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March 17, 2008

Alan Lomax Collection: Deep River of Song - Mississippi

Alan Lomax, the great folk music collector, for all his stature and invaluable contribution to the preservation of American culture, was actually kind of a jerk. Dick Waterman, manager of many of the great blues artists in the '60s, recounts this story:

"In 1941 and 1942, Son [House] had been recorded in Mississippi by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. Then Son vanished completely for over two decades, until he was found in Rochester, New York, in 1964. When Son and I walked onto the Newport Folk Festival grounds in July of that Year, I spotted Lomax walking toward us.
Son saw him coming and remarked, "Here come that old booger Lomax."
Before I had a chance to respond, Lomax was upon us and shaking hands with Son. "How are you, Son? Still living by the bridge in Rochester?"
Stunned that Lomax knew where Son had been all those lost years, I said, "You knew where Son has been since the 1940s?"
Lomax nodded his head. "Oh, yes, Son and I have stayed in touch over the years, haven't we, Son?"
Wait a goddamn minute. What the hell is going on here? I looked at Lomax, then at Son, and then back to Lomax.
"You knew where one of the greatest blues singers of all time was for over 20 years and never told anyone? Didn't you think it was important to record him and give him a chance to make some money?"
Lomax shrugged his shoulders and replied, "After I recorded him, it wasn't any of my business what he did with his life. My job was to record him for the Library of Congress. I didn't care what he did after that."
As he walked away, I stood there and stared at him for a moment. I wasn't sure if he was ignorant or evil not to have shared the details of Son's whereabouts.
Son turned to me and said, "He come down and recorded me and Willie Brown back then and he didn't give us but one Coca-Cola. Willie grabbed up the Coca-Cola first and I didn't get nothing." -from Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive

Well, in the spirit of fairness, I think you should all get this music for free too. After all, even the recording trips were publicly funded.

Here's two albums from the Alan Lomax Collection's Deep River of Song series:

Mississippi: The Blues Lineage
Musical Geniuses of the Fields, Levees and Jukes

Sixteen country blues cuts, recorded between 1936 and 1942 by folklorists Alan and John A. Lomax for the Library of Congress at plantations, penitentiaries, tourist camps, and elsewhere (actually the two songs by William Brown were done near Mississippi, in Arkansas). This is a more pleasurable compilation than most folk field recordings of the era are (whether by the Lomaxes or others), due to the tight and focused performances. A couple of the names will be familiar to any blues fan (and to some non-blues fans). Muddy Waters, then playing acoustic Delta blues as McKinley Morganfield, contributes "I Be Bound to Write to You" and "You Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone"; Son House, about to disappear from the public eye for a couple of decades, does four songs, including his famous "Walking Blues" (which is six minutes here, with accompaniment from other musicians on mandolin, guitar, and harmonica). Most of the tracks are entertaining as well as academically important, as well as illustrative of some differences in Mississippi blues styles. Some of these are blues that are more upbeat than the Delta stereotype, as in David "Honeyboy" Edwards' "Wind Howlin' Blues" and Lucious Curtis (who never recorded before or after his 1940 recordings on this disc), whose sharp guitar picking has some ragtime and boogie flavor.
- Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

1 Ragged And Dirty - William Brown
2 Mississippi Blues - William Brown
3 County Farm Blues - Eddie 'Son' House
4 High-Rolling Sergeant - Sam Carter/Jim Mickles/Eddie Miles/Jack Rogers
5 Early In The Morning - Hollis 'Fat Head' Washington
6 The Jinx Blues (No. 2) - Eddie 'Son' House
7 I'll Be Bound To Write To You - McKinley Morganfield ('Muddy Waters')
8 You Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone - McKinley Morganfield ('Muddy Waters')
9 Wind Howlin' Blues - David 'Honeyboy' Edwards
10 High Lonesome Hill - Lucious Curtis/Willie Ford
11 Payday - Willie Ford, Lucious Curtis
12 Train Blues - Lucious Curtis
13 Santa Field Blues - Willie Ford
14 Low Down Dirty Dog Blues - Eddie 'Son' House
15 Red River Blues - Frank Evans
16 Walking Blues - Leroy Williams

