Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Harry Smith's Anthology

Related threads:
English Folk Anthology (3)
Where Dead Voices Gather-AnthoAmerFolkMusicProject (6)
Review: Harry Smith Film: Old Weird America (21)
Review: Harry Smith Anthology Programme (4)
Review: Harry Smith folk compilation CD (5)
Lyr Req: Harry Smith's Anthology Music Book Site? (5)
Harry Smith anthology - why no Jimmie Rodgers? (19)
Anthology of American Folk Music (20)
On NPR: American Folk Music Anthology - 50yrs ago (11)
The Strange power of Harry Smith (26)
Harry Smith/ Bob Dylan programme on soon (17)
Harry Smith's Anthology Vol 4 (7)
Anthology of American Folk Music (Songbook) (6)
The Anthology??? (12)


Bryant 12 Jul 99 - 03:47 PM
Jack (who is called Jack) 12 Jul 99 - 04:10 PM
CarlZen 12 Jul 99 - 07:37 PM
Rick Fielding 13 Jul 99 - 12:38 AM
Roger the zimmer 13 Jul 99 - 06:41 AM
Easy Rider 13 Jul 99 - 10:15 AM
tomtom 13 Jul 99 - 04:44 PM
Mike Billo 13 Jul 99 - 07:40 PM
Art Thieme 13 Jul 99 - 09:34 PM
Sourdough 13 Jul 99 - 09:51 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 13 Jul 99 - 10:11 PM
tomtom 14 Jul 99 - 02:03 PM
Art Thieme 15 Jul 99 - 06:01 PM
Joe Offer 15 Jul 99 - 07:51 PM
Joe Offer 23 May 00 - 01:38 AM
Spider Tom 23 May 00 - 07:21 AM
kendall 23 May 00 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,Mrbisok@aol 23 May 00 - 10:06 AM
KathWestra 23 May 00 - 11:42 AM
TheOldMole 23 May 00 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Mrbisok@aol 23 May 00 - 12:41 PM
Peter T. 23 May 00 - 12:55 PM
The Shambles 02 Sep 00 - 04:45 AM
Stewie 02 Sep 00 - 06:51 AM
GUEST,simon-pierre 03 Sep 00 - 11:30 PM
Ritchie 04 Sep 00 - 07:47 AM
dick greenhaus 04 Sep 00 - 05:09 PM
Will Fly 12 Feb 09 - 06:31 AM
Folkiedave 12 Feb 09 - 09:07 AM
peregrina 12 Feb 09 - 09:17 AM
DADGBE 12 Feb 09 - 03:57 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Bryant
Date: 12 Jul 99 - 03:47 PM

I had a question or two for folks who are a little (or a lot) older than me.

I just discovered Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music about a half year ago and (at the risk of sounding melodramatic) it's really changed my world -- at least as far as music goes. I used to think guys like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were the old, old foundations, the roots, but this stuff -- God, it's like listening to the soil sing. I mean not only that the recordings are 70 some odd years old but they echo with all the generations of people who sang those songs before. A choir of ghosts.

Anyway, what I was curious about was (at least in part) what the sound quality of the original LPs was like. The CD version has, from what I've read in the liner notes, been digitally cleaned up quite a bit. And sometimes it's pretty impressive -- it's hard to believe the stuff was recorded in the before the Depression. For those of you who were listening to the LPs in the 50's, what was your impression of the sound of those recordings? Was it difficult to make out the lyrics? The instrumental parts? (I've heard stories of Jerry Garcia listening to John Hurt's pieces at half speed for hours on end trying to work out the picking.) Did you get into friendly arguments with your fellow folkies about deciphering lyrics? Chord changes? Interpretations of the songs?

Anyway, the little thread that's been running about the figuring out the lyrics to "Henry Lee" has got me to thinking about this stuff, and I guess I'm trying to get a little better sense of what that scene was like. Any thoughts or reminiscences would be nice to hear.

Bryant


Click here for the Anthology Website
Click here for Volume 4
NPR Page on the Anthology


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Jack (who is called Jack)
Date: 12 Jul 99 - 04:10 PM

Welcome to the club.

