Drink Small Photos | Digital Traditions

Few vernacular art forms have made as impressive a mark on American culture as the Blues. From the expressive experiences of African-American life, skilled musicians fashioned a distinctive idiom that has helped shape American music. The Piedmont Blues, a special regional distillation of the art, is a light finger-picked style that blossomed in the Carolinas in the early 1900s.

Once heard, the Piedmont Blues is difficult to forget, a blending of lighthearted grace and strong passion. Drink Small is one of the leading practitioners of Piedmont Blues today. A native of Bishopville in Lee County, Small began playing guitar as a teenager in the 1940s. He started out in a gospel band called The Spiritualaires and travelled extensively throughouth the region. With roots in both gospel and Blues, he infuses his music with unparalled passion and intimacy.

Now based out of the capitol city of Columbia, a lifetime of performing has taken him to countless festivals and venues including repeat performances at the Chicago Blues Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Arkansas (now the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival), the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Drink Small received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1990.