of spirit.