Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

By the early 1980s Asch began to consider the future and legacy of Folkways. He was looking for someone to take over the company who would agree to maintain the catalogue as he had. The new steward of Folkways would ensure the continued availability of every Folkways record, continue to produce recordings regardless of sales statistics, and appreciate and make use of the volumes of unexplored material not yet issued as recordings. The new Folkways would remain the "invisible conduit from the world to the ears of human beings" as he had frequently described it. By the time of Moses Asch's death in 1986, he was considering the possible acquisition of the company by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. In 1987 the Smithsonian Institution met all of the conditions set out by Moses Asch and acquired the company from his estate.

 
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Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1: Ballads image1Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1: Ballads image2Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1: Ballads image3
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Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1: Ballads

FW02951
1967
Ronald Clyne
Ben Shahn
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Down on Penny's Farm — The Bently Boys

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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass image1Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass image2
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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass

SFW40065
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T.B. Blues (They're at Rest Together) — Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard

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Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land image1Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land image2Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land image3
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Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land

FW31001
1967
Craig Meirop
Sid Grossman
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This Land is Your Land — Woody Guthrie

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The superimposed images of Woody Guthrie reveal his passion and intensity during performance. The orange drop-shadows of the title identify the album as a recording of the 1960s. It was Guthrie's association with Moses Asch that yielded the bulk of his prodigious recorded legacy.

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Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes image1Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes image2
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Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes

SFW40816
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St. Martin de Porres — Mary Lou Williams

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Pete Seeger: Favorite American Ballads Vol. 1 image1Pete Seeger: Favorite American Ballads Vol. 1 image2
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Pete Seeger: Favorite American Ballads Vol. 1

SFW40150
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John Henry — Pete Seeger

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La India Canela: Merengue Tipico from the Dominican Republic image1La India Canela: Merengue Tipico from the Dominican Republic image2
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La India Canela: Merengue Tipico from the Dominican Republic

SFW40547
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Apriétame Así (Squeeze Me Like That) — La India Canela

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Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the tradition of supporting music and sound recordings by and for people everywhere, maintaining the entire original Folkways catalogue, creating new compilations using original Folkways material, and annually producing about twenty recordings of new material from around the world.

 
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Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins image1Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins image2
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Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins

SFW45058
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Where is Mary? — Ella Jenkins

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Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird image1Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird image2
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Elizabeth Mitchell: You Are My Little Bird

SFW45063
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Little Liza Jane — Elizabeth Mitchell

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Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through its Songs image1Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through its Songs image2
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Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through its Songs

SFW40032
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We are Soldiers in the Army — The Montgomery Improvement Association

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If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings image1If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings image2
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If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings

SFW40123
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If I Had My Way — Reverend Gary Davis

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Lead Bellys Last Sessions image1Lead Bellys Last Sessions image2
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Lead Belly's Last Sessions

SFW40068
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Yes, I Was Standing in the Bottom — Lead Belly

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Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Bigger Fishes image1Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Bigger Fishes image2Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Bigger Fishes image3
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Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Bigger Fishes

FW07611
1955
Unknown
Carlis
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I Know an Old Lady (Who Swallowed a Fly) — Pete Seeger

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This imaginative children's album cover by John Carlis shows a collection of playful animals arranged in tic-tac-toe formation. The curvilinear typography resembles a child's handwriting. Carlis illustrated many of Folkways earliest covers, especially, but not exclusively for the childrens series. His simple, straightforward designs evoke folk art and children's art.

Folkways in Canada

Folkways Records produced a vast and diverse collection of Canadian material, numbering approximately 140 albums. Recorded mainly from the 1950s to the 1980s, the collection is an historical record of English and French folk songs; Aboriginal music (First Nations, Inuit, and Metis); Canadian literature and history; children's songs; and avant-garde compositions. Canadians owe much of this treasure to Montreal impresario Sam Gesser, who was Moe Asch's Canadian producer. Through Gesser's work, Folkways became the prime venue for Canada's important folk song collectors, making their foundational work accessible to Canadians and the world. The album cover images provide a remarkable visual complement to the sonic record, documenting Canadian people and places. Asch's connection to Canada developed through frequent visits to Edmonton where his son Michael was a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta. An appreciation of the community inspired the donation of a complete set of the Folkways albums to the University in 1985, the only such donation Moses and Frances Asch made.

In 2003, the University of Alberta began working closely with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, establishing "folkwaysAlive!" with its base and focus on this unique collection of recordings. folkwaysAlive is the University's initiative to carry forward the legacy of Folkways Recordings in Canada. Seeing the World of Sound: the Cover Art of Folkways Records, was the inaugural research project of folkwaysAlive, an exhibition which, in part, celebrated Moe Asch in the centenary of his birth.

 
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Songs and Dances of Quebec image1Songs and Dances of Quebec image2Songs and Dances of Quebec image3
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Songs and Dances of Quebec

FW06951
1956
Unknown
Irwin Rosenhouse
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Ma Femme Avait un Grand Chapeau — Bob Hill and Gerard Delorier

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La Bastringue — Jean Carignan, Aldor Morin, Bob Hill, Madame Richard, and Gerard Delorier

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The lively silhouetted dancing legs, framed at the upper right against the forest pattern of sketchily drawn evergreens, combine with Rosenhouse's animated script at the lower left to playfully evoke the Quebec landscape as a backdrop to the party songs, reels and square dances on the album.

