The Smithsonian Folkways archive is so vast - what a trip to spend some time diving around in it. I ended up putting together a kind of autobiographical playlist, not in any way comprehensive, but recalling various aural and geographical adventures I've been on over the years. It is a wandering tour of sounds and singers who have been in my ears at various points throughout my life.
Kansas City Stomp
By Jelly Roll Morton
From Jelly Roll Morton Piano Classics, 1923-24
Deceptively relaxed deep rhythmic feel - a reminder that all these American musics ("folk," "blues," "jazz" etc.) are more linked together than we've been led to think once they were pushed into different categories...
Moj Dilbere (My dearest)
By Girl with accordion accompaniment
From Songs and Dances of Yugoslavia
The music of this region of the world has been very important to me, especially in my teenage years, singing with the group Northern Harmony led by Larry Gordon and Mary Cay Brass, and in support of Emsuda Mujajic's women's shelter in Croatia, for refugees of the Bosnian war which was happening at that time.
By Howard Finster
From Man of Many Voices
Some good riddles in here! Howard Finster painted the cover of the Talking Heads record "Little Creatures."
Tom of Bedlam
By John Roberts & Tony Barrand
From Dark Ships in the Forest: Ballads of the Supernatural
Tony Barrand is one of the great folksingers of our time. An Englishman who settled in Brattleboro, Vermont in the 1970s, lived up the hill from our house until he passed away this past year. We were so lucky to have him in our community - a legend.
By The Doc Watson Family
From The Watson Family
Aoife O'Donovan turned me on to this album after I heard her sing "Pretty Saro" in a concert.
Serenity (Charles Ives)
By Ted Puffer
From Charles Ives Songs, Vol. 2: 1915-1925
For me, Ives is sort of a musical version of Herman Melville - somebody who is simultaneously connected to the most traditional and most out there elements of culture. I was introduced to his songs by Bill Frisell, with whom I sang a number of them, including this one, "Serenity."
Mama's Goin' To Buy Him a Little Lap Dog
By Vera Hall
From Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 1: Secular Music
When the Moby PLAY album came out, my best friend Gabriel Greenberg became obsessed with Vera Hall's voice after hearing her sampled on the song "Natural Blues." He ended up traveling down to her hometown and researching her life, and drawing a beautiful graphic novel about it. We were often listening to Vera Hall's light-heavy voice during this time.
Magyaros Dance Music
By Jȯzsef Czir
From Hungarian Folk Music from the Kis-Küküllő Region of Central Transylvania, Romania
When I was 18 years old I went backpacking around Europe. The great klezmer musician Michael Alpert gave me a few names of musicians to look up while I was there, one of whom was Bob Cohen, a master folk musician/polyglot/song collector living in Budapest. I had an incredible couple of weeks with Bob in Budapest and Transylvania at various dance parties listening to masters of the great Hungarian fiddle ensemble tradition. It's deep wild rhythmic dance music that is also linked to the sound of a classical string quartet.
Reels: Paddy on the Turnpike / The Scholar
By Tony DeMarco
From The Sligo Indians
Tony DeMarco is the king of traditional Irish music in NYC, holding down the 11th Street Bar session on Sunday nights. I love his style, which is deeply traditional but also has wild improvisatory elements. If you are in New York, head down to 11th street to hear him - and tell him I sent you.
Selling (Theater Barker, 52nd Street Doorman, Salesman, Theater Program, Flowers, Newspapers)
By Tony Schwartz
From New York 19
Tony Schwartz is a fascinating character... this whole world of his field recordings is worth digging into.
Oh, He's Taken My Feet
By Lucy Simpson and A Golden Ring of Gospel
From Sharon Mountain Harmony
Back to Sharon Mountain Harmony and Lucy Simpson... you can listen to this one on repeat.