collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

If the blues was whiskey I'd stay drunk all the time - Leadbelly, DeKalb Blues

Author Topic: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music  (Read 9798 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10652
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« on: October 14, 2011, 12:42:24 PM »
Hi all,
I've been listening and re-listening to this set in the past few months and have been so impressed with it, what a generous achievement it was for Harry Smith to put it together, the huge scope of his musical vision, the quality and variety of the performances selected for the Anthology, the order in which the tunes were sequenced, and the fine detail work, like the newspaper headline versions of the plots of the ballads.
  
For those of you who are not familiar with the set, it was first released by Folkways Records in the early '50s, I believe, and is now available from Smithsonian Folkways on CD, in three volumes, Ballads, Social Music, and Songs, each category of which includes two CDs.
  
The range of the music on the set is enormous, with Old-Time fiddle tunes and songs, Country Blues, Cajun songs and tunes, Religious numbers from the black and white traditions, Cowboy songs and others.  I thought it might be fun to have a thread devoted to the set where people can post anything relating to the set--favorite performances, questions about performers, queries about how different songs were played, really anything pertaining to the set and the music on it.

Just to get the ball rolling, I've played and listened to and recorded music for many years, and I think I have an idea of what an elusive and well-nigh impossible thing it is to get a "perfect take", but I believe Uncle Bunt Stevens' solo fiddle performance of "Sail Away Ladies" that opens the Social Music volume to be just such a pearl.  Everything about his playing of the tune--his phrasing, the rhythm of his bowing, his pitch, tone, and the way he makes his notes, his double stops--I just don't see how any of it could be improved.  Anybody have any other favorite moments or performances on the Anthology of American Folk Music or have stuff you'd like to talk about pertaining to it?
All best,
Johnm  
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 01:55:40 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

  • Member
  • Posts: 2031
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2011, 01:46:31 PM »
I'll second you on that "Sail Away Ladies," John. Dan Gellert was waxing poetic about that side at a fiddle workshop he gave in SoCal just a few weeks ago. It's so simple in one way but then so deep at the same time.

A couple of old-time tracks I'm also very fond of on that set are "A Lazy Farm Boy" by Carter and Young, criminally under-recorded musicians (who did the first recording of "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms"); all of their recordings are gems, and I also love J.W. Day's "Wild Wagoner" for the bow skips in the first part and that change to D in the high part.

I checked out that album on LP from the library probably in about 1990 or so, and it was the first place I heard almost everybody on it, with a few exceptions like Uncle Dave and Patton. Very personally influential and I also love the liner notes.

Years ago Smithsonian Folkways used to have a contest on their website and you could win CDs by answering questions, and I remember I won an album by answering: "Who was the last surviving artist on the Anthology?" I'll see who can get it first, no CD, sorry.
Chris

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 880
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2011, 02:26:34 PM »
Here's a great blog that is attempting to discusses the Anthology song by song & artist by artist

http://oldweirdamerica.wordpress.com/
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2011, 03:01:54 PM »
Years ago Smithsonian Folkways used to have a contest on their website and you could win CDs by answering questions, and I remember I won an album by answering: "Who was the last surviving artist on the Anthology?" I'll see who can get it first, no CD, sorry.
Chris

Yank/James

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2011, 03:22:54 PM »
When I bought the LPs back in the 60's a couple were translucent yellow which only added to the mystique. The Greil Marcus book is also a must for AAFM fans.

Here's the S-F page:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2426

and the Liner notes in PDF--62 MB, so it might take a while:

http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/smithsonian_folkways/SFW40090.pdf


There are also a couple of other AAFM inspired compilations (the first can be downloaded):

http://woodenmouth.blogspot.com/2010/02/va-other-anthology-of-american-folk.html

http://www.amazon.com/Anthology-American-Music-Edited-Harry/dp/B00004SUA0


http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Republic-Dylans-Basement-Tapes/dp/0805058427/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4





Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2011, 03:31:41 PM »
Here's another one. If you scroll down a bit, there's a photo of the Victoria Cafe where Frank Cloutier and his Orchestra of "Moonshiner's Dance" fame played:

http://www.celestialmonochord.org/

http://www.celestialmonochord.org/the_moonshiners_dance/


And a map of the geography of the AAFM:


Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2011, 04:35:13 PM »
For those with JSTOR access:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/40243455


Offline pkeane

  • Member
  • Posts: 69
    • PeterKeane.com
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2011, 07:11:34 PM »
John -

