A cappella album, ‘FOLK,’ available today, shines a light on the origins of country music.
Acclaimed music writer/industry veteran John Lomax III announces today’s release of FOLK, marking the start of the Sesquicentennial birthday celebration of his grandfather, famed Texan folklorist, John Avery Lomax (Lomax Sr.). The unique album includes 16 solo a cappella performances, sung by Lomax III’s father, John Avery Lomax Jr. The CD illustrates the recordings gathered during multiple expeditions from 1908-1947, by John Avery Lomax and his son, Alan. In addition, The University of Texas Press will reissue Lomax Sr.’s account of these early recording trips in his 1947 autobiography, Adventures of a Ballad Hunter.
The tenacious ballad seekers crisscrossed 35 states, recording 5,500 stories, cowboy melodies, children’s tunes, Appalachian ballads, prison laments, work songs and lullabies.
“The songs my father sings on FOLK are part of the soundtrack of my life,” says Lomax III. “He learned them from his father who learned them during a life of song-catching. Now you can enjoy these vivid slices of our shared American heritage.”
Lomax III continues these pioneering efforts begun when his grandfather first heard the songs of working cowboys on the Chisholm Trail near his childhood home in the mid-1880s. Some of the best known of these are “Home on the Range,” “Git Along Little Dogies” and “The Buffalo Skinners,” the latter two presented on FOLK.
“The Lomax family has exerted a Texas-sized impact on American vernacular music for more than 100 years,” says Todd Harvey, Lomax Family Collections Curator at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. “Generation after generation of them have documented, published books and recordings, lectured, concertized, broadcast, and in a dozen other ways promoted the entire vital enterprise of traditional culture. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress proudly preserves the original Lomax materials and makes them available to all the people of the world.”
Megastars and independent artists alike have sampled the Lomax family’s music. In fact, the first sounds you hear on the 2015 David Guetta-Nicki Minaj single “Hey Mama” is actually a song called “Rosie” that John Lomax Sr. recorded at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary in the early 1900s.
In 1932, Lomax Sr. and Alan received a grant from the Library of Congress to traverse the mud-encrusted roads and dirt byways of the south to gather fresh material, much of which appeared in their American Ballads and Folk Songs volume. In this 16,000-mile trek they both contracted malaria, slept on cots on the roadside, battled foul weather, meager food, rutted roads and equipment breakdowns. They persevered, gathering material that could very easily have been forever lost to future generations.
“My father and uncle, Alan, discovered and first recorded Muddy Waters and Leadbelly and dozens of other folk, blues and gospel artists,” Lomax III says.
In later years John Avery Lomax Jr. added to the family’s musical contributions by recording two albums for Folkways Records, establishing the Houston Folklore Society and managing blues legend Lightning Hopkins for a decade. FOLK is a piece of iconic music history which Lomax III hopes will rekindle interest in these unique songs of Americana.
FOLK is available for purchase from all digital services such as iTunes and Spotify and in physical form at select retailers, Amazon and via lomax3.com.