by AlanLomaxArchive 8,577 views
Bessie Jones, lead vocal, with Nat Rahmings, drum; Hobart Smith, banjo; Ed Young, fife; and John Davis, Henry Morrison, Albert Ramsay, and Emma Ramsay, vocals. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Williamsburg, Virginia. April 28, 1959. From "Wave the Ocean, Wave the Sea," one of five albums commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip. Released in 2010 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1001) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 057).
Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip ended in October of 1959, but by April of the next year Alan was back recording in the South, this time in the capacity of music supervisor to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's film, Music of Williamsburg. The aim was to recreate the sound of African American music as it might have been heard in Colonial Williamsburg, and, according to a strikingly progressive 1962 press release from the Foundation, "to portray the important contributions of the Negro race to the nation's heritage." Lomax assembled a novel cast, comprised of many musicians he'd recorded several months earlier, and drawn from disparate locales. Ed Young came north from Como, Mississippi, to provide the necessary fife-blowing. Hobart Smith traveled east from Saltville, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with his four-string banjo and a clawhammer technique learned, in part, from an African American. Nat Rahmings, a Bahamian drummer and drum-maker, was brought in from Miami. And the Georgia Sea Island Singers were the vocal group at the ensemble's core. After filming was completed, Lomax wrote, the "musicians stayed on for what turned out to be a day of extraordinary music-making and musical cross-fertilization." Alan had turned up this tune years before, having gone looking for the oldest published black dance songs in Virginia----its references to the drinking gourd evince its slavery-time origin----and he taught it to the group. "I cannot swear to the authenticity of this reconstructed material," Lomax continued. "But the musically conservative Sea Island singers gave it their enthusiastic approval." The Foundation approved of it too, and featured it in the film.
by AlanLomaxArchive 20,525 views
A fragment of the Asturian ballad "Gerineldo," sung by Carmen Prieto of Arenas de Cabrales, a small town in eastern Asturias, Spain. Recorded by Alan Lomax, November 12, 1952 and included on the set "Alan Lomax In Asturias," a collaboration between Global Jukebox and the Muséu del Pueblu d'Asturies.
"Alan Lomax In Asturias" features over two hours of music, most of it previously unreleased, and is available both as a digital download and as a hardback book/double CD set. The two CDs of 101 songs are packaged inside a trilingual (English, Spanish, Asturian) 170-page hardcover book beautifully designed by McSweeney's Barbara Bersche. The book is edited by noted Spanish music scholar Judith R. Cohen and includes introductory texts and song notes by several Asturian music experts, lyric transcriptions, illustrations, and many rare and never-before-published photographs.
Alan Lomax visited Asturias, in northwestern Spain, in the autumn of 1952. While the regime of the dictator Franco was then threatening the traditional expressive diversity of regional Spain in its quixotic quest for a unified national identity, Lomax's recordings succeeded in painting a portrait of a thriving Asturian musical culture. He collected love songs, lullabies, children's games, work songs of the vaqueiros (cow herders), chorales and folk dances for saints' days, ballads accompanying the tasting of new cider, the ancient corri-corri dance, and the music of the characteristic Asturian bagpipes; the veijixu (a filled wineskin); and the payel.la — a long-handled frying pan played only by women. This release explores one of the earliest and most extensive field recording trips in the land, as it's said in Spanish, en el fondo del saco — "at the end of everything."
by AlanLomaxArchive 2,368 views
A launching song sung by 59-year-old seaman Charlie Bristol with a group of fishermen, sailors, and shipwrights. Recorded by Alan Lomax on July 30, 1962, in L'Esterre, Carriacou, Grenada. From "Roll and Go: Chanteys and Sailor Songs from Grenada," a digital release from the Alan Lomax Archive's Global Jukebox Records, available July 9, 2013. http://www.culturalequity.org/features/globaljukebox/
In the summer of 1962, Alan Lomax visited the southernmost Windward Islands — Grenada and Carriacou — where he recorded an astounding variety of music, sung for fun, ritual, worship, and to accompany work. "Roll and Go: Chanteys and Sailor Songs from Grenada" features fourteen rollicking numbers (ten of which are previously unreleased) used for boat-launching, boat-pulling, sail and net-hoisting by the fishing-folk of Grenada — songs that invigorated the work and energized the workers.
