"Ever since 1928, the Library of Congress has been recording authentic folk musicians in the field. Eventually, a small number of these recordings were released commercially, first on 78s, then LPs and now CDs (on Rounder's Archive of Folk Culture series). On this disc, banjoist, playwright, and ethnomusicologist Stephen Wade has chosen 30 of the best of the publicly available performances, representing a broad range of styles. All are from the 1930s and '40s, before America's rich folk-song tradition began to collapse under the onslaught of radio and pop music on phonograph records. Every cut here is a small masterpiece, and every one stands up to repeated listening. Among my own favorites is cowboy fiddler Jess Morris's "Goodbye, Old Paint," the earliest known version of this famous frontier waltz; Morris learned it in 1884 from a black Texas cowhand, who in turn picked it up while driving cattle to Wyoming in the 1870s. Pennsylvanian John J. Quinn does a blood-chilling, unaccompanied "Avondale Mine Disaster," and Mississippi bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards makes "Worried Life Blues" sound practically like an orchestral piece, though accompanied by no more than his acoustic guitar. Banjo pickers, fiddlers, harmonica blowers, washboard bands, a capella balladeers, church and prison choirs, children's chants and mother's lullabies -- you can hear America singing on this wonderful disc."
A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings
Jerome Clark | 03/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this CD so I could listen to Sea Lion Woman, a song I heard during the final credits to The General's Daughter. The other 29 songs were an added bonus. Some of these songs, recorded in the 30's and 40's, are a real joy to listen to. Also included with the CD is a small booklet telling you about each song. To hear "Pullin' the Skif" and "Shortenin' Bread", only to learn that the young singer died in a hold-up she perpetrated before her twenty-first birthday just grabs the heart."
Comfort food for the ears...
Betty Boop | Lebanon, TN USA | 08/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Haunting ballads, stories and lively dance tunes sung by "regular people" (including Woody Guthrie) provide a musical history of rare breadth. If you are looking for slickness and glitz, this CD is not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy honest music, are interested in folk history, and perhaps are a closet (or shower) singer yourself, you will enjoy this glimpse into the souls of people whose spirits fill these songs.An added bonus is the booklet that is included. It provides background on the Library of Congress's Folk Archive and the field recordings done by John, Alan, and Elizabeth Lomax in the late 30's to mid-40's. It also gives a short song and artist history for each track. The fact that one child singer died before her 21st birthday makes her song especially haunting.Many of us live comfortably insulated, yuppified, sanitized lives. These recordings remind us where we came from. Most importantly, they demonstrate the power of music, that it feeds our souls and gives us strength. We all have that power to make music. Some of us have just forgotten how to do it, or have been told we should not try to sing or play. These songs help us remember on many levels, and show us that making music is a blessing we are all capable of enjoying."
An Invaluable Collection of Heartfelt Songs
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 03/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 30-song collection of field recordings from 1934-1946 accurately reflect the role music played in the the everyday lives of rural America. When you listen to these songs, not only do you hear the joys and fears and sorrows of the performers' lives, you often hear in the background children laughing, dogs barking, clocks ticking, trucks driving by. These are not professional musicians, but real people who deliver their songs with an intensity and honesty you can't find in the recording studio.Each performer has his own unique story. Turner Junior was a blind street musician who accompanies himself on harmonica on the spiritual "When I Lay My Burden Down." He philosphically tells Alan Lomax that when you leave this earthly life "you'll see with a spiritual eye." A young Ora Dell Graham was attending the Drew Colored High School (which also schooled elementary students) where she recites a couple of playground rhymes. The liner notes tell us she would not live to see her twenty-first year. She was killed during a holdup. This collection also covers a wide range of the American musical experience. "Rock Island Line" is performed by a group of convicts at the Arkansas Cummins State Farm. The traditional folk song "Soldier's Joy" is performed (in Lomax's words) by "two blind men and three day laborers." "Creek Lullaby" is sung a capella by a young Native American girl identified only as Margaret, whose haunting vocal is made all the more memorable by singing the song in Creek. Fiddler Jess Morris was a working cowboy in Texas when he recorded "Goodbye, Old Paint." Each song on this collection has a fascinating story behind it, and the accompanying 40-page booklet tells them all in loving and meticulous detail. The importance of the exhaustive work of John and Alan Lomax can not be overstated. These historical recordings would be lost to time if not for their efforts. It is impossible to listen to these recordings without being moved. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
Sea Lion Woman Youve gotta buy it!
La Toya Dinkins | ALABAMA | 05/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This particular song made me want to purchase this CD its a wonderful song even my kids love singing it. If your a FOLK MUSIC fan you'll love the CD its great! TRUST ME"