Nathan Salsburg worked with Rayna Gellert on arranging and performing traditional and original songs for her Old Light collection. You can stream and purchase selected tracks at Bandcamp and buy the full album at Amazon.
A curator of the Alan Lomax archive, Salsburg is doing great work in keeping traditional music alive. He was interviewed on this fascinating episode of WFPK After Dark, which features recordings from the archive. Salsburg also exhibited his talents on this NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and his debut album as a solo performer, Affirmed.
I’m willing to bet you’ve heard Vera Ward’s voice even though you may not know it. Her rendition of “Trouble So Hard” recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959 was heavily sampled by Moby for his song “Natural Blues.” Hear the remarkable original here.
This was the first recording I heard from the Lomax Archive – I searched for ballads and was drawn to the “Irish” in the title. It’s a compelling document – you can hear Alan Lomax trying to coax the ending from Barker when his memory fails him in the final verses. You can sample or purchase a collection of Horton Barker’s performances at Smithsonian Folkways.
John Quincy Wolf Jr. recorded another version of this song in Arkansas 1963. So we get the rest of the story, thanks to the Wolf Collection at Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas.
And I love Mr. and Mrs. Berry Sutterfield. Here‘s their version of “Barbrara Allen,” complete with light bickering and confusion.
An excerpt from a letter from Woody Guthrie to Alan Lomax…
“You hadn’t ought to try to be too funny because if you just tell folks the truth they’ll laugh at every other word. The best of all funny songs have got a mighty sincere backbone. These are the old deathbed and graveyard and parted lover songs that I sing more than any others when I need to cheer myself up. And there is something very funny about almost everything that happens if you do a good job of a telling just exactly what took place.”
Read or listen to the rest of the letter at the following link…