Bookbinder surveys American folk music from native American traditions and English and African origins to the present, with an emphasis on social background and subject matter. Without bothering much about where folk music leaves off and jazz, rock, or other forms take over, he follows black music from slaves' work songs and field hollers (noting that many of the slaves' religious songs had ""double meanings"" referring to freedom) through blues, the ""race"" recordings of the Twenties, rhythm-and-blues, gospel, boogie, and so on--and traces white forms from early regional development through hillbilly, country western, labor and protest songs, the Greenwich Village revival of the early Sixties, and the later bluegrass revival. Song lyrics are scattered through the text and there are a few biographical sketches of folk performers, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Bob Dylan. Bookbinder's history is short on color and his commentary won't turn anyone on to folk music or provide enthusiasts with any new approach to listening. But for those who want to find out about the subject systematically, he provides some orientation and a fairly extensive list of readings, lead sheets, and recordings.