Various Artists

Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings

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Thirty Library of Congress field recordings from 1933 to 1946, compiled and thoroughly annotated by Stephen Wade. There are many Library of Congress collections, but the diversity of performances on this disc might make one of the better selections for someone who's interested enough in folkloric recordings to have just a few, as opposed to an academic who wants to hear as much as possible. There's Appalachian folk music, African-American spirituals, nursery rhymes by black Mississippi children, rural Southern blues, and even an a cappella ballad by a Harvard-educated judge. There are a couple of well-known performers as well: Woody Guthrie does "The Gypsy Davy," and Sonny Terry has a trademark puffing harmonica workout on "Lost John." But largely these are folks who performed mostly for their neighbors or houses of worship. It's not the point of a collection such as this to illustrate how this music influenced pop, but there are some real interesting renditions of songs that later became famous in other hands: "Blood-Strained Banders" (done here by Jimmie Strothers) was adapted into "Good Shepherd" by the Jefferson Airplane; "Sea Lion Woman" (Christine and Katherine Shipp) was done by Nina Simone, and "Another Man Done Gone" (Vera Hall) was covered by John Mayall. There's also the first recorded performance of "Rock Island Line" (by inmates at an Arkansas penitentiary in 1934), which became a folk music standard and eventually started the skiffle craze in England.

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