Tracing the Roots of Country Music

In 1961, 29-year-old John Cohen, then an up-and-coming photographer and musician, left his home in New York, hopped into a van, and drove south. His mission? Collect the songs and sounds of Appalachia’s old time musicians. The music he recorded on that trip—in the hollers, bar rooms, living rooms, and front porches of small Southern towns—and on the trips that followed would not only influence the course of American music but would eventually be deemed so significant that the Library of Congress would acquire his archive.

Cohen also took photographs. And those pictures, most of which have never been seen before—the negatives sat forgotten in a basement for sixty years—are now collected in a revelatory new book, Speed Bumps on a Dirt Road.

Click through to see a gallery of his photographs.

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