A milestone in the family record collection — got the Anthology of American Folk Music (aka the Harry Smith collection) for Miles, Amy and myself. Originally released in 1952, this was a six-LP (now CD) set that included some of the most raw, authentic, real-deal American roots music recorded between 1925 and 1932. Not field recordings. Not stuff “approved” by academics as being representative for classroom purposes. This is the stuff that real people were buying and listening to and growing up on between the wars, when gramophones had found their way into most homes, and after recording technology had become good enough to preserve sessions accurately.
The original set included a book of boiled-down “essences” of the artists and their songs compiled by Harry Smith, like this one for Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Rabbit Foot Blues.” So out-there.
A second book is also included, which contains essays by Greil Marcus, John Fahey, Peter Stampfel, and so on. This set is like the Bible to many folkies, and was played over and over in clubs and cafes in the 50s and 60s. Been listening and reading all day and it’s affecting me in unexpected ways. The collective consciousness in this period was far from innocent – musicians were way out there, and lyrics were unexpectedly surreal.
Great Folkways site about the recordings here.