Tripwire contributor (and main stud) Jeffrey Thrope hipped me to this Alan Lomax "Folk" exhibit at this art space called Brooklyn Fire Proof. While I've always had an interest in music from this region and era, everyone from the Carter Family, Charlie Poole and Bill Monroe to Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton and Snooks Eaglin, I've somehow remained ignorant to a lot of Alan Lomax's work. The exhibit, which closes on August 6, is great - a collection of photographs, artifacts, film and music recordings that whet your appetite and inspire you to find out more. One place to start is with our man Jeff's current read, The Land Where the Blues Began by Mr. Lomax (which I have dibs on when you're done, buddy).
So I'm all on this Lomax kick and I get an email about a four-disc CD/DVD box set Shout! Factory is putting out called The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited. The America that Harry Smith recorded was a parallel to Lomax's amazing work and was a world whose sounds I've lived with since I was a kid visiting my family in Kentucky. In 1952, Smith was responsible for a six-album compilation, which brought blues and roots artists to national attention and sparked the late-1950s/early 1960s urban folk revival. Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Dock Boggs and even the Carter Family were catalogued on this historic auditory snap shot, a document that is home to artists whose recordings I've spent hours upon hours of my life researching and searching out.
What Shout! Factory is releasing on October 24 is a two CD and two DVD compilation of performances from three concerts staged from 1999 - 2001 of artists who have been impacted by Harry Smith's legacy and who have covered or referenced songs captured in 1952's Anthology. I, personally, cannot wait to hear Nick Cave sing "John the Revelator," one of my favorite Blind Willie Johnson songs, or hear what Lou Reed does to the version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave's Kept Clean," that's in my head, or, and this one might just slay me, how Kate & Anna McGarrigle and Elvis Costello cover "Ommie Wise Part 1 & 2." David Johansen, Wilco, Beth Orton, Beck and Marianne Faithfull also weigh in with versions of these timeless songs. The compilation also features three short experimental films by Harry Smith and a new documentary, The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, which traces the roots of the original Anthology to its continuing influence on contemporary music. If you've ever heard the White Stripes launch into "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time," the Black Keys blast through "Do the Romp," or Bob Dylan moan through "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," you should definitely be checking this anthology out.