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Anthology of American Folk Music (Edited by Harry Smith) Box set, Original recording remastered

4.9 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, Original recording remastered, August 19, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Over 50 years after its original 1952 vinyl release, this is still the best American roots music collection around! Musicologist Harry Smith assembled the anthology from 78 rpm discs issued between 1927 and 1935. This 6-CD reissue was painstakingly researched, annotated and packaged to perfection. With 84 rare tracks, this one is a library all by itself! Includes Drunkard's Special Coley Jones; Peg and Awl Carolina Tar Heels; Frankie Mississippi John Hurt; Engine 143 Carter Family; Indian War Whoop Hoyt Ming & His Pep-Steppers; Newport Blues Cincinnati Jug Band; John the Revelator Blind Willie Johnson; Fifty Miles of Elbow Room Rev. F.W. McGee; Sugar Baby Dock Boggs; See That My Grave Is Kept Clean Blind Lemon Jefferson; The Lone Star Trail Ken Maynard, and many more!


This impressive--and frankly, fun--musical document is still sending out shock waves almost 50 years after its original 1952 vinyl release. The Smithsonian's six-CD reissue is painstakingly researched, annotated, and packaged (even boasting an enhanced disc for the techno-capable). Unlike field recorders, eccentric filmmaker/collector/musicologist Harry Smith assembled the Anthology from commercially released (though obscure) 78 rpm discs issued between 1927 and 1935. Its broad scope--from country blues to Cajun social music to Appalachian murder ballads--was monumentally influential, setting musicians like Bob Dylan down the path to folk fandom. The White House started its own national music library with the Anthology; anyone with more than a passing interest in American roots music should do the same. --Michael Ruby

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Henry Lee - Dick Justice
  2. Fatal Flower Garden - Nelston's Hawaiians
  3. House Carpenter - Clarence Ashley
  4. Drunkard's Special - Coley Jones
  5. Old Lady And The Devil - Bill & Belle Reed
  6. The Butcher's Boy - Buell Kazee
  7. The Wagoner's Lad - Buell Kazee
  8. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O - Chubby Parker
  9. Old Shoes And Leggins - Uncle Eck Dunford
  10. Willie Moore - Richard Burnett And Leonard Rutherford
  11. A Lazy Farmer Boy - Buster Carter And Preston Young
  12. Peg And Awl - Carolina Tar Heels
  13. Ommie Wise - G.B. Grayson
  14. My Name Is John Johanna - Kelly Harrell

Disc: 2

  1. Bandit Cole Younger - Edward L. Crain
  2. Charles Giteau - Kelly Harrel
  3. John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man - Carter Family
  4. Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand - Williamson Brothers And Curry
  5. Stackalee - Frank Hutchison
  6. White House Blues - Charlie Poole And The North Carolina Ramblers
  7. Frankie - Mississippi John Hurt
  8. When That Great Ship Went Down - William And Versey Smith
  9. Engine 143 - Carter Family
  10. Kassie Jones - Furry Lewis
  11. Down On Penny's Farm - Bently Boys
  12. Mississippi Boweavil Blues - Masked Marvel
  13. Got The Farm Land Blues - Carolina Tar Heels

Disc: 3

  1. Sail Away Lady - Uncle Bunt Stephens
  2. The Wild Wagoner - Jilson Setters
  3. Wake Up Jacob - Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers
  4. La Danseuse - Delma Lachney And Blind Uncle Gaspard
  5. Georgia Stomp - Andrew And Jim Baxter
  6. Brilliancy Medley - Eck Robertson
  7. Indian War Whoop - Hoyt Ming & His Pep-Steppers
  8. Old Country Stomp - Henry Thomas
  9. Old Dog Blue - Jim Jackson
  10. Saut Crapaud - Columbus Fruge
  11. Acadian One-Step - Joseph Falcon
  12. Home Sweet Home - Breaux Freres
  13. Newport Blues - Cincinnati Jug Band
  14. Moonshiner's Dance (Part One) - Frank Cloutier And The Victoria Cafe Orchestra