"Roll and Go" is an infectious synthesis of familiar "sea shanties" of New England and Britain with indomitable Caribbean poly-rhythms, echoing West African traditions and popular musical styles like calypso and soca.
by AlanLomaxArchive 634 views
From "Singing at the Ship Inn: Alan Lomax's 1953 Blaxhall Recordings." A digital-only release by Global Jukebox (globaljukeboxrecords.com), available March 4, 2013.
One Saturday evening in 1953, Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy, with tape-machine in tow, visited The Ship Inn, a pastoral public house situated in the village of Blaxhall, Suffolk, East Anglia. The Ship was by that time already well-known for its vigorous afternoon sessions of folk-singing and step-dancing, which had been going strong since at least the early days of the century.
Under the stern direction of chairman Wicketts Richardson — who calls the crowd to order and announces the singers — "the old boys" performed ballads ("The Three Jolly Sportsmen"), topical pieces ("The Bonny Bunch of Roses"), bawdy numbers ("The Nutting Girl"), and step-danced to tunes pumped out on the melodeon, while the publicans, Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt, kept the pint glasses filled.
"Singing at the Ship Inn: Alan Lomax's 1953 Blaxhall Recordings" is a lively, rollicking, and slightly boozy portrait of a treasured English singing tradition, still honored today at the Ship Inn.
(In 1955, Kennedy and Lomax returned to Blaxhall, where they made a short film, called "Here's A Health to the Barley Mow" and featuring many of the same singers on "Singing At the Ship." It can be viewed online via the East Anglian Film Archive.)
by AlanLomaxArchive 7,445 views
Ed Young (fife and vocal) and Hobart Smith (banjo) perform "Joe Turner," Williamsburg, Virginia. In April of 1960 the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hired Alan Lomax as music supervisor for "Music of Williamsburg," a film produced to give tourists a sense of daily life in mid-eighteenth-century Virginia. Lomax researched the period and its music, and brought the Spiritual Singers of Coastal Georgia (later the Georgia Sea Island Singers) together with Bahamian drummer Nat Rahmings, Mississippi Hill Country fife-blower Ed Young, and Appalachian multi-instrumentalist Hobart Smith.
"The Alan Lomax Collection from the American Folklife Center" was compiled by Don Fleming, Executive Director of the Alan Lomax Archive and features 16 songs (four previously unreleased) from Lomax's international collections. Released digitally on Alan's birthday, January 31, 2012.
by AlanLomaxArchive 9,795 views
Fred McDowell, vocal and guitar. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Como, Mississippi. September 25, 1959. From "I'll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down," one of five albums commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip. Released in 2011 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1004) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 060).
Fred McDowell was a farmer who emerged from the woods on the first day of fall, 1959, and ambled over to his neighbor Lonnie Young's front porch in his overalls with a guitar in hand. Lomax had no idea what he was in for, but after McDowell's first song he knew he was in the presence of one of the most original, talented, and affecting country bluesmen ever recorded.
McDowell showed few outward signs of conflict he might have felt by playing sacred and "sinful" music in the same setting. A 1964 record of Fred's, "My Home Is In the Delta" (which wasn't actually the case), devotes its first side to blues and its second side to spirituals and church hymns sung with his wife Annie Mae. Unlike Robert Wilkins, who left off blues altogether when he got religion, or Son House, who spent his life deeply tormented, torn between the two, McDowell could move from a blues about a cheating lover into this earnest religious piece. This recording was the only he ever made of "Woke Up This Morning."
by AlanLomaxArchive 51,155 views
"Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Jesus." Fred McDowell, vocal and guitar. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Como, Mississippi. September 25, 1959. From "Fred McDowell: The Alan Lomax Recordings." Released in 2011 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1007) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 073).
These are the first recordings made of Fred McDowell — before the folk festivals and blues clubs, before "Mississippi" was inserted in front of his name, before the Rolling Stones covered his "You Got To Move." They're the sound of the music McDowell played on his porch, at picnics, and juke joints; with his friends and family; occasionally for money but always for pleasure. Freshly remastered from 24-bit digital transfers of Alan Lomax's original tapes, and annotated by Arhoolie Records' Adam Machado and the Alan Lomax Archive's
Nathan Salsburg, they are an illustration of the mind-blowing revelation that was Fred McDowell.
On the first day of fall, 1959, in Como, Mississippi, a farmer named Fred McDowell emerged from the woods and ambled over to his neighbor Lonnie Young's front porch with a guitar in hand. Alan Lomax was there recording the Young fife and drum ensemble, as well as the raggy old country dance music of their neighbors, the Pratcher brothers, and he had no idea what to expect from this slight man in overalls. He certainly didn't expect that Fred would soon become internationally known as one of the most original, talented, and affecting country bluesmen ever recorded.
by AlanLomaxArchive 17,667 views
"Lightning" Washington and prisoners, recorded by John A. and Alan Lomax at Darrington State Prison Farm, Sandy Point, Texas, December 1933.
