Anthology of American Folk Music (Edited by Harry Smith) Box set, Original recording remastered
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Music is ill-suited to being described in words, so I'll use an entirely different experience to try and convey what listening to this Anthology is like.
I once knew a fellow who had grown up on Bechtel construction project sites around the world. As a kid playing in the dirt at these sites, he'd collected a box full of those stone tools that humans made and used for something like three million years. I found that once I had turned one of these slips of chipped obsidian or shale over for a moment, it settled naturally into my hand. There was a spot for my thumb, another spot for my forefinger, and my hand was making a scraping or digging motion with the thing. The tool and my hand still remembered their ancient partnership, without any volition from me. This sensation was simultaneously disturbing and satisfying and made the hair stand up on my neck.
This sensation is very close to what I feel listening to this anthology. You will not hear the familiar, highly produced music we're now so comfortable with. You will hear the voice and sound of music as it has been for millions of years -- and you will recognize what you are hearing as being utterly, essentially human.
These recordings were, of course, made only 75 years ago in the 1920's, surely part of the modern era. Yet this was the last moment in time between the old world and the new world. We still sing and play music for the same reasons we always have, but the way we used our voices and instruments for millions of years has been changed by technology.Read more ›
Let's just say I wouldn't trust a musician that did not have at least a passing familiarity with one of the following: 1. The Anthology of American Folk Music; or 2. An artist that appeared on The Anthology of American Folk Music; or 3. At least a few songs from TAAFM.
That said, I feel very strongly that even if you are not a musician, regardless of the style of contemporary music you listen to (and I ravenously devour current music), whether it be Radiohead, Fishbone, Wilco, D'Angelo, Dr. Dre WHATEVER, if you listen to this collection, you will hear the roots of modern music. Somewhere I read a review of TAAFM and it called it a "genetic code" for modern music, which is entirely appropriate.
As a collection of songs and performances, this collection is entertaining, educational, shocking, delightful, scary (try listening to the first few tracks of disc 2-B alone in the dark...) revelatory, essential. As a stand-alone document, The Anthology is a kind of Rosetta Stone, having influenced every aspect of popular music through the years both directly and indirectly (subconsciously, even).
It makes me think that perhaps these songs already exist in everyone's psyche...they are there, but you do not know it until you hear them. The songs are both familiar and strange, and at times some selections seem so fragile and precious, they might crumble if you listen too hard (yet you always do).
And by the way, even if initially you absolutely HATE a FEW selections (and trust me, you will...I did!), they will be internalized nonetheless, and you will subsequently embrace them, and come to love them.Read more ›
The collection includes a 100-page booklet that features harry Smith's original handbook of songs, an essay by critic Greil Marcus, along with other essays, song notes, photos, graphics, and recollections by legendary artists about how this anthology inspired their own careers. The overall effect is like taking a college course on American Folk Music. Whether your interest in this type of music comes from listening to the Weavers, Peter Paul, & Mary, or the soundtrack to "Brother, Where Art Thou?" hopefully your enjoyment of folk music will lead you back to this seminal collection.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As someone in their mid sixties the folk music resurgence was very popular in my formative years. Having this national treasure is like having a portal back in time. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Karen K
I have been waiting a long time to get this. So many original songs. Amazing!Published 1 month ago by Janet L. Gidday
If you are interested in Folk Music, or want to explore the subject, this is the place to start, with absolutely no reservations. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
this is simply the most astounding collection of music ever assembled.Published 10 months ago by abaccordion
This is a magical album. Every cut is excellent, and the sequencing make it all flow beautifully. This album is the template for Bob Dylan's career (as Bob himself has implied). Read morePublished 12 months ago by James McKenna
you can hear the scratches on all the songs right off the antique recordsPublished 18 months ago by Randy K. Jensen
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