Friday, May 24, 2013

My Favorite Album - Il Greenwood's Contribution

A bit of a con in that this title is a four CD box set, initially a six LP series, compiled from the performances of various artists. Well, I’m going anyway.  Let’s talk about something important.

This is the music of history and ritual tradition, recorded at a certain point in time, frozen for posterity.  A collection of striking field recordings put down by Alan Lomax in the American south of 1959, over two summer months of travel from Virginia to the Ozarks to the Delta to the Georgia Sea Islands.

The music he captured is naked humanity.  It is simultaneously raw tradition and raw expression.  Simultaneously completely relatable and totally alien (at least to this yankee), it has many qualities of history/anthropology injected into the music. 

Mostly small scale performances that would fall into the folk and blues idioms, the music is drawn from traditions in the mountains, bayou, prisons, fields and elsewhere.  The original disc titles are:  Sounds of the South, Blue Ridge Mountain Music, Roots of the Blues, Blues Roll On, Negro Church Music, White Spirituals, and American Folk Songs for Children. 

The massed hymns of the Negro Church Music/White Spirituals disc are likely my favorite by a slim margin.  Perhaps due to their disembodied, communal character and borderline creepiness, they are unironic and rawly heartfelt.  The children’s folks songs disc is unique, with rarely recognizable songs.  Anecdotally, much of this music was sampled by Moby, most prominently “Trouble So Hard”, for his “Play” album.

Certain elements are under/unrepresented (native songs, dance songs) but this remains the finest collection of American music on record, easily surpassing the justly famous Anthology of American Folk Music compiled by Harry Smith.  The fact that it remains out of print is purely criminal.  The humanity in this music reveals itself completely and transparently.  When Mrs. Mary Lee and her congregation intone “Jesus Is Real to Me”, the power of their beliefs is apparent and astounding.

Il Greenwood is a music lover, opera lover, and guitarist extraordinaire residing in Baltimore.

Click here for Der Thobaben's Contribution
Click here for Doundou Tchil's Contribution
Click here for Eta Boris's Contribution
Click here for HaWinograd's Contribution
Click here for Le Malon's Contribution
Click here for Atomic Sam's Contribution

Click here for La Swaynos's Contribution
Click here for Boulezian's Contribution
Click here for HaZmora's Contribution
Click here for The McBee's Contribution
Click here for Le Drgon's Contribution
Click here for The Brannock's Contribution
Click here for The Danny's Contribution
Click here for The Drioux's contribution
Click here for El Reyes's contribution
Click here for My contribtuion

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