I agree 100%.  Funny -- I just picked up the CD version a couple of weeks ago (found it used) and have been listening to it quite a bit.  I'd had it on cassette (taped from library copies) back in the 80s.  It's amazingly well-programmed.   And I think my ears are more ready for the old-time and cajun material than when I was younger (and more single-minded about country blues being the be-all-and-end-all).  That said, a few things had snuck through my defenses:  Mole in the Ground, Charles Giteau, and Down on Penny's Farm made a great & long-lasting impression on me.  I'd love to have had the experience of this being my first exposure to this music, but it was not.  I'd already listened to lots and lots of scratchy tunes from various reissues (Yazoo, etc.).  AAFM struck me as a sort of "Old Testament" -- not exactly "stuffy" but definitely not a mind-blowing as, say the Yazoo "Roots of Rock" reissue (funny how the mind of an 18 year old works).  Going back now I'm just blown away by the inventiveness and whimsy of the whole package -- a real work of art in and of itself.  With a bit broader familiarity and open-mindedness I am enjoying every cut.

Funny you mention the Uncle Bunt "Sail Away Ladies" -- much of my musical efforts these days go into backing up old-time fiddle (terrific Austin based fiddler Howard Rains has put together a small group) and I find that I hear and appreciate wonderful fiddle playing now so much more than in the past.  I was listening to AAFM in my car and pulled in the drive just as Sail Away Ladies started on the CD -- I sat in the driveway and listened to the whole thing, just stunned at the achievement of it (I'd surely heard it 100 times before and was never so struck). 

Thanks for starting this thread!
best-
Peter

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2011, 09:20:51 PM »
I first got the anthology in 1971 as required listening for a course i was taking at SUNY Purchase entitled "Folklore". The professor was a certain John Cohen. Good luck all 'round. I must say that I love the booklet that came with the LPs as much as the music. It is a brilliant tour de force of graphic imagination much influenced I'm guessing by Ad Reinhardt's collage work of the period. One could interpret the music collection as a soundtrack for the book just as readily as the book existing for the elucidation of the music.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2635
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2011, 10:11:46 PM »
I've been poking around the S-F site trying to find the "Supplemental Notes to the Selections" that were available in the past (my printouts are dated 2002). I have the URLs as I printed them out, but now they're all dead links. I'll keep trying. I did find the following, however:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/resources/pdf/SFW40108_notes.pdf

Offline Steve Pajik

  • Member
  • Posts: 59
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2011, 10:15:25 PM »
I first heard the Anthology about two years ago. I'm not even sure what prompted me to check it out, because at the time I was definitely not a fan of old-time music. I just saw it at the library (where I work) and decided to take it out. My salient memory is hearing Mississippi John Hurt's "Frankie" for the very first time. It was the closest thing to an epiphany I'll probably ever experience! It literally blew my mind. This discovery led me to Patton, Furry, Skip, Wilkins, etc, etc - and now here I am two years later writing this post on Weenie Campbell.  :D Needless to say, my discovery of country blues also completely re-energized my interest in playing guitar.

So neat how a tune that was recorded 80+ years ago could have such a profound and life-changing effect. Thank you, Harry Smith!  :)

Offline jostber

  • Member
  • Posts: 620
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2011, 12:27:41 AM »

Offline jaycee

  • Member
  • Posts: 90
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2011, 07:14:47 AM »
what an absolutely wonderful thread. the song that really resonates with me is, dock boggs sugar baby. docks, banjo playing is just absolutely superb.
jaycee

Offline Lyle Lofgren

  • Member
  • Posts: 245
    • Lyle & Elizabeth Lofgren
Re: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2011, 07:16:14 AM »
I've listened to the Anthology hundreds of times over the years, starting in about 1960. I appreciate the booklet art and the fact that the notes and categories don't distinguish between Anglo-American and African-American traditions (others have remarked on this).

The quality of the selections is superb, considering that very few people were seriously collecting these records, so they were scattered around in Salvation Army stores.

But most of all, I'm impressed by the order of presentation. I think that's the real art here. Although I can't verbalize why it works the way it does, I can't imagine them being as effective if they were in any other order. Vol. 4 doesn't have this characteristic (it wasn't organized by Smith), so you could put your player on shuffle and you would be no worse off. But if you try that with the first 3 volumes, you'll be missing a lot.

Lyle

 


anything
SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal