I’m excited about this, y’all. This will be a long blog post, so bear with me please.
We have a copy of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music on Smithsonian Folkways records. This is the first extensive collection of folk music in the U.S. and was edited-created by record collector Harry Smith for Moe Asch’s Folkways label in 1952. More on Harry in a bit…
Smithsonian/Folkways re-released this collection as a 3 CD set in 1997 and has a reproduction of Harry’s original handmade booklet along with extensive essays and an up-to-date description of the artists and songs that builds upon 45 years of research. All of these items are included in the Denton Public Library’s copy for you.
In it you will feast your ears on an auditory world that is long gone but yet somehow familiar. This Anthology influenced many in the so-called “folk revival” of the late ’50s-early ’60s. The tunes and some of the artists themselves have had their own massive impact separate from their inclusion in it: The Carter Family, Charley Patton, Dock Boggs, Charlie Poole, Clarence Ashley, Blind Willie Johnson, etc. in the realms of Bluegrass, Blues, Hillbilly, C&W, etc.
Here’s a few examples to whet your earlobes-
Not merely a collection of a particular genre or style, the Anthology includes Cajun, Black Gospel, Sacred, and some performances that don’t fall neatly in a particular heading. Take Hoyt Ming and His Pep-Steppers’ “Indian War Whoop”. Not really sounding like Native-American singing per se, it moves nonetheless. http://vimeo.com/832869
Fiddler Eck Robertson is recognized as the first commercially recorded “country” musician for his performance of “Sally Gooden” in 1922. Although not included here, that disc is still considered a masterpiece of old-time fiddling and not easily duplicated 88 years on.
Jug bands were intensely popular in the period covered in the Anthology (late’20s-early ’30s), and Cannon’s Jug Stompers swung hard.
Finally, native Texan Blind Willie Johnson sang hellfire and brimstone with a voice that sounded like he came back from Hades to warn the world. Oh, and his slide guitar accompaniment influenced Ry Cooder, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, etc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_veQRT7bus
Harry Smith (http://www.harrysmitharchives.com/) was a filmmaker, artist, musicologist, intellectual, autodidact, and eccentric who had contacted Moe Asch, founder of Folkways Records in NYC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Asch), about putting this compilation togther. He finally received a Grammy Award late in life for this Anthology but, tellingly, this quote at the ceremony speaks to how personal the project was for him, “”I’m glad to say my dreams came true. I saw America changed by music.”
Here’s the Anthology in our catalog: http://library.cityofdenton.com/search/t?SEARCH=anthology+of+american+folk&sortdropdown=-&searchscope=4.