April 22, 1997 Library and Rounder Records Release First in Folk Music Series
Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
The Library of Congress and Rounder Records have released the first two compact discs of American folk music in a series reissued from the legendary Library of Congress folk music albums. "Negro Blues and Hollers" (Rounder CD 1501), originally edited by Marshall Stearns and issued in 1962, features African American musical traditions from the Mississippi Delta country, recorded by Alan Lomax from the Library of Congress and John W. Work and Lewis Jones from Fisk University in 1941-42. "Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miners" (Rounder CD 1502) features the "minstrels of the mine patch" in the Pennsylvania anthracite region, originally recorded and edited by George Korson in 1946-47. The two CDs, which are available in retail record stores and the Library of Congress sales shop, launch a series of reissues, produced by Bob Carlin, that will number at least 20 by 1998.
"Negro Blues and Hollers" has been for decades a defining album for blues lovers and students of African American culture. For the blues devotee, the album's rural Mississippi performances (including four by blues legend Son House), joined by authentic field and camp hollers and gospel church performances, provide a window into the rural Mississippi Delta heartland where blues began. For the student of African American cultural history, the album offers a powerful sampling from a pioneering documentary project by the Library of Congress and Fisk University that sought to record the entire range of the musical life of a community, and that also sought to trace and preserve musical performances revealing the African roots of the grand tradition of African American music. The notes of Marshall Stearns, who edited the original album, are augmented in this reissue by notes on the original field expedition itself, provided by producer Bob Carlin.
"Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miners" represents the labors of George Korson, author and folklorist of the mining camps, whose recording expedition in 1946 for the Library of Congress led to this unique compilation. The songs, ballads, and instrumental tunes he recorded reveal both the cultural roots of the miners in European immigrant traditions, and the passions, pride, pain, and strife of their life in the coal mines.
All the original recordings on these CDs are drawn from the Archive of Folk Culture, a multi-format collection of field recordings, manuscripts, photographs, and documentary materials in other media numbering more than 1 million items. The Archive, founded in 1928 within the Music Division of the Library of Congress, was originally known as the Archive of American Folk-Song. In 1978 the Archive became part of the American Folklife Center, which was established within the Library by an act of Congress, and a year later its name was changed to the Archive of Folk Culture.
The Library's series of published folk music recordings began in 1942. During the 1940s several albums were produced and released from the Archive by the Library's Recording Laboratory, providing the public with authentic examples of folk music recorded in the field throughout America and the world. In the 1950s the series was converted to the new format of long-playing records (LPs), and new releases continued to appear. Thousands of copies of the maroon-and-gray Library LP jackets, many containing distinctive red vinyl discs, found their way into libraries and private collections throughout the United States. They helped fuel the revival of popular interest in American folk music during the 1950s and 1960s, and they are still fondly remembered today by thousands of musicians and music-lovers. All told, the "Folk Music of the United States" series provided 71 releases, and a special bicentennial series of 15 LPs raised the total to 86 releases before the LP format began to be supplanted by cassettes and CDs.
The new series of reissues is being released by Rounder Records, a company in Cambridge, Mass., that since the early 1970s has specialized in American folk music. Rounder over the years has released a number of LPs and CDs drawn from the collections of the Archive of Folk Culture, including recordings of Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Jelly Roll Morton, Aunt Molly Jackson, and others. The present series represents a collaboration of Rounder and two Library of Congress divisions: the American Folklife Center, which includes the Archive of Folk Culture, and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, which includes the Library's Recording Laboratory. At least 18 additional reissues are slated for release in 1997-1998.