Music

Various Artists: Root Hog Or Die 100 Years 100 Songs: An Alan Lomax Centennial Tribute

A vast and impressive collection of folk music, lovingly compiled by one of the best contemporary folklorists for the sake of one of the best of yesteryear.


Various Artists

Root Hog Or Die 100 Years 100 Songs: An Alan Lomax Centennial Tribute

Label: Mississippi
US Release Date: 2016-02-19
UK Release Date: 2016-02-16
Amazon
iTunes

Lomax Turns 100 And We Celebrate With 100 Songs

Alan Lomax would have celebrated a century of life in 2015 and although the legendary folklorist couldn’t be here, his work, the music he discovered and preserved in his travels, is. Collected in this six-LP limited edition vinyl box are 100 songs that span 50 years of his field recordings from 1933 to 1983. The greats are represented here (Jelly Roll Morton, Bob Dylan and Big Bill Broonzy) as are a wide range of unknowns whose work is as often as compelling as that of their more visible counterparts. There are citizens of the United States, Spain, Romania, Great Britain and other lands represented too. There are bluesmen, churchmen, and everymen. There are ballads and broad humor, songs that touch on the spiritual and sinful but all of it is inspiring.

The collection eschews chronology in favor of artistry as songs move between 1947, 1954, 1962 and 1938 on the first half of the first side alone. Lomax is featured on the first track, “I’m a Rambler, I’m a Gambler”, the first somewhat unexpected gift of many. From there we’re introduced to Harlem hambone man Steven Wright, superior singer/banjo player Sheilah Kay Adams who gives us a glorious “Dinah”. Meanwhile Jelly Roll Morton offers “Alabama Bound” and Abraham "Aapo" Juhan from Calumet, Michigan whose “Finnish Waltz” spotlights the role of ethnic Scandinavian music in that state’s rich musical history.

Margaret Barry, captured at a song swap at an apartment in Lomax’s London flat back in ’53, sings “Her Mantle So Green” in a voice that is impossible to forget; Skip James and Son House are represented on the second record captured live at the Newport Folk Festival which was, lest we forget, the heart of American folk music for decades. Jimmy MacBeath’s “Tramps and Hawkers” from Edinburgh in 1951 fits nicely beside tracks from Newport and Paris, where Broonzy delivered an ace reading of “A Shanty in Shanty Town”.

A number of literal unknowns lead us across the start of the third record, offering us some more typical elements of folk music with Fred McDowell’s voice and guitar taking us on an emotional and spiritual journey with “Lord Have Mercy”. From churches to beaches and back to apartments and more typical musical stages we travel alongside Lomax, never feel displaced in time and never doubting the gorgeous musicality that resides in each of these cuts.

The journey we take here with Lomax and the many performers he captures is a journey we too often can’t take in contemporary times. Yes, there are labels that cater to indigenous music and export it to the masses by the score but there is more done in the way of marketing and greater consideration for monetizing of this art than for the art itself. This is a gift for music lovers and listeners as we’re allowed to trip across time and embrace the familiar and the less familiar, as we celebrate the hero and the heroine and the faceless masses who were probably better at their craft than could be expected.

Gifted musician and composer and folklorist Nathan Salsburg is to be commended not only for his impeccable liner notes but for the work he did in compiling the music and presenting it to us in the here and now. A lovely and necessary gift.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image