If you don't know who Harry Smith is, that's fine. I won't be mad. But if you don't own or at least know about the Anthology Of American Folk Music, then you're really missing out. The AoAFM is a collection of old folk and country music from the 1920s and 1930s that has pretty much owned my headphones for the past year or so. It includes songs from The Carter Family, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, and many many more.
Harry Smith, the anthropologist (among other things) who put the recordings together in the early 1950s, is considered to be a major driving force in the folk revival of the '60s. You know, the one that brought us some dude named Dylan? Anyway, Smith's collection is a bible to some and it's no surprise that The Harry Smith Project Live was made. The DVD, which came out November 7, is a collection of Hal Willner's Harry Smith Project concerts that took place in London, New York, and Los Angeles. The DVD features performances from Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Beck, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Loud Reed, Beth Orton, Sonic Youth, Steve Earle and more. Needless to say, it's an all-star lineup singing some of America's finest songs. It's a history lesson as much as it is a concert, except your teachers are some of the world's best songwriters and musicians.
The DVD is truly fantastic and while there are obviously highlights, it seems as though each track is just as good as the next. The songs are what shine, not the musicians. Although if I had to choose a few, I would probably choose the wonderful Kate & Anna McGarrigle's version of Dock Bogg's "Sugar Baby" and Steve Earle's version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Prison Cell Blues." This DVD is a must for anyone who has Smith's box set and is a great starting point for those interested in this era of not just music, but history as well.