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Speed Bumps on a Dirt Road is a living document of country music’s founding fathers and mothers. John Cohen photographed musicians, at home, backstage at public events, from the wings at fiddlers’ conventions, out in country music parks, and in the studio for live radio show performances and recording sessions.
Back in 1961 it was still possible to know a few of America’s original country musicians from the ’20s and ’30s. Renowned and celebrated musician and artist John Cohen came of age at the confluence of old time and early bluegrass music, the historic intersection of traditional and folk music. Cohen traveled the country playing music, recording, and documenting what was to be a generation of musicians who would influence American music and culture for decades to come.
Traveling between the Union Grove fiddlers’ convention to the Grand Ole Opry to a coal celebration in Hazard, Kentucky, Cohen made historic photographs of performers like Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, the country’s very first all-bluegrass show, and a bluegrass bar in Baltimore, among much more. Speed Bumps on a Dirt Road presents old time music as the root of country music.
Includes photographs of: Flatt & Scruggs, fiddler “Eck” Robertson in Amarillo, Texas, Doc Watson, bluegrass fiddler “Tex” Logan, the Stanley Brothers at Sunset Park, Sara and Maybelle of the Carter Family, and Cousin Emmy, Alice & Hazel, and a dulcimer in a parking lot.
John Cohen was born in 1932 in New York City’s Sunnyside, Queens and now lives in Putnam Valley, New York. A 1957 Yale School of Art alumnus, Cohen studied with Josef Albers. Cohen was a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers with whom he toured and recorded from 1958-2008, making 20 albums. Cohen was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 and made nine field recordings of traditional music including Roscoe Holcomb and High Atmosphere and also served as a music consultant for T Bone Burnett’s Cold Mountain.
Cohen’s photographs are in collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Corcoran Museum and National Gallery in Washington D.C., as well as The Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The author of many books, Cohen’s photography publications include There Is No Eye and Young Bob, both published by powerHouse Books, as well as Past Present Peru, Cheap Rents, Here & Gone, and Walking In The Light, all published by Steidl.
Cohen was a professor emeritus of photography at SUNY Purchase College from 1972-1996 and a prolific filmmaker of 17 music documentaries including: The High Lonesome Sound, End of an Old Song, Musical Holdouts, Mountain Music of Peru, and Pericles In America, among others.