Discovering The Anthology is like when Carter peeked into Tutankahmen's tomb for the first time through a small hole he'd broken through a sealed wall. The man behind him said 'Do you see anything?", Carter paused and in a whisper said 'Wonderful things'.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: CarlZen
Date: 12 Jul 99 - 07:37 PM

"Listening to the soil sing"

"A choir of ghosts"

Analogies with discovering King Tut.

You guys are amazing! As is the Anthology.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 12:38 AM

I first heard the anthology when I was 15 (I'm 52 now) so it naturally was on record. Funny thing, sound quality has never been an issue with me. The music comes first and good sound is a bonus. Many of the cuts were very scratchy to begin with (having been recorded off old scratchy 78s, but the music was astonishing and I just wore out the three sets - as I did with Leadbelly's Last Sessions. Jeezus, how our lives have been shaped by this gift.
Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Roger the zimmer
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 06:41 AM

...one downside of digital technology cleaning up old recordings for me is that I could get away with imitating 90-year old jazz & blues singers recorded past their prime on wire recorders in field conditions without their teeth (or with wooden teeth). Now we can hear what they really sounded like, I can't come close!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Easy Rider
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 10:15 AM

Like Rick, I found these LPs in the early sixties, when I was also fifteen or so and just learning to play folk guitar. My guitar teacher sent me out to look for them, and I found them, without jackets, in the remainder bin at a record shop, on 6th Ave and 42nd street, that had the whole Folkways catalog. I wish I had bought more records back then! I have them still AND the new CDs, but I haven't tried to compare the two.

They were a revelation! They were my first introduction to the original sources of the music I was starting to learn about. The sound was, and still is, scratchy on some of the cuts, but, as you listen to the sides, you come across these GEMs every once in a while. I discovered Mississippi John Hurt (Frankie), on this collection, and got my teacher to teach me a couple of his songs. I went to see him perform, and I talked to him, and I bought his new records. I'm still learning to play his music. I just found TAB for "Nobody Cares For Me", on the internet, and I'm busy learning it now. Check out Doc Boggs' "Country Blues"...

Thank you, Harry Smith!

EZR


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: tomtom
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 04:44 PM

When I listen to the Anthology, I can't help but think about the mind that put the thing together. Harry Smith was a truly remarkable person. He (almost single-handedly) rescued a chapter of American art and history from the scrap heap. No one was paying attention to that type of music in the 1950s . . . except Harry.

It's hard to believe that a guy nosing around used record stores could have put together such an incredible study of rural American music.

Has anyone seen any of the movies he made?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Mike Billo
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 07:40 PM

I've seen two films of Harry Smith's. I believe he invented the technique of painting on film, which is something that doesn't seem quite so avante-garde in '99, but was quite innovative when he first did it. I've also heard the Smithsonian Field recording HS did of a Native American peyote ceremony in 1949! Quite a guy! However, I'm afraid I have to say that not everyone thinks CD's sound better than records (I know, being a curmudgeon is a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it). A lot of digital technology takes something away in my opinion. I realize that mine is a minority opinion, but if you can compare the Columbia Roots 'n Blues CD of Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 sessions to the Yazoo LP of the same session, I think you will hear what I'm referring to. I haven't purchased the CD's of the Smith Anthology. I have the records.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 09:34 PM

Bryant,

It sure is good to hear the wonder in your voice as you tell us old guys about finding the Anthology. But keep in mind, as inspiring as the ballad section of the anthology is, it is only the tip of an iceburg. At least 2/3 is there under the surface waiting for you to break through the ice and discover it. This is what I'm talking about in my posts to the "folkies vs. singer-songwriters" thread. To get to the DEPTHS of history where the real examples of root music are wating for you, you must first sweep the scum of the present (the navel-gazing pseudo-folk songs) off the top of the pond so you can get a clear view of the treasures of the hunt. Back then it was a real treasure hunt for us. We had to find out about these songs and singers slowly, incrementally----first maybe the Anthology---or a hobo Wobbly singer/fiddler. Hearing him is like taking a trip in a time machine. This necessitates a mindset where you are looking to the past for music and values like we were in the 50s and 60s. The tendency now is to lunge forward and to ignore history. But these songs are history. They are the words of the folk that came before---they are the views of their world that they left us--changed by the oral and electronic tradition but devoid of the ditractions of their times like cholera and typhoid & no air conditioning and no machines to do the work. As Kurt Vonnegut said in __From Time To Timbuktu__, "Whenever I start to feel the slightest bit self-important, I think of all the dirt that never did get a chance to sit up and look around." Our folksongs are the ones that tell real and detailed stories of the people in a given place at a certain moment---those that left us their songs so we might better understand the trails that brought us from then to now. They took the time to look around.

