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The Lomax Connection

Wade Ward listening stone island black hooded jumper to playback with Alan Lomax on the Ward house in Galax, Virginia, August 31, 1959. Photo by Shirley Collins. AFC Alan Lomax Collection. Used by Permission.

As I’ve mentioned earlier than, 2015 is the centennial year of the great folklorist Alan Lomax. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Affiliation for Cultural Fairness, and other organizations are celebrating with a variety of programming incorporating archival work, online displays, conference appearances (together with SXSW!), lectures, symposia, and public performances of the great music Lomax collected.

Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project. By Lindsay McWilliams. Courtesy of Jayme Stone.
However that is not the only approach to listen to Lomax’s legacy. From Miles Davis in the 1950s to Moby at the turn of the century, and on to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack just a little over a yr ago, people, blues, and pop musicians are at all times riffing on the iconic songs Lomax collected. Jayme Stone’s Lomax Mission is essentially the most conscious current instance; it celebrates the centennial by recording new variations of songs Alan Lomax (or, in some instances, his father John Lomax) collected in the sector. Stone’s international and intergenerational cast of musicians includes Bruce Molsky (fiddle, voice), Tim O’Brien (guitar, mandolin, voice, fiddle), Brittany Haas (fiddle), Margaret Glaspy (voice, guitar), Moira Smiley (accordion), Drew Gonsalves (voice), and many others; they’re a distinguished crew of each seasoned veterans and contemporary faces on the traditional music scene. The album’s fashion is thus a nice mix of the lived-in previous-time sound with the edgier feeling of right this moment’s scene, which you’ll be able to really hear within the vocals handed between Glaspy and O’Brien on “Goodbye, Outdated Paint”:

The group’s challenge was familiar to anybody in traditional music: interpret source recordings in an fascinating manner while remaining true to the spirit of the originals. Since Lomax’s subject recordings from the late 1950s and later are of such good high quality, overly faithful renditions hardly ever match the originals, and Stone’s version of “Sheep Sheep Dontcha Know the Street,” (the original is right here) would possibly fall into this entice. However normally, the ensemble provides welcome selection to the sound: on “The Devil’s 9 Questions” (unique right here), a chorus sings the chorus and adds hand-clapping. “Shenandoah” (original here), provides a jazz-influenced instrumental jam that permits Stone’s banjo and Haas’s fiddle to shine. The transferring lyrics of “Before This Time Another Yr (unique here) are augmented by some beautiful new verses written by O’Brien:

Most significantly, loads of the pieces they’ve chosen to report aren’t generally coated. “T-i-m-o-t-h-y,” a candy little ballad about courtship that Lomax recorded in St. Eustatius (unique right here), is given a fascinating setting, as is “Bury Boula For Me,” a kalenda discovered from calypso singer Neville Marcano (original here). “The Lambs on the Green Hills,” a mournful version of the tune typically often called “The False Bride,” was discovered from considered one of the nice oddities of Lomax’s assortment, a session of folksongs sung by Robert Graves, the poet, novelist, and mystical scholar who wrote The White Goddess and i, Claudius. (Graves’s recording is right here.) By arranging these unusual gems, this work expands our awareness of the collection’s scope and selection. Extra importantly, it places new wonders alongside old favorites, for a listening expertise that is contemporary and fun no matter how familiar you might be with Lomax’s collection. Watch the album trailer beneath!

One other album with Lomax connections is Can’t Hold the Wheel by The brand new Line. “Practice on the Island,” which opens the disc, was first recorded commercially in 1927 by each J.P. Nestor and Crockett Ward and his Boys. John Lomax recorded Ward and “his boys,” Fields Ward and Wade Ward, ten years later; Alan Lomax and his younger intern Pete Seeger recorded them once more in 1939; and Alan Lomax visited them once more, with a CBS radio crew and a photographer in tow, in 1940. He saved visiting the Wards till 1959, when he lastly recorded “Practice on the Island” (original right here). “The Outdated Churchyard” is a hymn that Lomax was among the first to report (unique here). The brand new Line realized the model by Almeda Riddle, whom Lomax was also among the first to report (session right here). Lomax never recorded Riddle’s version of this tune, however he and his sister Bess Lomax Hawes encouraged my instructor Roger Abrahams to do so. Lastly, the very first recording of Lead Stomach’s traditional “Goodnight Irene,” which closes the disc, was made by John and Alan Lomax.

