Archive for April 2009

Tribute to Archie Green (1917-2009) & Work’s Many Voices LPs

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Archie Green and posters
In this posting we pay tribute to Archie Green, the great scholar of laborlore (the study of the expressive culture of working people) who passed away in March at the age of 91.  Included here are his now out of print LPs “Work’s Many Voices” volumes 1 & 2 – a selection of labor related songs drawn from Archie’s collection of rare 45 rpm singles.  These songs span the years 1950-1985 and cover a number of musical styles including country, blues, Mexican corridos, Cajun and polka. To hear the 1st volume in its entirety, click the top play button.  Click here for the track list.

Work's Many Voices by you. Work's Many Voices by you.
Click here to Download Work’s Many Voices Vol. 1

Click here to Download Work’s Many Voices Vol. 2

Also posted here is a selection from Nathan Salsburg’s Root Hog or Die radio program, originally aired on East Village Radio, paying tribute to Archie by playing a bunch of recordings that were influential to him and that he loved.

Back in December I did a long (all afternoon long, he loved to talk) interview with Archie at his home in San Francisco.  It was a great conversation and there’s probably material in there for several episodes of DHR, so look out for that in the coming months.

Selections from Mother Jones, The New York Times and The Daily Yonder obituaries:

“Archie Green, a shipwright turned folklorist whose interest in union workers and their culture transformed the study of American folklore and who single-handedly persuaded Congress to create the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, died last Sunday at his home in San Francisco. He was 91… (NY Times)(more…)

Interview with Jessy Carolina

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

On today’s show I speak with New York folk singer and song writer Jessy Carolina.  Originally from Venezuela, Jessy grew up in North Dakota and later New York City.  She sings a lot of early blues songs, old-time and folk songs, Woody Guthrie songs and writes her own songs. We recorded this interview in a park in New Orleans when we were both down there back in February, busking on Royal street and escaping the New York winter.  Jessy plays live on the show, talks about her background, the trip down South and life busking in NOLA.  I also play some live recordings that I made of Jessy at the Jalopy Theater in Redhook, Brooklyn.

Jessy will be performing, along with 20 other great acts, at the upcoming Brooklyn Folk Festival, which will be held at Jalopy the weekend of May 15th -17th.  Its gonna be fun!  Check out for details.

Jessy Carolina sings “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie,” by Elizabeth Cotten on the streets of New Orleans, Feb. 2009.

True Story of Abner Jay – Mississippi Records

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Abner Jay, Mississippi Records by you.

On today’s show I speak with Eric Isaacson, founder of Mississippi Records & owner of the record store by the same name, located on Mississippi Ave. in Portland, OR.  Mississippi Records has been releasing some really amazing music, compilations of old 78s which are really well chosen and programmed as well as more modern recordings of vernacular music, a lot of gospel and blues stuff. They are committed to releasing their music on vinyl LPs, but occasionally they do small releases of cassette tapes.  Whoever is responsible for the artwork on their record jackets should be commended, they’re really great.

On today’s show we will hear a selection of cuts drawn from various MS Records releases, and then we’ll feature, in fact hear the whole A side of their new release, “True Story of Abner Jay.”  This is an amazing record of Abner Jay a one man band and song writer from around Atlanta, GA who passed away in 1993 and had apparently been actively playing since the 1930’s.  He has a deep style that is related in some amazing way to Bob Dylan’s music, but is really its own and operating on a number of levels.  He plays the guitar or 6-string electric banjo, harmonica and bass drum and high hat with his feet.  See below for a video of him.

Mississippi Records by you.
Some MS Records releases featured on today’s program

Fuck Your "Progress" in Portland, OR 7-14-7 by xXxBrianxXx.

See below for the back of the Abner Jay record, notes, etc… (more…)

…A Country Mule Ready to Kick a Hole Into the Future…

Friday, April 3rd, 2009


“…a country mule ready to kick a hole into the future…” – Alan Lomax

Vinyl LP records are back. A lot of people I know own typewriters.  Many musicians, photographers and other artists record their work analogue and then transfer it to digital later for distribution.  Examples include musicians recording to old fashioned tape machines and photographers using various film cameras, working in the darkroom and then digitally scanning their work.  What does this mean?  Why do people continue to use obsolete forms of technology?  The answer that I’ve often heard when discussing this with people is that these technologies still work well, they still exist and are in fact better suited to certain uses and forms of expression than more recent inventions.  I will try to summarize here some of the ideas I’ve heard knocked around lately plus add in some of my own thoughts that I’ve hatched while trying to write this article!

There is a dual relationship developing between the physical world and the digital world.  People obviously want to go into the digital world, but they want to leave it too, out of a pure physical and psychological need to see, hear and touch something plain and simple.  On a personal level and on a cultural level people are also judiciously considering their notions of technological progress.  Practically speaking, through a process of trial and error, they are finding out what forms of technology work best in different situations.

Digital: Looking at information on a computer screen, or even typing in album titles, pressing play and listening to music on a computer – all of this is like looking through the glass at a diorama in a museum, with the feeling that if you stepped through the glass it would all come alive.

What’s the difference between digital music in a computer and a vinyl record with its sleeve?  I think that CDs will eventually die out, and in the short term will be used mostly to transport music from a vendor to one’s computer.  Most people will get and listen to their recorded music digitally, and some smaller number of people will gravitate towards vinyl records.  These people will use digital music to some lesser and practical extent, such as when traveling, listening to internet radio or to something unavailable on LP.  For myself, if I hear something I really like and treasure I’d want to own it as a physical object on LP, where as something I were only lukewarm about I might want to just have filed away digitally.

Why are these music lovers attracted to this older form, why has it been selected?  Yes, records do sound better than digital, sometimes surprisingly better.  It’s a warmer sound, fuller – not so cold, hard and matter-of-fact as digital – there’s some surface noise and a crucial bit of remove that is desirable in a recorded medium.  But there’s more to it than that, having to do (more…)