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Album Review

Anthology of American Folk Music [coll] – [Smithsonian Folkways]

ArtCrimes   12/8/2008   CD, Country

Commonly known among fans of traditional music as the “Harry Smith Anthology”, this collection originally was released as three separate two-LP sets by Folkways back in 1952. Smith was a true American eccentric, with a golden ear for recordings from the 20s and 30s and a knack for finding connections across a great expanse of folklore, mythology, politics and whatever else you got… bundling what seemed to be at first glance unrelated themes into this cohesive statement on America’s history. He was smart enough to group this music by function, not by style, so that any listener would have country, cajun, blues, jazz and gospel interchangeably entering the ear, rather than making some kind of studied path through each genre as if they existed independently from each other. Themes such as “Social Music” let you hear what people played for pleasure or purpose in their own communities… wherever they may have been… telling you as much about those folks as a photo or written account (and this package adds both of those resources as well). Smith’s own collection was huge, but he narrowed it down to these 84 selections for an overview of America’s recorded music from the pre-depression years. The results have been played by tradition-minded artists ever since, from Dylan throughout his career thru the folk boomers of the 60s to Beck and Nick Cave. (crimes)

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