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Songs from Cape Breton Island image1Songs from Cape Breton Island image2Songs from Cape Breton Island image3
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Songs from Cape Breton Island

FW04450
1955
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Moladh Na Lanndaidh (In Praise of Islay) — Tom Angus MacDonald

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Folksongs of Saskatchewan image1Folksongs of Saskatchewan image2Folksongs of Saskatchewan image3
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Folksongs of Saskatchewan

FW04312
1963
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Saskatchewan — Jim Young

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The stark expanse of prairie sky dominates and serves as a backdrop for worn, degraded "typewriter" letterforms. The low horizontal format of the photograph superimposed on a taupe ground evokes the isolation of a prairie town. This photograph, taken in 1913, is of Vanguard, Saskatchewan.

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Kwakiutl image1Kwakiutl image2Kwakiutl image3
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Kwakiutl

FW04122
1981
Ronald Clyne
Willie Sewid
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Sea Eagle Ghost Mask — Mungo Martin (Hanagalasu)

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The carved wooden mask pictured on the cover is entitled Buouis, Kwakilitz and was carved by the very influential Northwest Coast carver, Willie Sewid (often anglicized as Seaweed). Songs and dances, some recorded on this album, and carved masks are integral to Kwakiutl social and ceremonial occasions, especially the Potlatch, which was outlawed by the Canadian government in 1884 and only rescinded in 1951.

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Songs from the Out-ports of Newfoundland image1Songs from the Out-ports of Newfoundland image2Songs from the Out-ports of Newfoundland image3
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Songs from the Out-ports of Newfoundland

FW04075
1966
Irwin Rosenhouse
Unknown
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The Farmyard — John Curtis

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Created by renowned folklorist MacEdward Leach, this recording documents the rich oral heritage of the isolated outports and fishing villages of Newfoundland, including well-preserved songs and stories brought from the British Isles. The photograph depicts a row of large anchors lined up near the shore, vivid reminders of a life--and songs--tied to the sea.

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The Doukhobors of British Columbia image1The Doukhobors of British Columbia image2The Doukhobors of British Columbia image3
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The Doukhobors of British Columbia

FW08972
1962
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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O Mountain of Holy Zion (Psalm) — n/a

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The Doukhobors or "Spirit Wrestlers," a religious community originally from Russia, established agricultural communities and small-scale industries in British Columbia in the 1920s. During the war years, they were persecuted and even jailed for their pacifist beliefs, and, in the 1950s, Doukhobor children were taken from their families and forced to attend schools run by the province. The cover photograph is of members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors of Shoreacres, British Columbia.

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Indian Music of the Canadian Plains image1Indian Music of the Canadian Plains image2Indian Music of the Canadian Plains image3
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Indian Music of the Canadian Plains

FW04464
1955
Ronald Clyne
Kenneth Peacock
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Blood: Grass Dance Song — n/a

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Blood: Sun Dance Song — Jim Low Horn, Jack Low Horn, and Mrs. Emil Wings

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Blackfoot: War Song — Wilfred Calf Robe and Albert Scalp Lock

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The cover photograph captures the elaborate dress and movements of the Cree Grass Dance, included on this recording of Cree, Blood, Blackfoot, and Assiniboine songs. Ethnomusicologist Kenneth Peacock, who researched and recorded this music for the National Museum of Canada, took the photograph.

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The Story of the Klondike image1The Story of the Klondike image2The Story of the Klondike image3
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The Story of the Klondike

FW07108
1959
Unknown
Unknown
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The Klondike Valley — Pierre Berton

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Iconic Canadian Pierre Berton records his well-known narrative of the Yukon goldrush, taken from his book on the subject. Berton, born and raised in the Yukon, is pictured in the foreground of this cover. Behind him is a drawing by "MacPherson," taken from the book and showing a cortege of gold seekers who are crossing a valley to meet up with others in the mountain pass encampment.

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Songs of French-Canada image1Songs of French-Canada image2Songs of French-Canada image3
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Songs of French-Canada

FW06918
1960
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Au Près de Ma Blonde — Hélène Baillargeon and Alan Mills

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Well-known folk singers Alan Mills and Helene Baillargeon did much to disseminate Canadian folk songs in both French and English. The bilingual cover presents a traditional Quebec village of wooden houses lit up by the horizontal light of the northern sun. The musical piece de resistance on the album is a rare bilingual folk song, entitled "I Went to the Market," which gives equal time to both official languages.

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Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties image1Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties image2Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties image3
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Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties

FW04052
1961
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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The Chapeau Boys — O. J. Abbott

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The lumbering songs on this album, collected in 1958 by renowned Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke, represent over a century of songs sung in lumber camps and shanties in Canada and the United States. The ballads recount tales of tragic accidents and sudden death. The photograph on the cover provides a glimpse into the all male society of the lumber camp.

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The Heart of Cape Breton image1The Heart of Cape Breton image2The Heart of Cape Breton image3
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The Heart of Cape Breton

SFW40491
2002
Sonya Cohen Cramer
Gary Samson
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The Way to Judique / Compliments to the Boys of the Lough(Frank Ferrel) / The Canadian Club Jig (Frank Ferrel) / The Hills of Glenorchy / Walking the Floor (medley) — Buddy MacMaster, fiddle; Joey Beaton, piano

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This photograph echoes the title in conveying the central place of fiddling in Cape Breton music. The fiddle, lovingly cradled in the musician's hands, is the heart of the cover.

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Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

SFW40539
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Les fraises et les framboises / Le festin de campagne / Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser — Jean Carignan and Friends

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