Library of Congress RecordingsOn March 25, 1947, East Texas folksinger Sam Hinton recorded 54 American folk songs (many of them learned from Carl Sandburg's American Songbag), all in one take, onto four 16" aluminum transcription discs for the Library of Congress. This marathon session was then filed away for some 50 years until this release of 46 of the songs on a single CD (most of the songs come in at well under two minutes in length) by Germany's Bear Family Records in 1999. What's astounding about these tracks, aside from the sheer number of them, is the complete consistency in Hinton's unassuming but exactly right singing and guitar playing throughout the whole session. He isn't flashy on any of these and he doesn't force a particular philosophy or personality into the songs; he simply performs them with deceptive ease, one after another. The result is an unhurried, sometimes playful, and often elegant survey of American folk music channeled through a singer who really has no axe to grind, making this set all the more startlingly refreshing because of that stance. With his easy, flexible baritone, Hinton sounds a bit like Burl Ives, but the relaxed demeanor of his delivery belies the careful research he puts into the songs he sings, and he sings a lot of songs (he is rumored to know well over 5,000 of them), so these 46 are just the tip of the iceberg. Hinton is a respected marine biologist and a director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institution, and his folksinging has always been a bit of a joyful sideline for him, which might explain why there is little commercial affectation to his recordings. He recorded similar material for Folkways Records between 1961 and 1967, all of which is still in print, and also tracked sides for the Decca, ABC, and Bowmar imprints, none of which are currently available.