Alan Lomax Collection -- Deep River of Song -- Mississippi: The Blues Lineage
Musical Geniuses of the Fields, Levees and Jukes
Year: 1999
Label: Rounder
better than a coca-cola.
not my rip | 192 kbps mp3 | 84 mb | no cover


Mississippi: Saints & Sinners
From Before the Blues and Gospel

The field recordings made from 1936 to 1942 for the Library of Congress by John and Ruby Lomax, with their son Alan, showed that much of America's finest music and poetry have come from far beyond the entertainment and publishing industries. In the case of these stirring selections from the Lomax archives, among this country's richest cultural resources was the black population enslaved on southern plantations and penal farms. Evident here are echoes of lost worlds--the eerie sounding call of a Mississippi ferryman, the mystery of Charlie Butler's stunning "Diamond Joe," and the fierce spirituality of "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down" by Reverend C.H. Savage and congregation. Most extraordinary are the performances by Sid Hemphill, who Alan Lomax said was his greatest discovery. Playing the ancient pre-harmonica quills or panpipes, whooping with primal fervor, his ingenious "Emmaline, Take Your Time" anticipates Hemphill's unreleased fife-and-drum masterpiece, "The Devil's Dream." --Alan Greenberg

1. It's Better to be Born Lucky 1:31
2. Stagolee 1:44
3. Walking Billy 4:10
4. Mississippi Sounding Calls 2:55
5. Come Here, Dog, and Get Your Bone 2:27
6. Emmaline, Take Your Time 2:21
7. Hog Hunt 4:45
8. The Fox Hunter's Song 2:51
9. Times is Getting Hard 3:48
10. Diamond Joe 2:18
11. One Morning at the Break of Day (Wake Up Song) 1:58
12. Workin' on the Levee, Sleepin' on de Ground 1:40
13. Lord, I'm in Trouble 2:36
14. Stewball 5:18
15. Rosie 2:48
16. French Blues 2:16
17. Rock Daniel 2:34
18. Interview 3:10
19. Hallelu, Hallelu 2:29
20. I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray 1:08
21. Conversion Experience 4:36
22. Let Me Ride 3:53
23. If I Had My Way, I'd Tear the Building Down 4:13
24. Little David 3:31
25. Calvary

Alan Lomax Collection - Deep River of Song -- Mississippi: Saints & Sinners
From Before the Blues and Gospel
Year: 1999
Label: Rounder
what goes around comes around.
not my rip | mp3 96 kbps | 45 mb | no cover


Anonymous said...

It's the birthday( april 9th) of blues great "Muddy Waters" (McKinley Morganfield), born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). His mother died when he was three, and while a young child, he taught himself to play harmonica and guitar. On a Sunday in August 1941, while Waters was standing in the middle of a cotton field getting ready to use the tractor, word got to him that a white man was looking for him. His first thought was that the police had found out that he had been selling whiskey on the sly, and he turned and walked across the field to the plantation store where he met the white man who had been looking for him. It turned out to be Alan Lomax, a folklorist for the Library of Congress.

Lomax asked Waters if he wanted to record some blues for the U.S. government. As Waters was thinking over his answer, he glanced into the backseat of Lomax's car, where he noticed a recording machine, a disc cutter, a generator, and a beautiful Martin guitar. Waters agreed to play for Lomax, and the two headed to Waters' house where they sealed their friendship by toasting some of Waters' home-brewed whiskey.

The experience gave Waters enough courage to move to Chicago and start his own music career. He soon broke from country blues by playing electric guitar in a slide style, but never gave up his country blues style entirely. He played in various bands in bars on the south side of Chicago, and in 1950, he made the first recording for Chess Records, a tune called "Rolling Stone." He later became famous for songs like "Hoochie-Koochie Man" and "Got My Mojo Working." This, from Writer's Almanac

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for these Lomax collections!
Here's my Lomax post:

sexy said...
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