So the Smith Anthology is just an introduction. I envy you, Bryant. The adventure is before you. A long time ago Sandy Paton told me that the place to find the songs was out on the highways. I've been hitting those hot dusty roads that Woody sang about ever since those long ago talks with Mr. Paton. I took the songs I found to others and they gave 'em to me also. That's what it's all about. That's what Mudcat is about. Now that I'm off the road, Sandy came here (just last night) and we swapped tales of the road some more. Unlike sex, which sometimes is a diminished concept as we age, THE MUSIC is always orgasmic. Both ideas are always better when there's mutual give and take!

Enjoy!!

Art Thieme


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Sourdough
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 09:51 PM

Briyant, Jack, CarlZen, Rick F, Roger the Z, Easy Rider, Tom Tom, Mike B and now Art T.

This thread makes terrific reading! So many of the different things that have attracted me to the music over the past nearly forty years is in here, being appreciated in this one exchange of messages.

The experience is not individual, the emotions that you all are writing about are the ones I know and treasure and that makes discovering others writing about them with such affection even better. I stumbled onto this website, I don't even remember how, but it has been wonderful experience.

Sourdough


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 13 Jul 99 - 10:11 PM

Roger, about the downside of digital technology. A real revelation to me on the new CDs is the cleaned up version of "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" by Blind Lemmon Jefferson. It completely changed my concept of his status as a guitarist. Since then I have been listening more carefully to some of his other records and I realize what a blind fool (deaf fool?) I have been. This man is where it all started. I can begin see the derivation of such diverse styles as those of Son House and of Blind Blake in those Jefferson records.

There was a book that came out in the early 70s that was meant to be a companion to the Anthology. It is called "Anthology of Americal Folk Music" by Oak Publ. Edited by Moses Asch, Hosh Dunson, and Ethel Raim. It has transcriptions some of the pieces (I would say 2/3) and a lot of good editorial stuff including an interview with Frank Walker by Mike Seeger. It was probably a lot more impressive before the superb documentation that comes with the CD set; but it still makes a good read.

Murray


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: tomtom
Date: 14 Jul 99 - 02:03 PM

Unfortunately, Murray, that companion book you mention is out of print. I've done some serious looking for it (Internet searches, etc) but have come up empty, so far. Someone seems to have stolen it from the University of Virginia library, as well. If anyone knows a way to get a hold of the thing, I'd appreciate any suggestions.

They just released a book of Harry Smith interviews entitled Think of the Self Speaking. I'm anxious to check it out. There's an interesting website at www.harrysmitharchives.com.

tomtom


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Art Thieme
Date: 15 Jul 99 - 06:01 PM

In recent times (last year I think), PAT CONTE put out a world historic anthology for us to peruse. I think it was called something like THE MUSEUM OF MANKIND. I hear that if you come to it with an open mind it's like nothing else ever issued in any format. Unbelievable sonds from 78s in Mr. Conte's massive collection of world-wide esoterica. If anyone has listened to these I'd love to hear about it. For monetary reasons, I'm limiting my CD purchases lately.

