Various Artists

I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die

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One of numerous compilations of material recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1959 and 1960, I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die contains 15 tracks that comprise a varied snapshot of rural folk styles surviving in the American South. So varied is it, in fact, that not many listeners may have passion for each and every one of the selections, though most folk appreciators should find a good deal to enjoy and/or learn from. There's country blues, hillbilly fiddling, gospel, prison singing, quill-and-drum music, religious testimony, and a recording made at the United Sacred Harp Convention, along with samples of other styles across the folk spectrum. A few performers -- Fred McDowell, J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers, Hobart Smith, and Bessie Jones & the Georgia Sea Island Singers -- would come to wider attention on the folk revival circuit, though others remained known primarily to the folkloric community. The recording quality is variable, but generally decent considering the relatively simple conditions. And though these are of a rather documentary nature, a good number of the performances are moving and entertaining even outside of that context, like the harmony vocals of E.C. Ball and Lacey Richardson; Miles & Bob Pratcher's "I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die," a 1901 ragtime number that is a not so distant ancestor of Johnny Cash's "Big River"; and Ervin Webb & Prisoners' beautiful melancholic, work song-ish "I'm Going Home." This is just one batch of many hours of recordings Lomax made during this era, of course, but it does a good job of presenting some of the forms he preserved on tape, with detailed track-by-track liner notes.