People's Picks: Routes to American Musical Treasures
Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship has been given to many of the treasures of American traditional culture. This includes musicians, but also craftspeople and exemplars of various cultural traditions.
Of the sixteen wonderful performers on this playlist, I have been fortunate to see every one play. Most were invited to perform at our yearly Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Each was a master of their craft. More importantly, they helped keep their craft alive by sharing their traditions with others.
Going into our collection, I have chosen songs from Arhoolie, Folkways Records, and Smithsonian Folkways. I have tried to select a variety of styles to represent the breadth of material that exists—not just “hot picking,” but songs I thought best illustrated who these amazing people are. If you are struck by one of these tracks, there is more where that came from.
Listen to the playlist and read Jeff Place’s annotations here.