Disc: 4

  1. You Must Be Born Again - Rev. J.M. Gates
  2. Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting - Rev. J.M. Gates
  3. Rocky Road - Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
  4. Present Joys - Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
  5. This Song Of Love - Middle Georgia Singing Conv. No. 1
  6. Judgement - Sister Mary Nelson
  7. He Got Better Things For You - Memphis Sanctified Singers
  8. Since I Laid My Burden Down - Elders McIntorsh & Edwards' Sanctified Singers
  9. John The Baptist - Rev. Moses Mason
  10. Dry Bones - Bascom Lamar Lunsford
  11. John The Revelator - Blind Willie Johnson
  12. Little Moses - Carter Family
  13. Shine On Me - Ernest Phipps & Holiness Singers
  14. Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room - Rev. F.W. McGee
  15. In The Battlefield For My Lord - Rev. D.C. Rice And Congregation

Disc: 5

  1. The Coo Coo Bird - Clarence Ashley
  2. East Virginia - Buell Kazee
  3. Minglewood Blues - Cannon's Jug Stompers
  4. I Woke Up One Morning In May - Didier Hebert
  5. James Alley Blues - Richard 'Rabbit' Brown
  6. Sugar Baby - Dock Boggs
  7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground - Bascom Lamar Lunsford
  8. Mountaineer's Courtship - Ernest And Hattie Stoneman
  9. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter - Stoneman Family
  10. Bob Lee Junior Blues - Memphis Jug Band
  11. Single Girl, Married Girl - Carter Family
  12. Le Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme - Cleoma Breaux & Joseph Falcon
  13. Rabbit Foot Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
  14. Expressman Blues - Sleepy John Estes & Yank Rachell

Disc: 6

  1. Poor Boy Blues - Ramblin' Thomas
  2. Feather Bed - Cannon's Jug Stompers
  3. Country Blues - Dock Boggs
  4. 99 Year Blues - Julius Daniels
  5. Prison Cell Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
  6. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean - Blind Lemon Jefferson
  7. C'est Si Triste Sans Lui - Cleoma And Ophy Breaux And Joseph Falcon
  8. Way Down The Old Plank Road - Uncle Dave Macon
  9. Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line - Uncle Dave Macon
  10. Spike Driver Blues - Mississippi John Hurt
  11. K.C. Moan - Memphis Jug Band
  12. Train On The Island - J.P. Nestor
  13. The Lone Star Trail - Ken Maynard
  14. Fishing Blues - Henry Thomas

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 19, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Format: Box set, Original recording remastered
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • ASIN: B000001DJU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,546 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Karen Newcombe on August 21, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I half heard a story about the Anthology on Natl Public Radio a few months ago while I was getting ready for work. The story kept coming back to me, until I had to buy the Anthology to get some peace. Instead of peace, I find that I am now disturbed, intrigued, and haunted.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
My review title says it all. Of course, that won't stop me from saying 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.
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Format: Audio CD
The "Anthology of American Folk Music" put together by Harry Smith was originally issued in 1952 in three volumes of 2 LPs each, with a total of 84 tracks collected from old records. It is said that this collection played a seminal role in the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, influencing and inspiring the generation of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Once you listen to these songs you will have little doubt that was indeed the case. The three volumes focus on Ballads, Social Music, and Songs respectively. I did not recognize enough of these 84 songs to use all of the fingers on my guitar picking hand and I could not care less. You can look over the playlist above and see if anything looks familiar, but, obviously, that is beside the point here. These songs involve a definition of "folk" that is expansive enough to include blues singers like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Richard "Rabbit" Brown. The authenticity of these songs is overpowering, transporting you to a time and place when radio was just starting to make inroads into the backwoods of America.
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.
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