In 1933, with the support of Macmillan Publishers and the Music Division of the Library of Congress, John A. Lomax made the first of his field-recording trips through the American South. Joined by his seventeen-year-old son Alan, Lomax visited some of the most notorious Southern penitentiaries — among them Sugar Land in Texas; Angola in Louisiana; Parchman Farm in Mississippi — where he knew anachronistic strains of African American folk-song would be preserved away from the influence of the radio, the phonograph, and cross-pollination with whites. The Lomaxes recorded the songs of timber and ground-clearing gangs, chants of the road and railroad crews, solo field hollers with their roots running deep into the antebellum south; they also recorded comic songs, blues, and spirituals. By late 1934, they had recorded dozens of singers and hundreds of songs — "poetic expressions," as Lomax described them, "of pungent wit, simple beauty, startling imagery, extraordinary vividness and power."
"Jail House Bound," a production of West Virginia University Press, collects the earliest of the Lomaxes' prison recordings — made between July and December 1933 in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee — drawing on new remasters from the fragile original acetate discs. The album is introduced by noted American music scholar Mark Allen Jackson (author of "Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie"). Released digitally (May 15, 2012) by Global Jukebox in collaboration with the West Virginia University Press.
by AlanLomaxArchive 11,469 views
Miles Pratcher, vocal and guitar; Bob Pratcher, fiddle. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Como, Mississippi. September 22, 1959. From "I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die," one of five albums commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip. Released in 2011 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1005) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 065).
The Pratcher brothers were neighbors of bluesman Fred McDowell in Como, and also farmers, but were of an earlier musical generation. Miles and Bob were repositories of the raggy country dance music that would have been heard at picnics and other social occasions in the fin-de-siecle Mississippi Hill Country. Lomax wrote of this performance in 1978 that he "always thought of this genre as a bluesy ballad in ragtime," lying chronologically and stylistically "between black square dance music and the first true instrumental blues." "I'm Going to Live Anyhow Until I Die" was composed in 1901 by the black rag-writer Shepard N. Edmonds, for whom it was a huge hit, and it found a renewed popularity in 1920s as "Tennessee Coon" or "Coon from Tennessee"----about a wicked fellow who "never believed in church or Sunday school"----for hillbilly performers Charlie Poole, the Georgia Crackers, and the Georgia Yellow Hammers. In the hands of the Pratchers, Lomax wrote, "the blues are still happy. The Pratchers grinned bawdily through all their performances." They no doubt meant it when they sang: "I'm gonna shake it well for my Lord."
by AlanLomaxArchive 16,633 views
Rosalie (or Rosa Lee) Hill, guitar and vocal. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Como, Mississippi, September 25, 1959. From "Worried Now, Won't Be Worried Long," one of five albums commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip. Released in 2010 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1002) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 058).
Rosalie Hill was a daughter of the Mississippi Hill Country's composer, multi-instrumentalist, band leader, and musical patriarch Sid Hemphill. Sid taught Rosalie to play the guitar when she was six; by the time she was ten she was playing dances with him. The only two songs she recorded for Alan were marked by a desolate, keening intensity, although by all accounts she was a jolly woman. Her father died in 1961, after which, as blues researcher George Mitchell noted, most of the very musical Hemphills "just didn't feel like playing no more." Rosie hung up her guitar for a time, but by the time Mitchell visited in 1967 she was playing again, and recorded for him a barely less spry version of "Rolled and Tumbled." She died a year later. (Hill's first name often appears "Rosa Lee," but she signed her contract with Lomax "Rosalie.")
by AlanLomaxArchive 7,395 views
Performed and composed by Sid Hemphill (vocal and fiddle). With Lucius Smith (banjo); Alec Askew (guitar); and Will Head (bass drum).
