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    Smithsonian Folkways Celebrates 75 Years of Folkways Records in 2023

    May 2023 marks 75 years since the iconic independent label Folkways Records was founded by Moses Asch and Marian Distler in New York City. In that time, it has become one of the world’s most iconic collections of music and sound, spanning thousands of albums from foundational American folk music to the sounds of everyday life around the world. To celebrate, Smithsonian Folkways will be partnering with the Brooklyn Folk Festival and Smithsonian Folklife Festival for live music performances featuring luminaries such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Alice Gerrard as well as members of a new generation of innovators like Jake Blount and No-No Boy. The label will also be reissuing classic albums from their storied catalog on LP, including the well-loved Sounds of North American Frogs. Finally, Smithsonian Folkways will be launching a new program called Friends of Folkways which will allow supporters to stream the entire collection for a minimum monthly donation of $5, with details to be announced soon.

    Since 1948, the music released on Folkways has defined and redefined the fabric of American music many times over: Woody Guthrie sang the nation into our collective imagination with “This Land Is Your Land,” the Anthology of American Folk Music played a pivotal role in defining ’60s counterculture, the ecstatic swing of Mary Lou Williams predicted spiritual jazz, the groundbreaking chance-based music of John Cage upended classical music, Ella Jenkins’s music has nurtured generations of children to adulthood, we heard the first glimpses at the genius of Lucinda Williams, and countless more. The label also steadfastly documented the sounds of the entire world, with hundreds of recordings to be found from every populated continent. After Asch’s death and the label’s acquisition by the Smithsonian Institution in the late 1980s, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the mission of Folkways to record music of, by, and for the people, releasing acclaimed albums by Elizabeth Mitchell, Our Native Daughters, Dom Flemons, Kronos Quartet, and many more.

    On July 6th, Smithsonian Folkways will present “Folkways at 75,” a program featuring Jake Blount, No-No Boy, and a screening of Early Abstractions, short films by Harry Smith, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Blount and No-No Boy are members of a new guard of musicians releasing music on Folkways, challenging audiences to rethink the past and future of folk music while exploring the complexities of their own cultural heritage through song. The program, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8:30pm on the National Mall. More information can be found here.

    Smithsonian Folkways is also partnering with the Brooklyn Folk Festival for an expansive weekend of programming November 10–12 celebrating 75 years of Folkways Records. Performers range from those who recorded for Asch and Folkways, including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Alice Gerrard, Sonia Sanchez, and Peggy Seeger, to newer artists currently releasing music on Smithsonian Folkways, including Blount, Dom Flemons, Charlie Parr, and the Down Hill Strugglers. There will also be multiple tributes to the ingenuity of Folkways compiler Harry Smith, including a performance by The Fugs and a Q&A with author John Szwed. Other workshops and conversations will be announced soon. Find details, tickets, and more information here.

    Throughout the year, Smithsonian Folkways will be reissuing and re-pressing many classic Folkways titles on LP, packaged in the classic black tip-on jackets with wrap-around, paste-on artwork. The Sounds of North American Frogs, a celebrated release by Charles Bogert documenting frog sounds from throughout the continent, will be available on LP for the first time since 1958, with new Acoustic Herpetology bumper stickers designed by Darryl Norsen. The New Lost City Ramblers with Cousin Emmy, one of the group’s most popular releases, will be available on LP for the first time since 1968. And two albums from the late ‘70s by poet Sarah Webster Fabio, Jujus/Alchemy of the Blues and Together to the Tune of Coltrane’s “Equinox” will be reissued as well. Re-presses of albums by Elizabeth Cotten, Doc Watson, and Lightnin’ Hopkins are also available to pre-order. Pre-order and find more information here.

    Smithsonian Folkways will be announcing further details on Friends of Folkways later this summer. Full details on new releases celebrating the legacy of Folkways Records as well as information on more events and other partnerships will be shared throughout the year.

    Smithsonian Folkways Celebrates 75 Years of Folkways Records in 2023 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings