Kudos to The New Yorker for delivering the most deserved (and most surprising) magazine feature of recent years. In its April 28th issue, Burghard Bilger writes about searching for real folk music in an age when no area in America is so remote that it remains untouched by the broad culture. (It stands to reason that the oddest and most interesting folk music is created in a cultural vacuum.) Bilger does so partly by relating the histories of two of folk music's biggest fans nowadays -- Dust-To-Digital label founder Lance Ledbetter and field-recording expert Art Rosenbaum.
In the article, Ledbetter recounts his conversion to pre-war folk music and field recording courtesy of college radio and Folkways' landmark collection Anthology of American Folk Music. He also talks about the struggles of financing and finding time to run a small record label, and the joys of unearthing old folk music and tapping the springs of new folk music. (One Dust-To-Digital volume, the box set Art of Field Recording, Vol. I, presents some of Rosenbaum's best discoveries from the '50s all the way up to 2007.)
Unfortunately, the article isn't online, but The New Yorker has put up pictures and audio accompaniments (available here). Also, there's also a good Ledbetter interview here.
Anyone who's unfamiliar with Dust-To-Digital needs to do themselves a favor and check out at least one of their releases: the best bet is the excellent and exhaustive gospel box set Goodbye, Babylon, a six-disc collection that charts a wealth and wide range of gospel music, from the dawn of the 20th century through the 1950s (taking in everything from blues and close harmony to sacred-harp singing, with a bonus disc packed full of sermons).
For even more intriguing music, check out the rest of their catalogue, which doesn't just focus on American music -- one collection, Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics 1918-1955, has early recordings from Laos, Russia, Syria, Greece, Serbia, Northumbria, Turkey, and Vietnam.