Archive for November 2009

Interview with John Cohen

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

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On today’s show I speak with musician, photographer, filmmaker and folk-musicologist John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. At the time of this interview, conducted in the summer of 2008, John had just come out with a new CD of old recordings called “Berkeley in the 1960′s” on the Field Recorders Collective label. This is a great record label, definitely check them out.

On the show we discuss this excellent new album, but also range over topics including his earliest field work in Kentucky and Peru, his influences as a guitarist, favorite photographers and his advice/anti-advice to students, stemming from his experience as a professor of art. John also demonstrates Hobart Smith’s piano style, which I’ve never heard anyone else tackle before and offers his reflections on his friend Roscoe Holcomb.  Recordings John mentions are played throughout.

Apparently whenever the New Lost City Ramblers would go to Berkeley, CA through out the 1960′s, they would have a big jam at a house on Colby Street.  John was so impressed by this gathering of musicians at that place and time that in 1970 with the help of Vanguard Records he flew to California to record this sound.  They used the left over tape from the Grateful Dead’s Working Man’s Dead sessions at Pacific High studios and recorded some great stuff, but one thing and another it didn’t come out, until now! Musicians on the record are Jody Stecher, Larry Hanks,  Sue Draheim, Holly Tannen, Hank Bradley, Sue Thompson, Eric Thompson, Kenny Hall and Bob Potts, Mac Benford and Walt Koken who would later form the Highwoods Stringband.

I’ve been trying to bring this interview out for over a year! Many thanks to Carly Nix for volunteering to edit this interview for airplay, otherwise it might have never got done. Thank you!

Sadly, I would also like to note the recent passing of Field Recorder’s Collective founder Ray Alden.  He was a great guy who did really important work.  I him met on a couple of occasions, but only briefly and without time to really talk or do an interview.  Now its too late, but I hope to do a piece about him as soon as possible.

And – Thanks go to the Old Time Herald magazine for being super cool and running our advertisement.  Check it out in the magazine! (more…)

Library of Congress Field Recordings LP

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009


Here is an early, influential and fantastic album issued by the Library of Congress in 1942.  It was first issued on an album of 78rpm records and then was reissued on this disc early in the LP era.  This record AAFS L2, “Anglo-American Shanties, Lyrics Songs, Dance Tunes and Spirituals from the Archive of American Folk Song,” is the 2nd in the “Folk Music of the United States” series and was edited by Alan Lomax.

There’s some pretty amazing stuff on here.  In fact, all of it is great.  It’s a great record! The field recordings on this album were newly made at the time of the album’s release.  This was the latest hot off the press stuff.  The field recordists who made these recordings, Alan and Elizabeth Lomax, Pete Seeger, Herbert Halpert, Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin are a good representation of the small group of early modern folklorists busy making field recordings of Southern music at that time.

There’s some clutch stuff on here.  These recordings were very influential early on to Pete Seeger, who made several of them, and to the members of the New Lost City Ramblers among others.  Mike Seeger has recorded his own versions of many of the song variants found on this album.

Here’s an unfair question:  How do you think this record, or better this series, of field recordings edited by Alan Lomax and issued in 1942, relates to the Anthology of American Folk Music, composed of commercially recorded 78s, which was edited by Harry Smith and issued in 1952? Contrary to some popular conceptions, there were amazing and influential compilations of folk music issued before the Anthology…
I will continue to post more volumes from this series, but I think this one is my favorite.

CLICK HERE to download the album cut up into tracks.

See below for track information and notes: (more…)

Fire In My Bones

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

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Here’s some preview tracks from the new Tompkins Square Records release, “Fire In My Bones,” a really amazing gospel compilation.

1. Don’t Let Him Ride – Mississippi Nightingales

2. Storm Thru Mississippi – Henry Green

3. How Long – Sister Ola Mae Terrell