The Bog Trotters Band, Galax, Virginia, January 1940. (L-R): Doc Davis, with autoharp; Uncle Alex (“Eck”) Dunford with fiddle; Crockett Ward with fiddle; Fields Ward with guitar; Wade Ward with banjo. This picture was taken by a CBS photographer to publicize an “American School of the Air” radio present with Alan Lomax. It’s a Library of Congress photo in the general public area.

The brand new Line’s arrangements of these conventional American folksongs (plus a couple of others) are unusual for integrating the African mbira into an American string-band context. The mbira (a lamellophone typically called a “thumb piano”) seems deceptively simple however stymies most who attempt to play it; bandleader Brendan Taaffe, it turns out, is a masterful player who spent time in Zimbabwe studying the technique. The result is that he would not stand out in a flashy manner, but blends artfully into the ensemble, including rhythm and harmony. It sounds especially pure with the gourd banjo, which is in spite of everything one other African import. The idea works remarkably properly, giving some great old songs a laid-back vibe with gentle mesmeric depth. If you want previous folksongs with unusual acoustic arrangements, it is a deal with.

Another Lomax Connection: with his mbira, Brendan Taaffe performs a solo rendition of Texas Gladden’s version of “The Devil’s 9 Questions,” which Lomax recorded in 1959.

Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Picture by Lisa Elmaleh. Courtesy of Anna & Elizabeth.
Anna & Elizabeth, the duo of Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, has returned with a second CD of (mostly) traditional ballads, hymns, love songs, and fiddle tunes from the Appalachians. Two young ladies with a variety of initiatives both collectively and separately, they’re often called a musical duo, as co-hosts of the Floyd Radio Present in Floyd, Virginia, and as two of the foremost “crankie” artists within the country. Musically, LaPrelle’s powerful vocal delivery is supported Roberts-Gevalt’s gentler and extra lyrical sound. Between them they also play banjo, fiddle, and guitar. Their strategy might be very traditional, as on hymns like ” Long time Travelin'” and country classics by the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. But in addition they take pleasure in avant-garde touches, like the discordant droning underlying their harrowing model of “Greenwood Sidey,” a tune about infanticide and ghost-infants from Hell. Different highlights include the previous Scottish ballad “Orfeo,” and “Father Neptune,” a track by the mysterious Connie Converse. LaPrelle and Roberts-Gevalt give every music and tune what it needs to thrive. When LaPrelle’s tight voice sings “God despatched to Hezekiah a message from on excessive,” while Roberts-Gevalt’s guitar chops along like a prepare gathering steam, you recognize you’ve got discovered the actual thing!

What about Lomax One connection is their rendition of “Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow,” which they realized from a 1937 subject recording of Kentucky singer Martha Williams made by John Lomax. Another is their entire attitude and method: by visiting outdated people and recording their songs, producing their very own artwork and music, hosting radio, and eager about what these old songs mean, they’re leading a life like Alan Lomax’s. By spending time in archives (including Lomax’s beloved Library of Congress, where LaPrelle had a fellowship years in the past), they’re ensuring his work and the work of others like him will stay related endlessly. The names Anna and Elizabeth also have a special resonance: they’re also the names of Lomax’s daughter and his spouse. Due to musicians like these two, and the others I’ve talked about here, Alan Lomax can relaxation easy and be proud of those he impressed.

(Dicslosure: My day job is within the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which is the home of Lomax’s original field recordings. Nonetheless, these opinions are my private opinions solely.