folksongs should not be buried in libraries
October 19, 2015 8:20 AM   Subscribe

The Lomax Kentucky Recordings

These are documentary sound recordings of rural Kentucky music and lore collected under the auspices of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress between 1933 and 1942 by Alan Lomax (100). Performed by farmers, laborers, coal miners, preachers, housewives, public officials, soldiers, grandparents, adolescents, and itinerant musicians, they present a full spectrum of traditional expressive culture from twelve of Eastern Kentucky’s mountain counties: ballads and lyric songs, play-party ditties and NSFW comic pieces, topical and protest material, fiddle and banjo tunes (some with racist titles), hymns and sacred songs, children's games and lullabies, and a variety of spoken lore—religious testimonies, occupational reminiscences, tall tales, jokes, and family and personal narratives. They are free to download, and welcome Biographical input.

Bonus: In case you thought this kind of music is no longer relevant, here's Amythyst Kiah performing "Darling Cora".
posted by Potomac Avenue (8 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
fantastic, thanks for sharing this - there's such a wealth of this kind of stuff in free collections but that aren't well-known. Apropos of nothing, except to show the variety in interpretation of traditional song, here's my favorite version of Darling Cora (by Clifton Hicks).
posted by gorbichov at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Great stuff. Thanks...I'm purring like a cat. Living in Lexington has its benefits, one of which is exposure to this wonderful music. Also, there's Appalshop, described here, and a taste of which you can get here and here.
posted by CincyBlues at 8:45 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I generally prefer the modern productions of songs to the field recordings, if only because of production quality, but I'm so glad these recordings exist. Both from the historical side and from the side that enjoys folk music. Thanks for sharing!
posted by immlass at 8:56 AM on October 19, 2015

And if you prefer traditional Irish folk songs and folk music, Villanova's Digital Library brings you the archives of the Philadelphia Ceili Group, including festivals and workshops from the 1970's to the present, with notable performances by many, including Mick Moloney.
posted by mfoight at 9:07 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the great post and for introducing me to Amythyst Kiah and the whole genre of Southern Gothic/alt-country blues. I see many a rabbit hole that will be gone down this week ...
posted by Megami at 10:50 PM on October 19, 2015

Tangentially related, TheVerge recently had an article outlining the history of Tom's Diner.
posted by el io at 4:10 AM on October 20, 2015

To complement this delightful post...
The American Folklife Center today announces the online publication of the Lomax Family manuscripts. This phased project begins today, with access to 25,000 pages created primarily by Alan Lomax during the 1940s and 1950s at

During the next year over 350,000 pages from the 100 archival collections documenting the work of John A. Lomax Sr., Ruby Terrill Lomax, Alan Lomax, Bess Lomax Hawes, and John A. Lomax Jr. will become available to the public through the Library of Congress website. With this presentation, years in the making, the American Folklife Center is delighted to provide comprehensive online access to the papers of the first family of 20th century American Folklife.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 AM on October 20, 2015

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