The Lomax Connection
Wade Ward listening to playback with Alan Lomax on the Ward dwelling in Galax, Virginia, August 31, 1959. Picture by Shirley Collins. AFC Alan Lomax Assortment. Used by Permission.
As I’ve talked about before, 2015 is the centennial year of the good folklorist Alan Lomax. The American Folklife Heart at the Library of Congress, the Affiliation for Cultural Equity, and different organizations are celebrating with a wide range of programming incorporating archival work, on-line presentations, conference appearances (together with SXSW!), lectures, symposia, and public performances of the great music Lomax collected.
Jayme Stone’s Lomax Venture. By Lindsay McWilliams. Courtesy of Jayme Stone.
But that’s not the only way to listen to Lomax’s legacy. From Miles Davis within the 1950s to Moby on the flip of the century, and on to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack a bit over a 12 months ago, people, blues, and pop musicians are always riffing on the iconic songs Lomax collected. Jayme Stone’s Lomax Venture is the most conscious recent example; it celebrates the centennial by recording new versions of songs Alan Lomax (or, in some instances, his father John Lomax) collected in the sector. Stone’s worldwide and intergenerational solid of musicians consists of 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 fresh faces on the normal music scene. The album’s style is thus a nice mixture of the lived-in old-time sound with the edgier feeling of right now’s scene, which you’ll be able to really hear within the vocals passed between Glaspy and O’Brien on “Goodbye, Outdated Paint”:
The group’s problem was acquainted to anyone in conventional music: interpret source recordings in an fascinating approach whereas remaining true to the spirit of the originals. Since Lomax’s area recordings from the late 1950s and later are of such good quality, overly faithful renditions rarely match the originals, and Stone’s version of “Sheep Sheep Dontcha Know the Highway,” (the original is here) might fall into this lure. However typically, the ensemble provides welcome selection to the sound: on “The Satan’s 9 Questions” (original here), a chorus sings the chorus and provides hand-clapping. “Shenandoah” (original right here), adds a jazz-influenced instrumental jam that enables Stone’s banjo and Haas’s fiddle to shine. The shifting lyrics of “Before This Time Another Year (unique right here) are augmented by some lovely new verses written by O’Brien:
Most importantly, a lot of the pieces they’ve chosen to file aren’t commonly 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 learned from calypso singer Neville Marcano (authentic right here). “The Lambs on the Inexperienced Hills,” a mournful version of the track typically generally known as “The False Bride,” was learned from one in all the great 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 here.) By arranging these unusual gems, this work expands our awareness of the gathering’s scope and variety. Extra importantly, it places new wonders alongside previous favorites, for a listening experience that’s contemporary and enjoyable irrespective of how acquainted 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. “Train on the Island,” which opens the disc, was first recorded commercially in 1927 by both 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 again in 1939; and Alan Lomax visited them again, with a CBS radio crew and a photographer in tow, in 1940. He kept visiting the Wards till 1959, when he finally recorded “Prepare on the Island” (original here). “The Previous Churchyard” is a hymn that Lomax was among the first to document (unique here). The brand new Line discovered the version by Almeda Riddle, whom Lomax was also among the first to file (session here). Lomax never recorded Riddle’s version of this music, however he and his sister Bess Lomax Hawes inspired my instructor Roger Abrahams to take action. Lastly, the very first recording of Lead Stomach’s basic “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 photograph was taken by a CBS photographer to publicize an “American Faculty of the Air” radio present with Alan Lomax. It is a Library of Congress picture in the general public domain.
The new Line’s preparations of those conventional American folksongs (plus just a few others) are unusual for integrating the African mbira into an American string-band context. The mbira (a lamellophone often called a “thumb piano”) seems to be deceptively easy however stymies most who try to play it; bandleader Brendan Taaffe, it seems, is a masterful participant who spent time in Zimbabwe studying the method. The result is that he would not stand out in a flashy way, however blends artfully into the ensemble, including rhythm and harmony. It sounds especially natural with the gourd banjo, which is after all one other African import. The thought works remarkably properly, giving some nice old songs a laid-again vibe with gentle mesmeric depth. If you like previous folksongs with unusual acoustic preparations, it is a deal with.
One other Lomax Connection: along with his mbira, Brendan Taaffe performs a solo rendition of Texas Gladden’s version of “The Devil’s Nine Questions,” which Lomax recorded in 1959.
Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Photo 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 (largely) conventional ballads, hymns, love songs, and fiddle tunes from the Appalachians. Two young girls with a variety of initiatives each collectively and individually, they’re generally known as a musical duo, as co-hosts of the Floyd Radio Present in Floyd, Virginia, and as two of the foremost “crankie” artists within the nation. Musically, LaPrelle’s highly effective vocal supply is supported Roberts-Gevalt’s gentler and extra lyrical sound. Between them additionally they play banjo, fiddle, and guitar. Their strategy could be very conventional, as on hymns like ” Long time Travelin'” and country classics by the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. However in addition they enjoy avant-garde touches, like the discordant droning underlying their stone island shimmer jacket green harrowing model of “Greenwood Sidey,” a tune about infanticide and ghost-infants Stone Island Coats from Hell. Other highlights embody the old Scottish ballad “Orfeo,” and “Father Neptune,” a track by the mysterious Connie Converse. LaPrelle and Roberts-Gevalt give every music and tune what it must thrive. When LaPrelle’s tight voice sings “God sent to Hezekiah a message from on high,” whereas Roberts-Gevalt’s guitar chops alongside like a train gathering steam, you already know you have found 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 stone island shimmer jacket green singer Martha Williams made by John Lomax. Another is their complete angle and strategy: by visiting previous people and recording their songs, producing their very own art and music, internet hosting radio, and eager about what these previous songs imply, they’re leading a life like Alan Lomax’s. By spending time in archives (together with Lomax’s beloved Library of Congress, where LaPrelle had a fellowship years ago), they’re guaranteeing his work and the work of others like him will remain relevant perpetually. The names Anna and Elizabeth also have a particular resonance: they’re also the names of Lomax’s daughter and his wife. Due to musicians like these two, and the others I’ve talked about here, Alan Lomax can rest simple and be pleased with these he inspired.
(Dicslosure: My day job is within the American Folklife Middle on the Library of Congress, which is the house of Lomax’s unique subject recordings. Nonetheless, these evaluations are my private opinions solely.