“…with the formation of Folkways Records I started the more intense catalog of protest songs, workers songs, protest poetry, documentation, etcetera.”
People and Places
The cover image is a formally arranged photograph of legendary old-time singer and banjo player, Dock Boggs. As a young man Boggs was able to earn enough as a musician to quit work in the coalmines but returned to the mines during the hard times of the Depression. In the 1960s, musician and traditional music scholar, Mike Seeger, sought out Boggs and introduced him to appreciative urban audiences, leading to this and other recordings.
When Kentucky Had No Union Men
George Davis, "the Singing Miner of Hazard, Kentucky," went to work for the Crawford Coal Company in 1920 at the age of fourteen. He took up the guitar in 1933, when the mines were first being organized by the United Mine Workers Union and wrote countless songs about mining life including "Sixteen Tons," popularized by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Lumbering Songs from the Ontario Shanties
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.
Selk'nam Chants of Tierra del Fuego
The cover presents a memorable close-up photograph of Lola Kiepja taken by the album's producer, ethnologist Anne Chapman. According to Chapman, Lola Kiepja was the last person to speak the language of her people.
The Doukhobors of British Columbia
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.
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).
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.
The McIntosh County Shouters
The shout, the oldest African American performance tradition still extant in North America, is an "impressive fusion of call and response singing, percussive rhythm, and expressive and formalized dance-like movement, affirming group cohesiveness and Christian belief, [which] has survived in continuous practice since slavery times" in McIntosh County, on the coast of Georgia (liner notes). The cover photograph of the group's lead singers, Lawrence McKiver and Doretha Skipper, was taken in 1983.
Songs of the West
The photograph of men in cowboy hats, sitting around a campfire playing musical instruments, captures both the spareness and the camaraderie of life on the range. This image stands in stark contrast to that of the slick "singing cowboy" of early television Westerns.
New York 19
The number "19" in the title refers to the postal district area where Tony Schwartz lived (New York 19, NY) and where all of the sounds and voices on the album were recorded. The cover image shows the neighbourhood framed by the rails of the balcony at the bottom and the microphone on the right, alluding implicitly to Schwartz himself as well as to the recording process.
Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs
Early blues giant Big Bill Broonzy was one of Moe Asch's favourite singers. The cover photograph strikes a contemplative mood with its cropped image of Broonzy's face filling the entire cover. The highlighted facial features gain a sculptural, immortal quality, which reinforces the musician's stature.
Old Love Songs & Ballads
John Cohen's remarkable cover photograph of Berzilla Wallin and Dillard Chandler places the viewer right next to the couple without intruding on their privacy. Well known as a musician and member of the New Lost City Ramblers, Cohen is also a noted documentary filmmaker and photographer.
The Women Blues of Champion Jack Dupree
The cover photograph by David Gahr is as intimate and sensual as a French Impressionist painting, capturing the mood of the New Orleans blues period of Champion Jack Dupree. The album is cast as "a song saga--in a setting of boogie woogie from slow blues to surging stomps" and unified thematically: "The theme is woman. Or women. Bad women and good women. Hard times, hooch, hot hands and hot music. Slow songs and sad lines" (liner notes).
Folk Songs and Instrumentals with Guitar
Elizabeth Cotten wrote the classic song "Freight Train" when she was a child. As the photograph shows and Mike Seeger's liner notes explain, "Elizabeth Cotten picks the regular guitar and banjo upside down, or left-handed, using country ragtime style...and a banjo strum" on both instruments and "the first string as thumb string."
The Village Fugs
The Fugs represent a bridge between the Beats of Ginsberg and Kerouac and the Yippies of the late-1960s anti-war movement. They were musicians, poets, actors, activists, and avant-garde fixtures of the 60s urban scene, especially in New York. This album includes songs with lyrics from poems by Blake and Swinburne and the famous "Nothing."
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.
Millions of Musicians
Carpini's print is a close-up rendering of the face and hand of a man in a cap that evokes the notion of "everyman," underlining the intent of producer Tony Schwarz to document everyday people's everyday sonic expressions.
Sing Out! Hootenanny
The cover presents two of the most familiar scenes of the folk music revival of the 1960s. The top photograph shows an evening crowd gathering outside of Carnegie Hall, where Pete Seeger performed annually for years. The bottom photograph shows a crowd, likely attending an outdoor folk festival, intent on the performance despite the rain.
Songs of French-Canada
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.