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People's Picks: Sam Amidon

People's Picks: Sam Amidon
People's Picks: Sam Amidon | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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.


Listen on Pandora here

Track 1

Bright Morning Star
By Peter & Mary Alice Amidon
From A Golden Ring of Gospel: Sharon Mountain Harmony

Sung by Peter & Mary Alice Amidon! I know these guys from somewhere...

Track 2

Trip O'er The Mountain
By Willie Clancy
From Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways

Deep Irish Uilleann pipe shredfest

Track 3

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...

Track 4

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.

Track 5

By Male and female singers
From Fasola: Fifty-three Shape Note Folk Hymns: All Day Sacred Harp Singing at Stewart's Chapel in Houston, Mississippi

One of my favourite Sacred Harp songs.

Track 6

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."

Track 7

By Hobart Smith
From Hobart Smith of Saltville, Virginia

Had this one on LP growing up!

Track 8

By Vidar Lande
From Norway: Fiddle and Hardanger Fiddle Music from Agder

I was just in Norway this summer playing in the town of Ørsta. I deeply love this beautiful hardanger fiddle tradition.

Track 9

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.

Track 10

Pretty Saro
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.

Track 11

Farewell to Whiskey / Silver and Gold Two Step (medley)
By Rodney Miller's New England Dance Band
From Choose Your Partners: Contra Dance and Square Dance Music of New Hampshire

My musical foundation and education was playing fiddle in contra dance bands throughout the 1990s. Rodney Miller is one of the legends of this style.

Track 12

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."

Track 13

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.

Track 14

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.

Track 15

Wild Bill Jones
By Dock Boggs
From His Folkways Years, 1963-1968

The legend of legends.

Track 16

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.

Track 17

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.

Track 18

Wagoner's Lad
By Mr. and Mrs. John Sams
From Mountain Music of Kentucky

A classic song from an iconic collection.

Track 19

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.