August 11, 2010

If the name Alan Lomax doesn’t ring strike a dulcimer chord, his Wikipedia page provides a solid but superficial account of his achievements. The son of legendary ethnomusicologist John A. Lomax, deserves similar canonization for his work in cataloguing the ancient folk, blues, and ballads of the South, the Appalachians, and Haiti. An oral historian to rival Studs Terkel, his interviews with Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Muddy Waters, are almost as good as the conversations you may read of your favorite chillwave artists. Washed Out is a master of the chillaxiom. His interview in The Fader not only changed the way I approach life, it changed the way I approach love. Sigh.

Before almost anyone reading this was alive, Lomax had a PBS program called “American Patchwork,” in which he filmed musicians, singers, dancers, and the occasional singing and dancing hobo. It was exactly like Vice TV, except with a little less banjo. Because YouTube singlehandedly justifies Al Gore’s creation of the Internet, The Association for Cultural Equity has launched an Alan Lomax Archive channel. They’ve uploaded 20 videos thus far, with promises of more to come. They’re powerful reminders of the old weird America, and are a must-see for anyone with the faintest antiquarian impulses.  A few of my favorites below the jump.

MP3: Jack Owens & Blind Bud Spires-“Can’t See Blues”

MP3: R.L. Burnside-“See My Jumper Hanging On the Line”

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