Art


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jul 99 - 07:51 PM

The "Anthology" book is listed at the UTK song Index, so the book should be in the library at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
-Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 May 00 - 01:38 AM

The Smithsonian Folksways Website has extensive notes on the songs in the Harry Smith Anthology - click here. The way the site is designed, it's easy to lose track of the notes pages and end up on identical pages that don't have links to the song notes. Go back to the link I've posted here, and you'll get back to the song notes.
-Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Spider Tom
Date: 23 May 00 - 07:21 AM

I had read about the set for years, and only got to buy it about 18 months ago.
It has real appeal and a rawness which wouldn't be aloud to be recorded these days, at least not commercially.
After listening to the set I can now hear its influence in a multitude of singers, who have had a ride or two on its coat tails.
It is like an uncut diamond, even on C.D. a treasure.
Spider Tom


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: kendall
Date: 23 May 00 - 08:28 AM

Very interesting..Put me to wondering who else has old records which they can no longer play. My stereo wont play 78's.
Among others, I have, The Death of Floyd Collins, The letter Edged in Black and After the Ball all by Vernon Dalhart. I also have one titled Pickinneys Paradise.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: GUEST,Mrbisok@aol
Date: 23 May 00 - 10:06 AM

Art Thieme (4 messages ago) mentioned Pat Conte. Pat's CD has the same title as his radio show: "The Secret Museum of the Air." This radio show broadcasts weekly in the NYC area: Radio Station WFMU: 91.1 fm, Tuesday, 6-7pm. This show, which I've been listening to for 4 years, focuses on folk music field recordings released on 78 rpm and cylinders from the dawn of recording to about l940. Ten percent of the shows are about English language recordings. 90% are non English performers and music: Greece and Africa are heavily represented. I taped his show of "Cowboy Songs" (USA)about 2 years ago and have played it again and again. I get impatient with the heavy concentration on non-English language stuff, but Pat Conte is doing a wonderful job. Maybe this topic (Pat Conte) should become a separate thread. -- Harold from Hawthorne.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: KathWestra
Date: 23 May 00 - 11:42 AM

Does this station broadcast over the internet??? Sounds like a really interesting show!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: TheOldMole
Date: 23 May 00 - 11:54 AM

An interesting thing about the HS approach - as compared to the Lomax apporach - is that HS was interested in commercial recordings, not in going out into the field. Clearly, bot approaches have value.

The Harry Smith approach is puit into action every day in New York's Hudson Valley, by a little commercial radio station, WHVW, 950 AM. The station's owner/chief DJ, "Pirate Joe," plays primarily from his own seemingly inexhaustible collection of roots music 78s. I don't know if there's anything like him elsewhere in America, although I hope there are people like him all over. He's a national treasure on a par with Harry Smith.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: GUEST,Mrbisok@aol
Date: 23 May 00 - 12:41 PM

Reply to KathWestra: yes, the station (WFMU) broadcasts 24-7 over the internet. But I don't yet have the savvy to explain where to go. Next time they explain it on the station, I'll pay attention. BTW (I hate computer-eze talk) R U of the Netherlands persuasion either by birth or marriage, perhaps a Michigander?
Click here for WFMU


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Peter T.
Date: 23 May 00 - 12:55 PM

Bryant, you should run out and get a copy of Greil Marcus' book, Invisible Republic, on Bob Dylan's use of Harry Smith in his "Basement Tapes". It is a profound meditation on what that 20's-30's music meant -- not perhaps to the originators, but to the latter day. Voices from "another America" he calls them -- the shocking, National Enquirer world of train crashes, drowned babies, the dirt poor, the wierd, and the marginal.

In a recent interview he said (I copied this at the time when I read it):

"My wife would sometimes say, "Well Invisible Republic is your '60s book." And I'd say, "This is not my '60s book. This book isn't about Dylan and the '60s. This book's about the '20s. This book is about when Doc Boggs and Clarence Ashley and Frank Hutchison and Blind Lemon Jefferson and Richard "Rabbit" Brown, when they were recording, when the original body of traditional American music was first put onto records. And that was something really the opposite of rock 'n' roll, but it also had this similar galvanizing quality. We were talking earlier about how rock 'n' roll, when it began, it sounded to so many people as if it came out of nowhere. And that experience of music seeming to come out of nowhere, when it really has deep roots, what does that mean? This was music that in the 1920s, when it was first recorded and city people began to listen to it, to some people was the strangest music they'd ever heard, the old American folk music and so it sounded as if it came out of nowhere. But it was also music that was already very, very old. The real country was in this old, old music. And that's the sense that I began to get out of it when I went back listening to it. That's a lot of what this book is about. Where is the real country?
yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: The Shambles
Date: 02 Sep 00 - 04:45 AM

