The Lomax Connection
Wade Ward listening to playback with Alan Lomax on the Ward home in Galax, Virginia, August 31, 1959. Picture by Shirley Collins. AFC Alan Lomax Collection. Used by Permission.
As I’ve mentioned before, 2015 is the centennial 12 months of the nice folklorist Alan Lomax. The American Folklife Center on the Library of Congress, the Association for Cultural Fairness, and different organizations are celebrating with a wide range of programming incorporating archival work, online presentations, convention appearances (including SXSW!), lectures, symposia, and public performances of the good music Lomax collected.
Jayme Stone’s Lomax Challenge. By Lindsay McWilliams. Courtesy of Jayme Stone.
However that is not the only method 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 a little bit over a year in the past, people, blues, and pop musicians are always riffing on the iconic songs Lomax collected. Jayme Stone’s Lomax Challenge is probably the most conscious latest instance; it celebrates the centennial by recording new versions of songs Alan Lomax (or, in some cases, his father John Lomax) collected in the field. Stone’s international and intergenerational forged of musicians contains 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 plenty of others; they’re a distinguished crew of both seasoned veterans and contemporary faces on the traditional music scene. The album’s fashion is thus a pleasant mix of the lived-in previous-time sound with the edgier feeling of at the moment’s scene, which you can actually hear stone island jumper red wool within the vocals handed between Glaspy and O’Brien on “Goodbye, Old Paint”:
The group’s problem was familiar to anybody in conventional music: interpret source recordings in an attention-grabbing method while remaining true to the spirit of the originals. Since Lomax’s area recordings from the late 1950s and later are of such good high quality, overly faithful renditions hardly ever match the originals, and Stone’s model of “Sheep Sheep Dontcha Know the Highway,” (the original is right here) would possibly fall into this entice. But most often, the ensemble provides welcome selection to the sound: on “The Satan’s Nine Questions” (original right here), a chorus sings the refrain and provides hand-clapping. “Shenandoah” (unique here), provides a jazz-influenced instrumental jam that allows Stone’s banjo and Haas’s fiddle to shine. The transferring lyrics of “Before This Time Another Yr (unique here) are augmented by some stunning new verses written by O’Brien:
Most significantly, plenty of the pieces they’ve chosen to record aren’t commonly lined. “T-i-m-o-t-h-y,” a sweet little ballad about courtship that Lomax recorded in St. Eustatius (original right here), is given an interesting setting, as is “Bury Boula For Me,” a kalenda discovered from calypso singer Neville Marcano (authentic right here). “The Lambs on the Inexperienced Hills,” a mournful version of the track usually referred to as “The False Bride,” was realized from certainly one of the good 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 that i, Claudius. (Graves’s recording is right here.) By arranging these unusual gems, this work expands our consciousness of the collection’s scope and selection. Extra importantly, it locations new wonders alongside outdated favorites, for a listening expertise that’s recent and enjoyable no matter how familiar you’re with Lomax’s collection. Watch the album trailer under!
One other album with Lomax connections is Cannot 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 young 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 stored visiting the Wards till 1959, when he finally recorded “Practice on the Island” (unique here). “The Previous Churchyard” is a hymn that Lomax was among the primary to file (original right here). The brand new Line discovered the version by Almeda Riddle, whom Lomax was additionally among the primary to file (session here). Lomax by no means recorded Riddle’s model of this song, but he and his sister Bess Lomax Hawes encouraged my teacher Roger Abrahams to take action. Finally, the very first recording of Lead Belly’s basic “Goodnight Irene,” which closes the disc, was made by John and Alan stone island jumper red wool 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 picture in the general public area.
The brand new Line’s arrangements of those conventional American folksongs (plus a few others) are unusual for integrating the African mbira into an American string-band context. The mbira (a lamellophone typically called a “thumb piano”) appears to be like deceptively simple however stymies most who try to play it; bandleader Brendan Taaffe, it seems, is a masterful participant who spent time in Zimbabwe studying the technique. The result’s 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 after all another African import. The concept works remarkably nicely, giving some nice outdated songs a laid-back vibe with gentle mesmeric depth. If you want outdated folksongs with unusual acoustic preparations, it is a deal with.
One other Lomax Connection: with his mbira, Brendan Taaffe performs a solo rendition of Texas Gladden’s version of “The Satan’s Nine Questions,” which Lomax recorded in 1959.
Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Photograph 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 (principally) conventional ballads, hymns, love songs, and fiddle tunes from the Appalachians. Two younger women with lots of projects both together 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 in 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 method may be very traditional, as on hymns like ” Very long time Travelin'” and country classics by the Carter Household and the Stanley Brothers. But additionally they enjoy avant-garde touches, just like the discordant droning underlying their harrowing model of “Greenwood Sidey,” a music about infanticide and ghost-infants from Hell. Different highlights embody the old Scottish ballad “Orfeo,” and “Father Neptune,” a song by the mysterious Connie Converse. LaPrelle and Roberts-Gevalt give each song and tune what it must thrive. When LaPrelle’s tight voice sings “God despatched to Hezekiah a message from on excessive,” whereas Roberts-Gevalt’s guitar chops alongside like a prepare gathering steam, you know you’ve discovered the real thing!
What about Lomax One connection is their rendition of “Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow,” which they discovered from a 1937 field recording of Kentucky singer Martha Williams made by John Lomax. One other is their entire perspective and approach: by visiting old of us and recording their songs, producing their very own art and music, hosting radio, and thinking about what these outdated songs mean, they’re main a life like Alan Lomax’s. By spending time in archives (including Lomax’s beloved Library of Congress, where LaPrelle had a fellowship years ago), they’re ensuring his work and the work of others like him will remain related eternally. The names Anna and Elizabeth even have a special resonance: they’re additionally the names of Lomax’s daughter and his wife. Thanks to musicians like these two, and the others I’ve talked about right here, Alan Lomax can rest easy and be proud of these he inspired.
(Dicslosure: My day job is within the American Folklife Heart at the Library of Congress, which is the house of Lomax’s unique area recordings. Nevertheless, these evaluations are my private opinions solely.