Skip to main content
    Blog post main image
  • Southern sounds inspired by Bill Traylor

    In conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition “Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor,” Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has released a new playlist that is inspired by the life of artist Bill Traylor. Born into slavery in Alabama, Traylor was an eyewitness to history: the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration, and the steady rise of African American urban culture in the South. Featuring songs from legendary performers Lead Belly, Josh White, Big Mama Thornton, Johnie Lewis, and others, this playlist explores more than three decades of material from Southern artists whose work speaks to the struggles and hopes of African Americans of the mid-twentieth century.

    A few tracks of this playlist have additionally been selected for use in the film Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts, which was created by filmmaker Jeffrey Wolf. Those songs include "Old Man, Will Your Dog Catch a Rabbit?" by Lead Belly, "Salty Dog Blues" by Red Willie Smith, and "Poor Boy" by Johnie Lewis.

    The “Between Worlds” exhibition is organized by Leslie Umberger, curator of folk and self-taught art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It features 155 of Traylor’s most important paintings and drawings. Listen to the playlist on its own, or while visiting the Bill Traylor exhibition, which is on view Sept. 28, 2018 – March 17, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

.