Essential documents of American musical and cultural history illuminate the origins of the blues, gospel, and many pop genres.

Popular Songbook

Popular Songbook

Recorded 1934–1959 by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax
Notes by Jeffrey A. Greenberg, with an essay by Gideon D’Arcangelo

The field work of John A. and Alan Lomax laid the foundations of the roots music explosion of the 1960s and beyond. Their recordings of Vera Ward Hall, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, James “Iron Head” Baker, Sidney Lee Carter, The Duke of Iron, and many others became mainstream hits when covered by artists such as Moby, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, Eric Clapton, Steve Miller, Miles Davis, The Beach Boys, The Animals and more. The Popular Songbook presents, for the first time, the originals of many of these best-known hits of the twentieth-century pop canon. Contains a previously unreleased version of one of the earliest recordings of “House of the Rising Sun” (later a hit by the Animals). Liner notes include an essay by Lomax associate Gideon D’Arcangelo on the 1980s Urban Strain project, an analysis of the phenomenon of twentieth century popular music. Features original transfers using Sony SACD direct stream digital technology.

“Essential for anybody who would seek to understand the evolution of popular music, both in the United States and in the wider world. . . . This is a wonderful collection. It will lead you to music you never thought of exploring, and you may never listen to your Animals again.” —Gilbert Head, Rambles

Blues Songbook

Blues Songbook

Recorded (1934–1978) by Alan Lomax, John A. Lomax, Ruby Terill Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, Lewis Jones, John W. Work, John Bishop, and Worth Long
Produced by Anna L. Wood and Don Fleming. Notes by John Cowley, additional song notes by David Evans, introduction by Martin Scorsese
This two-CD album, featuring original transfers using Sony DSD technology, is a comprehensive survey of the variety of blues from the Delta, to old-timey string bands, to barrel-house stomps, by both black and white performers, as documented in the field work of Alan Lomax, his father and their associates over nearly five decades. It includes performances by the legendary Bill Bill Broonzy, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, Vera Ward Hall and Dock Reed (singing a blues-like spiritual), Lead Belly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Slim, and Muddy Waters, to name a few — and somewhat lesser known, but still wonderful artists, such as Hattie Ellis, Sam Chatmon, Rosalie Hill, Bessie Jones, Ozella Jones, Cowboy Jack Ramsey, and Hobart Smith. Here is blues at its source: original, impassioned, and utterly real.

“Chilling, mysterious, and even playful — sometimes simultaneously — this collection with 40 pages of detailed history, informative track-by-track notes, and forays into Cajun and spiritual side roads is most recommended to established blues fans wishing to further explore the roots of the genre.” —Hal Horowitz, editorial review, Amazon.com

“The earliest performers were born between 1885 and 1899 — Lead Belly, Jelly Roll Morton, the Pratcher Brothers, Big Bill Broonzy, Smith Casey, Hobart Smith, Dock Reed, Will Shade, Dewey Corley, and Sam Chatmon — with virtually all the other musicians whose birthdates are known being born before 1925. This is a statement, however, not of the past but of the enduring spirit of a music born out of repression and misery that has overcome such obstacles in its evolution and stands as an affirmation of both its vital character and its great champion, Alan Lomax.” —John Cowley

“It’s akin to winning an admission ticket to a wang dang doodle at the Great Juke Joint in the Sky (or its afterlife analogue officiated by Old Scratch down below, as the case may be).” —Bagatellen

The Land Where the Blues Began

The Land Where the Blues Began

Recorded between 1933 and 1959 by Alan Lomax, Lewis Jones,
John W. Work, John A. Lomax, and Herbert Halpert

Notes by Alan Lomax, excerpted by Matthew Barton from The Land Where the Blues Began (New Press 2002)
This CD is the soundtrack to Alan Lomax’s acclaimed memoir, the recipient of the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award. It is an unforgettable tour of the flood-haunted landscape that gave birth to the blues, told through the work of such legendary figures as Muddy Waters and Fred McDowell, as well as in the work songs, field hollers, hymns, ballads, fife-and-drum music, sermons, stories, and barroom toasts. Remastered to 24-bit digital from the original metal and acetate discs, and paper and acetate-backed tape recordings.

Blues in the Mississippi Night (with Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson)

Blues in the Mississippi Night

Recorded by Alan Lomax in 1947
Notes by Alan Lomax, artist biographies by Matthew Barton
A pivotal document of pre-civil rights America, this is the story of the blues from the mouths of three legendary bluesmen — Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Recorded in one night in 1947 at New York’s Decca Studios, what began as a conversation about the blues unfolded into a candid discussion of Southern Black experience in the Jim Crow era. These songs and stories situate the origins of the blues in the blood and sorrow of African Americans living under the fascistic regime of oppression and deracinating exploitation of the Delta. They take us into the savage levee camps and prison farms, where forced labor from sunup to sundown was inescapable.

“This interview was different because Lomax had a social agenda, based on the performers’ experiences in the Delta and its levee camps. Dotted along both the Arkansas and Mississippi banks of the Mississippi River, these camps operated a segregated system of peonage, which sustained the labor force needed for continual maintenance to minimize flooding in the fertile alluvial plain. Alongside musical performances, the three musicians swapped candid stories and told yarns about the camps and the cabal of contractors who maintained the levees.” —John Cowley

Forthcoming:

Gospel & Spiritual Songbook; Bluegrass Songbook; Lullaby Songbook

 

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