Series Editor: David Evans
This series, originally called the Treasury of Black Song, was researched and planned by Alan Lomax and Peter Lowry in the late 1970s but did not see publication until its release on Rounder Records two decades later. It consists of African-American field recordings made for the Library of Congress from 1933 to 1946, a transformative period when black singers of the South and the Bahamas created a new musical language that would captivate people all over the world.

Alabama: Got the Keys to the Kingdom

Alabama: Got the Keys to the Kingdom

Recorded between 1934 and 1940 by John Lomax, Ruby T. Lomax, and Ruby Pickens Tartt
Notes by Jerrilyn McGregory

Resplendent voices and personalities from Sumter Country, Alabama, including Dock Reed, Richard Amerson, and the great Vera Ward Hall capture the innovatory genius and emotional range of African American vernacular vocal art in blues, play-party songs, lullabies, ballads, sacred music, and work songs.

Bahamas 1935:
Chanteys and Anthems
from Andros and Cat Island

Bahamas 1935, Vol. 2: Ring Games and Round Dances

Bahamas 1935:
Ring Games and Round Dances

Bahamas 1935, Vol. 1: Chanteys and Anthems from Andros and Cat Island

Recorded by Alan Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle
Notes by Alan Lomax and Guy Droussart

These are the earliest field recordings made in the Bahamas. Volume one features chanteys and anthems sung by spongers from Andros Island in the rhyming style that has vanished since the demise of the sponge industry. Volume two brings together ring games, sung with handclapping and drum accompaniment, and round dances played by a rollicking island string band. “Here is an amazing wealth of brief but perfect melodies, playfully rhythmicized in the African manner and harmonized in ways that are as unique as they are moving. The folk songs of the Bahamas are as limpid and charming, as full of light and delightful movement as the endlessly lovely gold and turquoise seas that bathe the shores of these islands.” —Alan Lomax

“If future releases [in the Lomax Collection] prove to be only, say, half as good as this Bahamian volume we have good reason to be grateful.” —Musical Traditions

Big Brazos: Texas Prison Recordings

Big Brazos: Texas Prison Recordings

Recorded by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, 1933–34
Notes by Bruce Jackson
Prisons were the last home for the work song tradition that African slaves had used to coordinate their group labor.  Prisoners recorded here used work songs in the same way and for the same reasons. Their songs have a variety of subjects, but what they’re really about is staying alive and spiritually intact in hell.

“Stripped of all pretense, there’s incredible poignancy in these songs… If you’re looking for the germination of much of American music, this would be a good place to start.” —Austin Chronicle

Black Appalachia: String Bands, Songsters, and Hoedowns

Black Texicans: Ballads and Songsters of the Texas Frontier

Recorded by Alan Lomax in 1933 and 1942; John A. Lomax in 1933 and 1934; Harold Spivacke in 1934; Robert Stuart Jamieson, Margot Mayo, and Freyda Simon in 1946.
Notes by Stephen Wade
This album traces African-American musical activity through the Appalachians —string bands, dance tunes, and Piedmont-style blues from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western Virginia to Northeastern Mississippi’s hill country.

“Significantly expands our awareness of African-American music and history. It is an essential, as well as highly enjoyable, collection.” —Sing Out!

Black Texicans: Ballads and Songsters of the Texas Frontier

Black Texicans: Ballads and Songsters of the Texas Frontier

Recorded by John A. Lomax, Ruby Terrill Lomax, and Alan Lomax
Notes by Alan Lomax, Paul Oliver, and Matthew Barton

These 1930s field recordings bear witness to African-American life and work on the 1930s frontier – black cowboy songs; work, minstrel, and play party songs; “eephing;” and virtuoso harmonica tunes. These performances by Lead Belly, Henry Truvillion, Moses “Clear Rock” Platt, and many others call up the open, the prairie, and the immutable desert, as well as the days of minstrel and medicine shows. Twenty-two of the album’s 29 songs are previously unissued.

“This is music that is vital and alive.  At times it is awe inspiring, at times humbling and at times even spooky.” —Musical Traditions

Georgia: I’m Gonna Make You Happy

Georgia: I’m Gonna Make You Happy

Recorded 1934–1943 by John A. Lomax, Ruby T. Lomax, Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, Zora Neale Hurston, Lewis Jones, Willis James, and John Work
Notes by David Evans

In Georgia, escaped British convicts, militant Scottish highlanders, German religious refugees, and African slaves lived a harsh and often impoverished agricultural life. In spite or because of this, the state produced some of the landmark figures in both Southern literature and Black music. Blind Willie McTell, Buster Brown, Sidney Stripling, and others perform ballads, blues, folk ragtime, nineteenth century dance tunes, spirituals, and work songs.

Louisiana: Catch That Train and Testify!

Louisiana: Catch That Train and Testify!

Recorded by Alan Lomax, John A. Lomax, and Ruby Terrill Lomax 1934–1940, and Paul Yeager, c. 1980
Notes by John Cowley and Barry Ancelet
Here are legendary performances by the great Jelly Roll Morton and Lead Belly, and field recordings of English-Speaking juré, zydeco, ring shouts, and work songs. This is the most varied album in the Deep River of Song series, and a testament to the cultural richness of Louisiana’s varied population and geography.

“A treasure.” —Folkworks (Los Angeles)

Mississippi: The Blues Lineage

Mississippi: The Blues Lineage

Recorded between 1936–1942 by John A. Lomax, Ruby T. Lomax, Alan Lomax, Lewis Jones, and John W. Work
Notes by David Evans

Mississippi, more than any other state, is associated with the most creative developments and most intense expressions of the blues. Here are some of the state’s finest bluesmen — the legendary Son House, Muddy Waters, and Honeyboy Edwards — as well as the equally impressive work of Lucious Curtis, Willie Ford, Frank Evans, and William Brown.

Named blues reissue of 1999 by RootsAndRhythm.com

Mississippi: Saints & Sinners

Mississippi: Saints & Sinners

Recorded in Mississippi by Alan, John A., and Ruby T. Lomax, Lewis Jones, and Herbert Halpert, 1933–1942
Notes by David Evans.

These hauntingly beautiful work songs, bad man ballads, dance tunes, spirituals, and shouts prove that blues isn’t the only tradition that has put Mississippi on the musical map of the world. 

“This is not a CD that should be missed by anyone who wants properly to explore and understand the richness and variety of African-American music.” —Musical Traditions

South Carolina: Got the Keys to the Kingdom

South Carolina: Got the Keys to the Kingdom

Recorded between 1934 and 1939 by John A. Lomax, Ruby T. Lomax, and Alan Lomax
Notes by Aaron McCullough

The Gullah enclave of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, was home to a distinctive tradition of unaccompanied spirituals and work songs that the Lomaxes recorded onto aluminum and acetate discs. Included with them here are children’s songs, and songs from parallel traditions harbored in the wretched state prison system.

Virginia and the Piedmont: Minstrelsy, Work Songs, and Blues

Virginia and the Piedmont: Minstrelsy, Work Songs, and Blues

Recorded between 1934 and 1942 by John A. Lomax, Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke
Notes by Kip Lornell

These field recordings of minstrel tunes, banjo songs, spirituals, work songs, and blues tell the story of African-American musical development in Virginia, the first home of slaves in North America, and in the Piedmont, where free blacks and whites made music together.

Forthcoming:

Florida; Old Story Songs from the Bahamas

 

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