refresh


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Sep 00 - 06:51 AM

For those who may not know, John Fahey's Revenant label has released a wonderful 2-CD set - Volume IV of the Anthology exactly as Smith had planned. As Harry said, 'There were supposed to be four volumes, you know, like for earth, air, fire and water; red, blue, yellow and green'. The red, blue and green editions constituted the first three volumes, issued in 1952. Volume IV is described in the Revenant issue as: 'being a compendium of musical sound recordings compiled by Harry Smith of Bellingham, Washington, with accompanying descriptive texts supplied by several noteworthy persons - Ed Sanders, John Cohen, Dick Spottswood, Greil Marcus, John Fahey'. The catalogue number is Revenant CD RVN 211. The Revenant set is beautifully presented as a CD-sized hardcover book and is essential for anyone who loves the original sets.

--Stewie.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: GUEST,simon-pierre
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:30 PM

I was about to start a thread when I listened to the anthology for the first time this summer and I'm glad to see that you folks already shared their impressions about this amazing music. As the liner notes on the reedition says, these songs gathered together gives a so STRANGE result...

I was surprise that I already knew about fifteen songs or tunes - they were sung by others artists. Since then, it seems that the musical field is unlimited and remains for a big part unknown, that an whole side of the history was hidden and I just begin to discover it. I listen every morning to the fiddle tunes on the second volume - they sounds so melancholic... and then I listen le vieux soulard et sa femme and lough out loud when the old drunkard says Je m'en vais me souler! (I'm going to get drunk!)...

SP


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Ritchie
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 07:47 AM

A very interesting and informative thread, I picked up on it from 'The Bob Dylan' one. I've just been listening to a track by David Johansen & the Harry Smiths called 'James Alley Blues' which was included on free CD with the Aug/Sept edition of Froots magazine.Froots no.15. This was played a couple of months ago on 'Saturday night with Charlie Gillett' and he also played 'Le Vieux Soulard' by Cleoma Breaux & Joseph Falkener recorded in 1928 from the anthology of American folk music..excellent stuff.I'll have to look out for more.

I implore people to try and listen to Charlie's show on wen.com. He has arguably the best playlist that I've seen.

regards Ritchie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 05:09 PM

Neddless to say, Volume 4 is available from Camsco Music, as is The CD verwion of Volumes 1 - 3 (available only as a set).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 06:31 AM

Well - the box set of the Harry Smith/Folkways "Anthology of American Folk Music" I ordered has just arrived through the post - a Vinyl album-shaped box with 6 CDs, a small booklet containing the numerical listing of the tunes, plus a large booklet of "Essays, Appreciations and Annotations...". I don't know what to look at first. I'm (as they say) in hog heaven.

Now - my main problem is that I really must resist the temptation to do anything with it this minute. Once I start, the whole day will be gone - but the booklets and the CDs are looking at me, saying, "Just one little peek...just one track...".

How could I, after 40+ years of playing, have missed this feast?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 09:07 AM

Not to worry you are not the only one.

Look Harry up on the web and read everything you can about him.

One thing you might question - was it legal? Certainly the legalities of copywrite never bothered Harry!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: peregrina
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 09:17 AM

Enjoy it... great stuff. And the original booklet, so idiosyncratic...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Harry Smith's Anthology
From: DADGBE
Date: 12 Feb 09 - 03:57 PM

I discovered the Smith work at Izzy Young's Folklore Center in the late 1950's. Rocked my world too. Harry used to frequent Izzy's shop, especially when he wanted to borrow money. Harry was a cantankerous, wonderful, contradictory sort of artist/beatnik - a friend of Allen Ginsberg.

I suspect that his Anthology (which was the first to make no distinction between white and black artists) was one of the factors which kick started the folk revival in the US.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 21 April 11:56 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.