Multi-instrumentalist, band-leader and composer Sid Hemphill (1876--1961) was for decades the musical patriarch of the Mississippi Hill Country. He and his band — comprised of Alec "Turpentine" Askew, Will Head, and Lucius Smith; like Sid, all from Panola County, Miss. — were fixtures at dances, picnics, and frolics throughout the right triangle formed by Memphis, the Delta, and the Hill Country. Alan Lomax recorded Blind Sid in August 1942, near Sledge, Mississippi, where his band was appearing at a country picnic and banging out their breakdowns, marches, and square-dance tunes, as well as several blues ballads composed by Hemphill himself. By that date hundreds of commercial records had been made of the music of the Delta, and the preponderance of those were of or relating to the blues form, with guitar or piano accompaniment. Lomax's were the first made of the Hill Country's local music, and contributed to a broader perspective of black vernacular instrumentation, with their inclusion of the fiddle and banjo of the string band, the fife and drum ensemble, and the cane panpipes or "quills."
"The Devil's Dream" is the first release devoted to Lomax's 1942 recordings of Sid Hemphill. Transferred from the fragile original acetate discs and expertly mastered and speed-corrected, the album is a portrait of a once-thriving black musical tradition, all but extinct in its native habitat.
For more on "The Carrier Line," including a lyric transcription, and the music of the Mississippi Hill Country, visit http://www.loc.gov/folklife/folkcat.html#AFSL67.
by AlanLomaxArchive 5,696 views
Raymond Spencer Moore, guitar and vocal; Roy Everett Blevins, mandolin. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Chilhowie, Virginia, September 3, 1959. From "I'll Meet You On That Other Shore," one of five albums commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lomax's "Southern Journey" field recording trip. Released in 2011 digitally by Global Jukebox (GJ 1003) and on LP by Mississippi Records (MR 059). 1959 photos by Alan Lomax; 2003 photos by Michael Macioce.
When Lomax visited him in 1959, Raymond Spencer Moore was farming tobacco on his small acreage in Southwestern Virginia. "A family man," Alan wrote of him later. "Hospitable, slow-spoken, and as genuine as a rail fence." Although Lomax only made four recordings of him, Spencer has been said to know over five hundred songs----including blues, hokum, minstrel material, play-party ditties, contemporary country compositions, and a few topical pieces of his own devising. He also had quite a repertoire of ballads of recent vintage and regional application (such as "The Lawson Family Murders"), as well as this Americanized variant of a widely sung (and oft-parodied) item, first published in Dublin at least as early as 1806. As a child in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, Spencer was bounced on the knee of legendary fiddler G.B. Grayson, who would stop by to visit with Spencer's father, James Moore, himself a fiddler and banjo player. In the late '30s, Spence and his brother Joe organized a close-harmony duet in the style of the Blue Sky Boys and the Delmore Brothers, appearing at dances and tent shows as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, and on one occasion sharing the stage with the Carter Family. After service in World War II, Spencer and his wife settled near Chilhowie, where he continued to farm and play music with his brother, friends, and neighbors for many decades, only recently (mid-2009) moving into a nursing home at the age of ninety.
by AlanLomaxArchive 9,329 views
From Global Jukebox / Mississippi Records' "United Sacred Harp Convention: The Alan Lomax Recordings, 1959", coming February 2013.
Alan Lomax's recordings of the 56th annual convention of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association in Fyffe, Alabama, were the first made of four-part shape-note singing — America's most powerful tradition of folk hymnody — in stereo. Lomax had, as he later wrote, "tried and failed, as had many others, to record this music monaurally" at the Sacred Harp Singing Society of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1942. In '59 he hoped to "finally do justice to its haunting beauty." Over the course of the two-day convention, nearly two hundred songs, memorial lessons, and prayers passed over the heads of his two-track Ampex recorder, with Alan's notations filling the margins of his notebook: "stately," "militant," "lively," "marvelous," "fascinating performance," "wonderful sound."
1959 United Sacred Harp Convention: The Alan Lomax Recordings conveys the deep emotion and intensity of Southern shape-note singing across 18 performances, nine of which have been previously unreleased, and is comprised of new re-masters from Lomax's original stereo tapes. The recording of "The Last Words of Copernicus" that begins the album was used as a sample in Bruce Springsteen's "Death to My Hometown," on his 2012 "Wrecking Ball."
1. The Last Words of Copernicus (112)
2. The Bower of Prayer (100)*
3. Newburgh (182)
4. Minister's Farewell (69t)*
5. Logan (302)*
6. Sabbath Morning (283)*
7. New Topia (215)*
8. Present Joys (318)
9. Greenwich (183)
10. Arbacoochie (430)*
11. Invitation (327)*
12. Huntington (193)*
13. Morning Prayer (411)*
14. Mount Zion (220)
15. New Jerusalem (299)
16. The Parting Hand (62)
17. Hallelujah / New Britain (146 / 45t)
Numbers denote page number in the 1991 edition of The Sacred Harp.