Welcome Western Jubilee Recording Company to the Smithsonian Folkways Family
Smithsonian Folkways has announced the acquisition of Western Jubilee Recording Company, the iconic Colorado Springs–based record label focusing on cowboy music and poetry. The label released acclaimed albums by Norman Blake, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards, Katy Moffatt, and more, showcasing the great musical diversity of artists celebrating life on the range. Folkways will also acquire Western Jubilee’s old-time music offshoot Plectrafone Records. To commemorate the legacy of the collection, today Smithsonian Folkways is releasing a new compilation, Take Me Back to the Range: Selections from Western Jubilee Recording Company, on all digital platforms, featuring songs and poems from throughout the label’s history. Smithsonian Folkways will also release an upcoming Norman Blake album this fall.
Founded in 1996 by collector and artist manager Scott O’Malley, Western Jubilee is based out of a former warehouse of the Santa Fe Railroad in Colorado Springs that doubles as an intimate concert space and recording studio. Its walls adorned with Western paraphernalia, from old signs and instruments to baseball cards and song folios, the warehouse, much like the label itself, served as a sanctuary to the deep-rooted and ever-evolving traditions of Western music and folklife. Many of the recordings released by Western Jubilee were recorded in that space, live in front of an audience. The theater, like the label, has become a hub for cowboy music and poetry nationwide.
Western Jubilee Recording Company has been honored with several GRAMMY nominations and wins for Norman Blake and Don Edwards, as well as inductions into in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. The music shares a deep reverence of the land and cowboy lifestyle in all its complexities, from the hardened, masculine stereotype of popular culture to more sensitive and nuanced portrayals. The old-time tunes and historic songs by Norman Blake and Don Edwards, Buckaroo poems from Waddie Mitchell, Hollywood-styled “Singing Cowboy” songs from Sons of the San Joaquin, and the pioneering fusion from the punk-inspired Cowboy Nation offer a taste of the breadth of the Western Jubilee legacy.
Smithsonian Folkways’ mission to collect and preserve traditional music from around the world has led to the acquisition of many iconic labels since the original Folkways Records catalog was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987. Western Jubilee joins Arhoolie Records, acquired in 2016 and featuring classics in blues, zydeco, and beyond; Paredon, the pioneering protest music label founded by Barbara Dane, in 1991; Folk-Legacy Records, featuring a plethora of material from the ʼ60s folk revival, in 2019; the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, in 2014; and more as a part of the Smithsonian Folkways label group. The material on Western Jubilee will remain in print in perpetuity, like all music in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. In 2019 Rolling Stone reported on the label’s efforts to preserve traditional music from around the world, offering a glimpse into the way this music is archived.