The field recordings Alan Lomax gathered for the Archive of American Folk Music housed at the Library of Congress are among the most important recordings ever made, and in spite of whatever private agendas Lomax had at the time, they remain an invaluable glimpse into what America was singing before the music industry geared up and took over the radio waves. Lomax as a singer and interpreter of some of those same songs, however, which is what is collected here, is an entirely different matter. There is the veneer of the concert stage in his delivery, and instead of a back porch feel, which would allow these songs to live and breathe in something resembling their normal habitat, it is something nearer an oration. While Lomax's version of "My Little John Henry" is gentle and affecting, more often the results here come closer to his version of "All the Pretty Little Horses," which careens over the top into pitch-challenged territory, and it is nearly impossible to get past Lomax's singing of the song to the song itself. Ed McCurdy handles the vocals on the final eight tracks here, and while he is a more consistent singer than Lomax (McCurdy's version of the timeless "Red River Valley" is really quite moving), there is still the feel that these songs are being presented rather than sung.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett