Moses Asch’s Artistic Sensibility
Statement: Lecture at Columbia University
The traditional, centered arrangement, together with the surrounding border and colour selection, lends a serious and solemn tone to the cover. The drawing of Sholem Asch, along with the word "Statement," conveys a sense of resolve, while the title Sholem Asch Statement adds a sense of defiance. The Columbia lecture was Asch's response to attacks from within the Jewish community over his writings on Christian themes.
The sketchy quality of the image and hand-rendered letterforms give currency and immediacy to this traditional Jewish service. The first recordings made by Moe Asch were popular Yiddish songs, Jewish commentaries, and educational programming for radio station WEVD. Jewish cantorials and liturgical material from other faiths became an important part of the Folkways catalogue.
The History of Jazz
The Miro painting reflects the playful, dynamic nature of the wide range of jazz music recorded here. The form and colour of the type subtly reiterate the whimsical qualities of the painting. Contrast is provided by the warmth of the orange ground. Mary Lou Williams was a pioneer jazz musician, arranger, and composer, and one of Moe Asch's favourite artists.
When I was a Boy in Brooklyn
An unabashed reconstruction of a piece of American life that disappeared between the wars, this recording presents the boyhood experiences of Israel Caplan: "The asphalt and the cobblestone pavements of Brooklyn spawned a resilient and self-contained comitatus that was able to perform that strangest of all human duties--entertaining itself" (liner notes).
Eugene V. Debs
The bold, slab serif typeface and posterized photograph give weight and power to this tribute to Eugene V. Debs, trade unionist, socialist, and revolutionary. The red, white, and blue colour scheme underlines Debs's passion for the America "of the people." Moe Asch's first recordings in the 1930s were for the Yiddish radio station WEVD, created in 1927 by the Socialist Party. The station call letters stood for the initials of Eugene Victor Debs.
Margaret Walker Reads Poems by Langston Hughes and Margaret Walker
The impressionistically rendered cover artwork by Tom Feelings is sensitive and intense. The guitarist is intent on his playing, his expression conveying the depth of feeling for the music and the story it tells. The writings of Langston Hughes and Margaret Walker celebrate ordinary black life and experience, drawing upon African American music for inspiration.
The Asch Recordings 1939 - 1945, Vol. 2
Issued in 1967, this album is a compilation of material that first appeared on Asch and Disc Recordings, predecessor labels to Folkways. The cover design features the lively, hand-generated type for which Rosenhouse became known. The two-colour design makes use of overprinting to create a third colour and reversal to render the typographic elements at the top in white.
Take This Hammer
This image of Lead Belly shows him wearing his customary suit and tie. The capital sans serif letterforms create a simple band of typographic elements along the top edge, which allows the powerful, full-colour illustration to dominate. This album contains many of Lead Belly's signature songs and demonstrates how the legendary artist captivated audiences everywhere with "his steel voice, his steel arm on the twelve strings, and his high-voltage personality" (liner notes).
Dixieland Jazz in the Forties
Main Street Architecture, Selma, Alabama, 1935. This photograph by Walker Evans is one among many by this important photographer to be featured on Folkways covers. Always concerned with people and their environments, Evans records with clarity and dignity, main street architecture from the southern town of Selma, Alabama.
David Stone Martin's lithograph, a reference to Guthrie's "Union Burying Ground," exemplifies two related themes in the Folkways catalogue: the struggle of the working people and the history of the American labour movement. The simplified form and raw expressive power of the print, framed by the red border with black letters, typifies a colour combination and style used in Folkways albums dealing with themes of people's struggles.
Mississippi's Big Joe Williams
Eminent Chicago photographer Raeburn Flerlage took this intimate portrait of Big Joe Williams. Flerlage began his career documenting the greats of jazz and blues when Moe Asch asked him to take photographs of Memphis Slim for a Folkways cover. His ability to hone in on the musician in this personal and evocative way is emblematic of his work and reflects his deep connection to the music and the musicians. His portraits and performance photographs create an invaluable document of the Chicago music scene of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Corridos are stories told in song. The simple, "primitivist" style used in the design transforms the figure of a Mexican revolutionary into the personification of death in a carnivalesque combination of playfulness and the macabre that evokes the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday, commemorating deceased ancestors.
Songs to Grow On for Mother and Child
This luminous photograph by David Gahr conveys the intimacy between a mother and her baby. The first of a series, the album contains playfully instructive songs by Woody Guthrie about everyday activities, such as bathing, eating and playing, meant to amuse and stimulate the imagination of very young children. The liner notes include drawings by Guthrie.
Stories and Poems of New Guinea
Clyne illustrates this album cover with carved New Guinea houseposts from his own collection to dramatic effect. Each part of the title, set along the top edge, is anchored to one of the heads. The strong layout structure, which divides the square format into three equal parts, exhibits the modernist aesthetic so prominent in his work.
This Land is My Land
This rough, organic, stamped image reinforces the notion of hands-on labour involved in farm work, further epitomized by the silhouetted worker, hoe in hand. Overprinting of various tints of pink and blue makes effective use of two-colour printing, creating a rich third colour, dark purple. The hand-generated Rosenhouse letterforms across the top animate the whole.
Woody Guthrie's Children's Songs
Although best known for his songs, Woody Guthrie was also a prolific writer and artist, illustrating countless of his own stories and songs. The drawing for this collection, with the bright red background, swinging hammer, and modest little house, is typical of his style--cheerful, animated, and accessible.
Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti (front cover)
The songs on this album commemorate the Italian immigrants and anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who, in what was to become a notorious miscarriage of justice, were tried and executed in Boston during the 1920s.
Irish Folk Songs for Women
The rich, decorative patterning of this block print evokes a folk art tradition. The green of the woman's dress and the harp that she is playing clearly mark the album as Irish, while the script and decorative framing suggest early Irish manuscripts.