Folkstreams is an incredible online archive of documentary films about American folk and roots music and culture. Above, an excerpt from "Born For Hard Luck," a 1976 film by Tom Davenport about harmonica player and comedian Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson." (A clip of this film appears in the French movie Amelie.) Below are just a few of the hundreds of films you can watch for free, right now. Shame about my deadlines this week.
• “Adirondack Minstrel.” Hudson, N.Y.: Bowling Green Films, 1977. (19 min.)
[Jack Ofield film on woodsman/musician Lawrence Older]
• “Land Where the Blues Began.” New York: Cultural Equity, 1990. (58 min.)
[Alan Lomax film on Mississippi blues, from his “American Patchwork Series”; parallels his book of the same title]
• “The Amish, A People of Preservation.” Harleysville, Pa.: Heritage Productions. (52 min.)
[John Ruth film on Amish life, with Hostettler as consultant—and some surreptitiously shot footage]
• “The Sacred Vision of Howard Finster.” New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1995. (30 min.)
[Interviews with Finster talking about his art, visions, and religious beliefs, with scenes of his creations, his preaching, and his home]
Here's a fine NPR interview with Byrds guitarist, copyfighter, and folkie legend Roger McGuinn. The interview covers a lot of ground, but is centered on his folk-preservation site the Folk Den, a repository of folk recordings, music, lyrics, history and conversation. It's a phone-in and the callers are great ("I perform folk music about science and skepticism" -- hoo-ah!).
Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame singer and guitarist Roger McGuinn, best known as the front man for The Byrds, is considered a pioneer of folk rock. The band blended traditional folk songs with a rock beat and scored major hits in the 1960's including "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
The Byrds disbanded in 1973, and McGuinn pursued a solo career, performing acoustically and returning to his folk roots.
In 1995, he created the Folk Den Project, an online series to store traditional folk songs that he records once a month. NPR's Neal Conan talks with McGuinn about The Byrds and his solo career, and about his work preserving folk music.
Los Angeles-based Chelsea Wolfe's intense, artful folk dirges bring to mind a slightly morbid young Joni Mitchell had she grown up listening to Black Metal bands instead of the Carter Family (Still, when asked about her influences Wolfe simply replied “Hank Williams”).
American folklorist, ethnomusicologist, and traditional music collector Alan Lomax envisioned a “global jukebox” with which to share and analyze recordings he gathered over decades of fieldwork. This week, that dream comes to life. From an article in today's New York Times:
A decade after his death technology has finally caught up to Lomax’s imagination. Just as he dreamed, his vast archive — some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts, much of it tucked away in forgotten or inaccessible corners — is being digitized so that the collection can be accessed online. About 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February, and later some of that music may be for sale as CDs or digital downloads.
On Tuesday, to commemorate what would have been Lomax’s 97th birthday, the Global Jukebox label is releasing “The Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center,” a digital download sampler of 16 field recordings from different locales and stages of Lomax’s career.
“As an archivist you kind of think like Johnny Appleseed,” said Don Fleming, a musician and record producer who is executive director of the Association for Cultural Equity and involved in the project. “You ask yourself, ‘How do I get digital copies of this everywhere?’ ”