The South’s attractions for our British kin

From the Condé Nast Traveler blog: ‘The British Are Coming — to the Deep South.’

“There’s been a real spike in demand in the last 18 months for the Deep South,” Alex Bentley, Audley’s head of North America, tells Condé Nast Traveler.[…] “There’s great growth in that part of the country—it’s now our third most-popular region after California and New England. There’s something there that really resonates with our clients.”

As to why this part of the country  is becoming more popular among tourists from Britain, Alex Bentley of the Audley travel agency says:

“In part, this renewed curiosity is rooted in a search for an authentically American experience—and an interest in our country’s culture and history, says Bentley.”

It could be that some British people know that many of their existing closest kin in the U.S. are found in the South. But most people in today’s South, no matter how Anglo-Saxon their names are, don’t realize or acknowledge that they are of English descent. Still, most tourists travel to find something outside their normal experience, while ironically, in this world of enforced ‘diversity’ one doesn’t have to travel outside one’s neighborhood to find the exotic and the foreign.

The article mentions that attractions like The Grand Ole Opry and Graceland bring some British tourists to the South. In other words, they are attracted by parts of the Southern heritage with which they are very familiar, and which resonate with them.

From my own experience, I know that many British people are country music fans, and also rockabilly fans. The South is the home of those musical styles and their respective subcultures. Some years ago, liberal Irish rocker Bono participated in a documentary about American music, especially country, blues, and rock, focusing on American music’s  supposed roots in Ireland. This seems to be mere Irish chauvinism. The fact is that American ‘roots music’ owes a great deal to British Isles traditions generally, but particularly to English traditional music and folk styles. This is only logical given that the great majority of the early settlers of Jamestown and the South generally, (as well as New England) were English. The pioneering work of Cecil Sharp, the English folk-song collector who documented the English origins of many of the old ballads still extant among the common folk of the South.

In 1915 Cecil Sharp, an important collector of traditional English ballads, was informed that many Appalachian singers were singing old English songs. Between 1916 and 1918 he toured western North Carolina and other Appalachian states, recording over 500 ballads with English roots. His most valuable source was Jane Hicks Gentry from Hot Springs, North Carolina. Gentry was a member of North Carolina’s renowned storytelling and singing family, the Harmons. She shared over 70 of her songs with Sharp. In 1917 Sharp published his collection of songs in a book entitled English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. The book is the most important source of traditional Appalachian songs. In 2000, the movie Songcatcher portrayed Sharp’s experience collecting ballads in Appalachia.”

So in some way, perhaps, English people find that our musical traditions (including the more modern variants) resonate with them on some level. I am a believer in the idea of ‘race-memory’, though some scoff, and I think that in some way we can’t understand with the rational mind, those of us of common stock find some kind of subtle connection with our blood kin, regardless of whether we were reared in the same country.

If that’s too esoteric for some, then this British attraction to the South may just be that the South is much more distinctive in its culture and its heritage than is the North. The South has its own musical forms (which actually encompasses most distinctively ‘American’ musical genres), its own dialect(s), customs, history, social mores, humor, and cuisine(s).

Not to disrespect the other regional cultures of this country; other regions have their charms. It’s a sad fact that all regional distinctions are being erased by the ‘diversity’ mandate, and by the nomadic lifestyles of many Americans, with few people staying in their birthplaces these days. All our regional and local distinctions are disappearing, whether quickly (as in the South, since the 1970s or so) or more slowly. So the tourists who are drawn to the unique regional cultures should come and see them before they are gone forever.

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